Entering 2018, there were 25 living humans who had represented Washington as selections for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, according to data from Baseball-Reference.com. (Sean Doolittle made it 26 this season when he made this year’s all-star roster.) The group of 25 ranges in age from 25-year-old Bryce Harper, now a six-time all-star for the Nationals, up to 97-year-old Eddie Robinson, an all-star for the Washington Senators in 1949, who still follows the game from his home in Fort Worth; and in stature from 6-foot-7 Frank “The Washington Monument” Howard, who made four straight all-star teams for the Senators between 1968 and 1971, down to 5-11 lefty Pete Richert, who earned back-to-back all-star nods in 1965 and 1966. They are the living links to Washington’s all-star history, and these are their stories and memories.
Senators all-star 1949 • age 97 • Fort Worth
FORT WORTH — Eddie Robinson’s mind is a museum — a living, breathing history of baseball — and you are a fortunate soul if you are invited inside for a spell. At 97 years old, his recall is remarkable, his body sturdy. After he fetches you a cup of coffee, moving like a man 30 years younger, it is story time. Try to keep up. The names alone might blow your mind.
“I have a pretty good memory, knock on wood,” he said, rapping his forehead, still covered with a thick shock of white hair. “Sixty-five years in the game. My first year was 1939, Valdosta, Ga. I can name you players off that team.”
Maybe later. But first, the boldfaced names.
To wit: He shared a locker room with Bob Feller, a lineup with Mickey Mantle and an infield with Billy Martin. He faced Red Ruffing, who had faced Ty Cobb. He had Rogers Hornsby as a batting coach. He drove in Joe DiMaggio in an All-Star Game. He singled off Warren Spahn to bring home the winning run of a World Series. He caught a ceremonial first pitch from President Harry Truman. He batted against Satchel Paige 20 times and never struck out. He was traded for Early Wynn. As a minor leaguer, he beat out Jackie Robinson for an MVP award.
It gets better. You know that famous photo of Babe Ruth, at the end, standing near home plate at Yankee Stadium, weak from cancer, saying goodbye to his fans, in full, pinstriped uniform? He is leaning on a bat. Eddie Robinson handed him that bat, having noticed Ruth struggling to get up the dugout steps.
“We were talking to him on the bench, and the ceremony started and he had to go up to home plate. He looked weak to me, so I reached into the bat rack and pulled out a bat and handed it to him,” Robinson says. “He came back, and I got the bat and got him to sign it.”
And there’s still more, from his nearly 40 years as a coach, scout and general manager. He dispensed hitting tips to Brooks Robinson. He drafted Reggie Jackson. He turned down the offer of a GM job from George Steinbrenner. He traded Hank Aaron.
And lest we forget, for a spell in the mid-1950s, he dated singer Patti Page.
“I was dating Patti Page when I met Bette,” he said. “Bette ran Patti right out of the picture.”
Bette would be Bette Robinson, his wife of 63 years now. They decided to marry in 1955, squeezing the wedding in after the seventh game of the 1955 World Series — Eddie’s New York Yankees lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers — and the start of the Yankees’ barnstorming tour of Japan a few days later, which would serve as the first stop on a three-month, around-the-world honeymoon.
“My father said, ‘Bette, you don’t want to marry a ballplayer,’ ” she said, laughing as she tells the story. “I said, ‘Why, Dad?’ He said, ‘They’re just like sailors — a woman in every port.’ I said, ‘Stop being silly.’”
Of the 25 living humans who have represented Washington in an All-Star Game to this point, Robinson — an all-star for the Senators in 1949 — is the oldest. But he is the oldest of lots of things. The oldest living ex-Yankee. The oldest living ex-Senator. He is believed to be the sixth-oldest living ex-big leaguer. He is also the last surviving member of the Cleveland Indians’ last World Series champs, in 1948.
“I feel lucky,” he says. “It beats the alternative, as they say.”
It was after that 1948 season that Indians manager Lou Boudreau — “He didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him,” Robinson says — traded Robinson, a first baseman, to the Senators. He would spend only a year and change with Washington — which would trade him again, to the Chicago White Sox, in May 1950 — but it was there, at Griffith Stadium, that he became a professional hitter, under the tutelage of Senators manager Joe Kuhel.
“I went from hitting .250 in Cleveland to being a really good hitter with Washington and thereafter. And Joe Kuhel is the guy I give all the credit to,” he says. “I was the player with Washington that I should have been with Cleveland.”
Born on Dec. 15, 1920, in Paris, Tex., and raised by a single mother, Robinson grew into a strapping young man of 6-2, 210 pounds and a first baseman with ample power. The University of Texas found him and offered a scholarship, but times being what they were in the late 1930s, he chose to turn pro instead and signed to play for the Valdosta Trojans of the Class D Georgia-Florida League for the princely sum of $300.
“I bought my mom a washing machine,” he says.
That was the start of a long journey, 65 years in baseball, that took him around the country and eventually, with Bette at his side on that 1955 honeymoon, the world. He would make four all-star teams, earn a World Series ring with the 1948 Indians and two others as an executive. He stopped working full-time in 1982, and continued working as a consultant until 1995. He and Bette have four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and most of them live nearby.
In 2011, Robinson published his memoirs, under the title “Lucky Me: My Sixty-Five Years in Baseball.” He still watches the Texas Rangers — the team that fired him as their GM in 1982 — every night on television.
“I just love baseball,” he says. “I’m a good second-guesser now. I found out when you retire you can just second guess the hell out of ’em.”
The grand tour of the baseball museum in Eddie Robinson’s mind now over, he rises from an easy chair and shows you to the door, with Bette at his side.
“Stay in touch,” she says at the door. “We’re going to have a big party when he turns 100.”Read more
Senators all-star 1954 • age 87 • Silvis, Ill.
Even 64 years later, it remains one of the quirkiest bits of All-Star Game trivia: What pitcher earned the win in an All-Star Game without officially facing a batter? The answer: Dean Stone, left-hander of the Senators, in 1954.
It was the top of eighth inning, 69,751 in the stands at Cleveland Stadium, the American League trailing by a run. Duke Snider was at the plate. Alvin Dark was on first, Red Schoendienst on third. Stan Musial was on deck. Yogi Berra was behind the plate, calling pitches.
Suddenly, Schoendienst took off — an attempted steal of home. But Stone, 23 at the time, fired home, Berra applied the tag, and the inning was over. Leo Durocher, coaching third base for the National League, screamed that Stone had balked, but the umpire disagreed and the out call stood.
And when, in the bottom half of the inning, Larry Doby homered and Mickey Mantle singled and scored the go-ahead run on Nellie Fox’s single, the AL had taken the lead. And Stone became the pitcher of record. It remains the only time in all-star history a pitcher earned the win without officially facing a batter.
Now 87, he lives in a nursing home near his hometown of Silvis, Ill.Read more
Senators all-star 1959 • age 83 • Miami
Warming up in the bullpen in the ninth inning of the 1959 All-Star Game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Senators right-handed pitcher Pedro Ramos, for the first and only time in his life, found himself wishing failure upon a teammate. If Cleveland right-hander Cal McLish stumbled, Ramos would be the American League’s next pitcher.
But McLish, protecting a slim lead, escaped a two-on, no-out jam with three straight outs, and Ramos’s one and only chance to pitch in an All-Star Game evaporated.
“I’ve never hoped a pitcher gets bombed before,” recalled Ramos, who had made the all-star team after Senators teammate Camilo Pascual withdrew with an injury. “But I would have liked to have pitched in the All-Star Game, even if it’s just for one hitter.”
Instead, Ramos had to settle for a lifetime of memories of sharing a clubhouse with the likes of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.
“It was a great feeling to be selected,” said Ramos, 83, now living in Miami. “My favorite player was Mickey Mantle, and I also really liked Rocky Colavito. So it was great that we were all together. I will always remember that.”Read more
Senators all-star 1959 and 1960 • age 84 • Miami
Camilo Pascual, the great Cuban right-hander, may have been the best pitcher in Senators history since Walter Johnson himself, but he never got the chance to represent the city in an All-Star Game. Selected in both 1959 and 1960, he had to pull out each time with a sore arm.
“Something was always wrong with my arm,” he said. “My timing was terrible.”
Pascual, whose signature curveball was once lauded by Ted Williams as the best in the league, would go on to be named an all-star again in 1961, 1962 and 1964, but by that point the franchise had moved from Washington to Minneapolis. When he finally appeared in an All-Star Game, in 1961, he did so as a Twin.
“When we moved to Minnesota, I was kind of sad,” Pascual said. “I loved Washington. I started there in 1954. I know we didn’t have good crowds, but I always enjoyed it.”
Now 84 and living in Miami, Pascual only recently retired from a 30-year career as a scout. He ranks alongside the likes of Luis Tiant, Adolfo Luque and Mike Cuellar on the list of the greatest Cuban pitchers in history.Read more
Senators all-star 1962 • age 84 • Cranston, R.I.
Dave Stenhouse, rookie pitcher for the Senators, was stretching in the outfield before the 1962 All-Star Game at D.C. Stadium, when he looked around and shuddered at what he saw. “Mantle, Mays, Musial,” Stenhouse recalled. “I’m thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ I had to shake myself. . . . I spent the whole game in the bullpen trying to hide from the phone.”
Luckily for Stenhouse, baseball held two All-Star Games in those days, and while he didn’t get to pitch in front of the home fans in the first of them, he started the second one, at Wrigley Field — making history as the first rookie pitcher to start an All-Star Game.
“When we got on the players’ bus to go to the ballpark that morning, I hear, ‘Hey, Stenny. You here? You’re starting today,’ ” Stenhouse recalled. “I almost fell out of my seat.”
In two innings of work, he allowed a single to Willie Mays and a walk to Orlando Cepeda, but he also retired Roberto Clemente twice, once on a strikeout. “Just walking to the mound,” he said, “was a career highlight.”
An arm injury that September ended his season and contributed to his swift plummet out of the majors in 1964. Now 84, he lives in Cranston, R.I.
“At my age, you start looking back,” he said. “And when you did some things that were pretty good, you acknowledge it. And I can say: That was pretty damn good.”Read more
Senators all-star 1963 • age 86 • Naples, Fla.
There’s a good reason Don Leppert has few memories of the 1963 All-Star Game at Cleveland Stadium: He didn’t appear in it, spending the entire game down in the American League bullpen as the team’s third catcher — behind starter Earl Battey and backup Elston Howard — nursing a foot injury that had cropped up around June.
“I can always say I was an all-star,” Leppert said. “But I can’t prove I played in the game.”
Leppert’s four-year big league career was remarkably undistinguished, save for the sizzling start to his 1963 season — including an April in which he hit .326 with three homers and only one strikeout all month — and the resulting all-star berth.
Now 86 and retired in Naples, Fla., he said he has few mementos of the All-Star Game he watched but didn’t play in.
“There was an autographed ball and a few pictures. Somewhere around here I have that stuff,” he said. “The kids and the grandkids managed to get away with a lot of that stuff.”Read more
Senators all-star 1965 and 1966 • age 78 • Rancho Mirage, Calif.
To say Pete Richert of the Senators pitched two scoreless innings in the 1965 All-Star Game, the first of his two all-star appearances, would be accurate — but it conveys only a fraction of the story.
The six batters he retired? Maury Wills, Cookie Rojas, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell and Joe Torre. In order, that’s the 1962 National League MVP; a five-time all-star; three Hall of Fame sluggers with a combined 1,890 home runs; and a nine-time all-star who went on to be a Hall of Fame manager.
“That’s a pretty good bunch right there,” Richert said.
Of all of them, the Mays at-bat stands out. “Got him to a 1-1 count,” Richert said, “and Earl Battey, the catcher, called for a change-up, which I thought was a great pitch. Willie swung so hard he fell down. I embarrassed Willie, in a way. And then I struck him out on a fastball inside. It just worked out great — great call from the catcher. I didn’t have to shake to it, so there was no chance for Willie to even think I might throw anything strange.”
Now 78, he is retired and living in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he spends most days playing golf.
“It was special to be around those guys,” he said. “It was the top of the game at the time. It’s something you can always say: ‘I pitched in two All-Star Games.’ ”Read more
Senators all-star 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 • age 81 • Aldie, Va.
In the video, he is bare-armed and barehanded, wearing neither long sleeves nor batting gloves. What he is wearing is a white “Senators” jersey, number 33, its seams stretching against his massive shoulders as he waggles 37 ounces of lumber. He is wearing spectacles. As the ball leaves his bat, headed skyward, the catcher and umpire both rise out of their crouches, but both are still dwarfed by the towering, uncoiling form of Frank Howard, who sets his bat down in the dirt and begins to run around the bases.
This was as good as baseball got in Washington in the late 1960s: an All-Star Game at RFK Stadium, July 23, 1969, and hometown star Frank “Hondo” “The Capital Punisher” “The Washington Monument” Howard — a player so great and so large (6-7, 255 pounds), he needed three nicknames — smashing a home run into the upper deck in right-center against St. Louis Cardinals great Steve Carlton. The crowd, much of it wearing short-sleeved dress shirts and ties, going nuts.
“A 2-0 count, and he threw me a fastball,” Howard recalled recently of the blast against Carlton. “He could’ve gotten a curve over, or a slider over. He was one of the best. Great baseball acumen. Big heart. Tremendous stuff. But he threw me a fastball.”
As it happened, that was the last All-Star Game that Washington would see for 49 years, until Tuesday night at Nationals Park — a yawning gap in time in which 27 other cities hosted baseball’s Midsummer Classic.
And it was a mostly forgettable affair — postponed by rain the night before, which flooded the dugouts and left the field a soggy mess, even some 18 hours later. Check the video again. See that? It’s sunlight — the last afternoon All-Star Game in history.
Howard, now 81 and living out his retirement in Aldie, Va., was 32 then, and in the midst of his finest season in the majors, his first under the tutelage of first-year Senators manager Ted Williams, who taught Howard the virtue of plate patience and watched his walk total nearly double, from 54 in 1968 to 102 in 1969. He would hit 48 homers that year, hit .296 and slug .574 — all career bests.
“Aw, it was all because of expansion,” Howard said of his surge in production that year. “They brought in four new teams that year. You wouldn’t think 20 new pitchers would make a difference, but it does.”
That is Howard, quiet and unassuming. He had been an all-star in 1968, as well, and would be one again in both 1970 and 1971, but he still suffered from an “inferiority complex,” as he called it, walking into the all-star clubhouse, or out onto the field, and encountering all the legendary figures of his era.
“Hank [Aaron], Reggie [Jackson], [Al] Kaline, Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski], Frank Robinson, [Willie] Mays,” he said, rattling off the names. “That’d give anybody an inferiority complex, hanging around those guys.”
And all of a sudden, you can feel a story coming on.
“I remember in the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati,” he began. “I’d never seen Tom Seaver. You didn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar [to realize] he was getting it to home plate in a hurry. Harmon Killebrew was hitting in front of me. He blew Harmon away on five pitches. [Killebrew] comes back to the dugout. I said, ‘Hey, Killer, looks like this guy is getting it to home plate in a hurry. He said, ‘You know that adage — wait and be quick? Well, forget the first part of it.’
“And five pitches later, Seaver sent me back to the dugout. I could’ve had a wagon tongue up there and wouldn’t have been able to hit it.”
The 1969 season, the one that culminated in the All-Star Game at RFK and Howard’s towering home run, may have been the last time in a generation that there was hope for baseball in the nation’s capital. Williams had come in and whipped the club into shape, leading it to its first winning record, 86-76, in the history of the expansion franchise and a gain of 21 wins over the year before. Things were looking up.
But it wasn’t to be. Two more awful seasons of 90-plus losses followed, and at the end of 1971, the Senators — for the second time — packed up and departed Washington, this time to Texas. And they took Howard with them. But while baseball was gone for 34 years, Howard never really left.
He retired as a player in 1973 and immediately started a second career in the game as a coach, manager, front office official and scout, much of it spent with the New York Yankees. But he continued to live in the Washington area, showing up on special occasions — such as the Washington Nationals’ first home game at old RFK in 2005 and his enshrinement in the Nationals’ Ring of Honor at gleaming Nationals Park in 2016.
“I’ve had over 50 years in baseball as a player, coach and briefly as a manager, and another 15 or 20 in player development and scouting,” he said, suddenly sounding reflective, philosophical. “We run a gauntlet in baseball. We’re signed, we’re traded, we’re sold, we’re released. You get into player development or scouting — you’re hired. And there’s a pretty good chance along the way you’re going to get fired. You’ll get rehired, and probably refired.
“But for every two or three things that don’t go our way, there’s a thousand good things that happen. Where else can you spend over half a century in an industry you enjoy and meet so many great people? You’ve been blessed. I feel that way. You run that gauntlet, but in the end you’re grateful.”Read more
Senators all-star 1969 • age 76 • Dunedin, Fla.
It was great pitching that made Darold Knowles an all-star in 1969 for the Senators. But it was great fortune that made him an all-star in the last year the game would ever be held at RFK Stadium in Washington. Despite the presence of superstars such as Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks, the biggest ovations of the day were reserved for Senators representatives Frank Howard and Knowles.
“I expected [it for] Frank,” Knowles said. “But for me? I was very appreciative. It was one of loudest I’ve ever gotten. And when I came in the game, they did it again.”
Knowles mostly kept to himself amid all those superstars. “I was just glad to be there. I don’t remember even talking to any of those guys,” he said. “It was just a glorious notch in my belt — ‘Man, I made an all-star team.’ ” He retired the only two batters he faced — Matty Alou and Don Kessinger — stranding a runner at third with Aaron on deck.
Now 76, he still works as a pitching coach at the Toronto Blue Jays’ rehabilitation facility in Dunedin, Fla.
“The ovations,” he said, “and the fact I got to pitch in the game — I can always take that away.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2005 • age 43 • Miami
At the very moment he jogged in from the bullpen at Detroit’s Comerica Park and entered the 2005 All-Star Game in the bottom of the fourth, relieving Houston’s Roy Oswalt, Livan Hernandez became the first player to represent Washington in an All-Star Game in 34 years — a fact that wasn’t lost on him at the time.
“People care about sports in D.C.,” he said. “The fans are incredible. And to be the first to represent the Nationals in the All-Star Game, that’s a great memory. That’s something you don’t forget.”
Hernandez, who was also an all-star in 2004 in the franchise’s final year in Montreal, holds a special place in Nationals history, starting the team’s first game, April 4, 2005, in Philadelphia, and again 10 days later in its first home game at RFK Stadium. Though most of his team records have been eclipsed, the 246
“The most important thing was representing Washington and being part of the Washington Nationals,” said Hernandez, now 43 and living in Miami. “That’s always made me happy. That’s a first-class organization, and I loved being there.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2005 • age 36 • Greeneville, Tenn.
In the top of the eighth inning of the 2005 All-Star Game at Detroit’s Comerica Park, National League Manager Tony La Russa called down to his bullpen and asked to speak to Chad Cordero. “Do you want to get the last out of the eighth?” he asked.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever get this chance again,’ ” Cordero recalled. “ ‘So heck yeah.’ When they called for me, I started running in with my head down, and I realized I was going more towards the dugout than to the mound, so I tried to reverse course and almost tripped. That’s how excited I was.”
Cordero never was an all-star again. But he will always have 2005. It was both the first season of baseball in the nation’s capital since 1971 and a year in which Cordero, then 23 and just two years out of college, could do almost no wrong: 47 saves, a 1.82 ERA and an all-star berth.
“It was everything I could’ve ever wanted in my career,” said Cordero, 36, now the pitching coach for the rookie-level Greeneville (Tenn.) Reds. “Walking in that clubhouse and seeing my jersey hanging next to Jake Peavy’s, sitting across from John Smoltz, seeing Mariano [Rivera] on the other side, and [Derek] Jeter. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Watching [Roger] Clemens in the bullpen before he entered — I was like, ‘Holy crap, this is freaking awesome.’ ”Read more
Nationals all-star 2006 • age 42 • Tampa
Alfonso Soriano was only a Washington National for one season, 2006, but what a tumultuous and meteoric season it was. With 46 homers, 95 RBI and a .911 OPS, it stands as the best season for any Nationals hitter in the RFK Stadium era (2005-07), and the home run total remains a franchise record.
At one point, just getting Soriano on the field in a Nationals jersey — let alone seeing him wear one in an All-Star Game — seemed difficult enough. Acquired via trade in December 2005, Soriano, an established second baseman, initially balked at the team’s plan to play him in left field. But he eventually relented, and by July, after smashing 27 homers in the first half, he had been voted into the starting lineup for the All-Star Game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
More drama would follow, as the Nationals explored various options to trade Soriano ahead of the July 31 deadline before ultimately deciding to hold onto him. That winter, Soriano signed a $136 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, with the Nationals receiving two compensatory draft picks — one of which they used to select pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, himself a two-time all-star for the franchise.Read more
Nationals all-star 2007; age 44; Florida and California
The call came in to Dmitri Young’s cellphone one July day in 2007. On the other end was Jim Bowden, at the time the Nationals general manager. He was calling to tell Young, then 33, he had made the National League all-star team.
“I got real choked up,” Young recalled, “because at that exact time the year before, I wasn’t in a good place in life. And now I’d come full circle.”
The second chance the Nationals had given Young in spring 2007 — after his career had fallen apart amid divorce, alcohol and substance abuse, a domestic violence charge, ballooning weight and a stint in rehab — would transform his life. By the end of that season, Young had hit a career-best .320, earned NL comeback player of the year honors and made his second all-star team.
“It was a whole lot of saving face,” said Young, now 44, who since retiring as a player has dabbled in coaching and broadcasting, working to expand the sport’s reach in the African American community. “I was actually batting my weight. . . . For me, it was a case of proving what you can do when you have positive thoughts in your head.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2008 • age 40 • Dominican Republic
Even among all the forgettable teams during the Nationals’ lean years, the 2008 team — the one that inaugurated Nationals Park — is on a different level. Odalis Perez was the Opening Day starter. Wily Mo Pena, Ryan Langerhans, Rob Mackowiak and Paul Lo Duca all started games in left field. They lost 102 games, including 36 by five runs or more.
But every team must be represented at the All-Star Game, and so there was Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman, at Yankee Stadium, entering as a pinch runner in the top of the ninth inning of a tie game and promptly getting caught stealing to end the inning. He stayed in the game at third base — a position he had never before played as a professional — and went 0 for 3 as the NL lost in 15 innings.
“It was great because it was at Yankee Stadium and it was always fun to play there,” said Guzman, a second-time all-star who would finish fourth in the league that year in both hits (183) and batting average (.316).
Now 40, he runs a youth baseball program in his native Dominican Republic.
“I was really young when I made my first All-Star Game [in 2001] with Minnesota,” he said, “so I could appreciate the experience and opportunity.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2009 and 2017 • age 33 • currently plays for Washington
Two all-star appearances eight years apart can go a long way toward giving a man a sense of perspective. At the time of his first one, in 2009, Ryan Zimmerman was more or less a kid, just 24 years old, four years removed from the University of Virginia and widely regarded as one of the best young third basemen in the game.
The second time, in 2017, he was 32 and married, a big leaguer for 13 seasons. Shoulder injuries and throwing issues had forced him to move across the diamond to first base. Back at the All-Star Game after eight years, he tried to be more aware and more cognizant of soaking in the experience.
“In 2009, being a young guy, four years into my career, I just didn’t want to get in the way,” he recalled. “I didn’t know many of the guys. I just wanted to basically not be seen, not be heard. Compare that to 2017, and being 13, 14 years into the league, and having relationships with most of the people on the team — it was just a completely different experience. I don’t want to say one was better. They were both obviously awesome. But the second one I was a little more comfortable.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2010 • age 34 • Atlanta
Matt Capps had barely taken his place in the National League’s dugout at the end of the sixth inning of the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim when the NL suddenly seized the lead and the Nationals’ closer realized: “Holy cow. You could vulture this thing.”
And “vulture” it — to use the baseball phrase for earning a win with minimal contribution — Capps did. He retired only one batter but became the winning pitcher when the NL took the lead and held on.
Capps wasn’t expecting to pitch at all. Ace Roy Halladay was in the game to start the sixth and was scheduled to throw the entire inning, with Capps warming up as a precaution. But suddenly Halladay was on the ropes and Capps was being summoned.
“I was halfheartedly throwing and just looking around, trying to soak it in,” he recalled. “I hadn’t even got the catcher down [in a crouch] yet. I said, ‘Oh, crap.’ I tried to get as many throws in as I could — just rapid-fire, all fastballs, maybe six or seven pitches — then ran to the mound.”
After striking out David Ortiz to end the threat, Capps got a grateful hug and a high-five from Halladay.
“To have that recognition as being one of the best, there was a sense of pride there,” Capps, now retired at 34 and living outside of Atlanta, said of his lone all-star appearance. “I can honestly say this was a big part of my journey.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2011 and 2014 • age 33 • currently plays for Toronto Blue Jays
On July 12, 2011, at Arizona’s Chase Field, Nationals setup man Tyler Clippard upheld one of the great traditions of the All-Star Game: a “vultured” win by a Washington pitcher. Just as Dean Stone had done in 1954 and Matt Capps again in 2010, Clippard entered with the game up for grabs, made a minimal contribution on the mound and yet emerged as the winning pitcher.
“It was definitely a vulture,” Clippard said of his win in the National League’s 5-1 victory. “The guys were razzing me about it after the game.”
Clippard earned his win without retiring a batter. Entering in the fourth inning with the NL trailing 1-0, he gave up a sharp single to Adrian Beltre but was bailed out by a strong throw home from left fielder Hunter Pence to nail the lead runner. When the NL took the lead the next half-inning, Clippard became the pitcher of record.
An all-star again in 2014, he is proud of having blazed a trail as one of the first setup men to be named an all-star. “It was still a rarity for someone like me to make an all-star team,” said Clippard, now pitching for Toronto, “so I like to think I was in that first wave of bullpen guys who weren’t closers.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2012 • age 32 • currently plays for Washington
Having arrived in Washington ahead of the 2012 season, lefty Gio Gonzalez missed the dark days when the Nationals would invariably place just one representative on the National League all-star team — which was the case in every year from 2006 to 2011, years in which the team averaged 93 losses per season.
In 2012, after a dazzling first half (12-3, 2.92 ERA), Gonzalez was picked to the NL squad — his second appearance, following 2011 with Oakland — along with three other Nationals teammates. After tossing a 1-2-3 third inning that night at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, capped by a groundout by future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, he turned the ball over to a Nationals teammate, Stephen Strasburg.
“With the number of guys we had on the team, I really felt like I was a part of something special,” Gonzalez said.
While Gonzalez hasn’t been an all-star again, the Nationals have sent multiple representatives to every All-Star Game since, topped by the five players they had selected in 2016 and 2017 — a wave that started in 2012.
“Four or five guys every year,” he said. “We stack ’em up pretty good around here.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2012 • age 32 • currently plays for Colorado Rockies
In July 2012, Nationals shortstop and first-time all-star selectee Ian Desmond faced a tough decision: attend the 2012 All-Star Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium or stay home and give his strained oblique muscle a chance to heal for the second half.
Ultimately, Desmond chose rest. “I felt those three days were important for my recovery,” he recalled. “I thought staying home was the responsible move to make as a teammate. I had to pass it up. . . . It was always my goal to make the postseason and ultimately win a World Series. The individual stuff, I appreciate and respect it. But it doesn’t mean as much as winning.”
As a top Nationals prospect in the franchise’s early days in Washington, a stalwart on the 2012 and 2014 division champs and now as a first baseman/outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, Desmond, 32, has witnessed D.C.’s growth as a baseball town and takes a measure of satisfaction in having helped pushed it along.
“I remember the first exhibition game at RFK Stadium [in March 2005]. There was so much excitement in that town,” he said. “I vividly remember the stands bouncing. And now, to see the stands packed there every night, and the team a perennial playoff team — I’m honored to say I played a very small part in it.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 • age 25 • currently plays for Washington
On July 7, 2012, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton withdrew from consideration for the National League all-star team because of a knee injury, and a small bit of history was about to be made.
Stanton’s replacement was Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old outfielder of the Nationals, who three days later would become the youngest position player ever to appear in an All-Star Game. He would go 0 for 1 with a walk and a strikeout and would lose a ball in the lights that fell for a single as the NL won, 8-0.
It would be the start of a long relationship between Harper and the All-Star Game, with this year’s appearance in Washington marking his sixth in seven big league seasons — passing Senators first baseman Mickey Vernon (1946, 1948, 1953, 1954 and 1955) for the most by a Washington player. Harper missed only 2014, when thumb surgery cost him all of May and most of June.
And this time he has vowed to participate in the Home Run Derby, which he has skipped each time since 2013, when — with his father, Ron, throwing to him — he narrowly lost to Yoenis Cespedes.
“I think that’s the coolest thing,” he said. “Having my dad in the clubhouse [and] seeing all the all-stars and being able to have conversations with a lot of guys you’re not able to during the year.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2012, 2016 and 2017 • age 29 • currently plays for Washington
Even for someone who came into the big leagues with so much hype that it acquired its own holiday designation — “Strasmas” — the star power Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg encountered and stared down at his first All-Star Game, in 2012, was worthy of multiple exclamation points.
“I had to face [Robinson] Cano, [Josh] Hamilton, [Jose] Bautista and [Prince] Fielder!!” Strasburg tweeted after his scoreless one-inning appearance at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. “Pretty insane!”
Recalling it recently, he said he was “in awe” of everyone around him. “That was Chipper’s [Jones] last All-Star Game, so that definitely stood out,” he said.
No one would have believed it at the time — given Strasburg’s pedigree and talent — but that 2012 appearance, in his first full season back from 2010 elbow surgery, would be the last time he has pitched in an All-Star Game. Though he made the National League’s roster two other times, in 2016 and 2017, he wouldn’t pitch in either because of injury and usage concerns.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” he said. “All you can focus on is the work you put in, and whatever happens from there is out of your control. But it always feels good to be thought of as one of the best in the league.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2013 and 2014 • age 32 • currently plays for Detroit Tigers
Anyone who has spent time around former Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann knows that among the things he cannot stand are incessant hype, crowds of people and constant demands on his time. With that in mind, the worst possible place for him on July 16, 2013, may have been New York’s Citi Field — especially given the fact he was unable to pitch in that night’s All-Star Game because of a shoulder injury.
“I don’t really enjoy New York anyway,” said Zimmermann, 32, now with the Detroit Tigers. “It has too many people and too much traffic. But being my first All-Star Game, I had to experience it. I was trying to soak it in and enjoy it. Being around all the other guys, the best players in the game, is something that was really cool for me. But it was just a hectic few days.”
A year later, Zimmermann was again selected to the National League all-star team but again couldn’t pitch because of injury. This time, rather than go to Minneapolis for the game, he stayed home.
Zimmermann still regards the two all-star selections as among the highest honors in his career, and he hopes he gets another chance to make it back to one — and pitch in it this time.
“It’s definitely a great honor,” he said, “and something I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 • age 33 • currently plays for Washington
Max Scherzer was the American League’s starting pitcher in the first All-Star Game he ever played in — 2013, as a member of the Detroit Tigers — so there were few subsequent all-star experiences that could ever match the impact of his initial one.
But Scherzer may have found one in 2017 at Miami’s Marlins Park. He earned the second all-star starting assignment of his career, this time as a National, opposing Boston’s Chris Sale and flanked by three teammates — Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper — who were also named as starters. Scherzer worked one inning, retiring Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge and George Springer, the last two via strikeouts.
“The first time I made the all-star team and started, with Detroit, it was such an unbelievable experience,” he said. “But starting in Miami and going against Sale, that sure ranks up there, as well.”
Halfway through his seven-year, $210 million Nationals contract, Scherzer has four all-star berths in four chances.
“It’s about coming into a new league and trying to show you’re one of the best in the league,” he said. “To do it [four] consecutive years, it’s a credit to the training staff for keeping me healthy, and my teammates for playing their butts off. And it’s about trying to evolve as a pitcher and continue to get better.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2016 • age 30 • currently plays for Tampa Bay Rays
The 2016 season was a bittersweet one for Wilson Ramos, then a catcher for the Nationals. He enjoyed his finest season as a big leaguer, highlighted by his first all-star berth, but a torn knee ligament ended his season in September just before the playoffs were to start.
The Nationals’ all-star contingent in 2016 was a large one — along with Ramos, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy and Max Scherzer all made it — a fact that sticks out in Ramos’s mind as a cherished memory. In the game itself, Ramos caught three innings — including a 1-2-3 sixth from Scherzer.
“Five guys — that was amazing,” he said. “We deserved that honor.”
Before Game 1 of the National League Division Series, he limped to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — the extent of his contribution that October and his last act as a member of the Nationals. That winter, he departed via free agency to the Tampa Bay Rays, with whom he made a second all-star team this year.
“It’s a very special thing, being in the clubhouse with a lot of great players,” he said. “It’s not easy to make an all-star team, and when you do you feel like you’re part of that group. You made it.”Read more
Nationals all-star 2016 and 2017 • age 33 • currently plays for Washington
Daniel Murphy’s all-star experiences have mirrored the trajectory of his career. As a first-timer in 2014 for the New York Mets, he had to wait until the eighth inning for a pinch-hit appearance, striking out against Fernando Rodney. In 2016, at the start of a late-blooming renaissance with the Nationals, he entered midgame and got three at-bats, collecting a pair of singles.
And by 2017, he was voted in as a starter via fan balloting, going 1 for 2 with a single off American League starter Chris Sale.
“Getting to start for the first time was a nice touch,” Murphy said, “but just being there is humbling to begin with.”
In 2014, Murphy went to Minnesota’s Target Field as the Mets’ only representative. But in both 2016 and 2017 with the Nationals he was part of five-man contingents — and in the latter case that included four starters, the most of any franchise that year.
“One of the coolest things was going along with multiple teammates,” Murphy said. “After being the only representative from the Mets, I thought it was great to be able to go with so many teammates and for our families to be able to share the experience together.”Read more
Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.
Design and development by Virginia Singarayar. Story by Dave Sheinin. Story edited by Glenn Yoder and copy edited by Greg Schimmel. Photo editing by Brent Lewis. Portraits by Lawrence Jenkins and Matt McClain.