With three Blue Jays and two Expos participating and Fergie Jenkins throwing out the first pitch, the 1991 All-Star Game had a distinctly Canadian feel. Fittingly, the contest’s winning pitcher was Blue Jay Jimmy Key, while Expos hurler Dennis Martinez shouldered the loss in an exciting match-up in front of 52,383 fans at SkyDome on July 9, 1991.
But it was baseball’s Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., who would steal the show. Though not a classic power hitter, Ripken belted 12 homers in 22 swings in the home run derby on the day prior to the game. His output tripled that of his American League teammate Cecil Fielder and more than doubled the total of Paul O’Neill, the National League’s top contestant. Back then, the derby was a single-round format that pitted four sluggers from each league against each other. The league with the most cumulative homers won. On the strength of Ripken’s power surge, the American League out-homered the National League 20-7. Ripken would homer again in the all-star game the following day. His round-tripper was a three-run shot off of Martinez in the third inning.
Outside of the legendary shortstop’s heroics, however, there were plenty of Canadian connections in that game. Jays second baseman, Roberto Alomar, was voted an American League starter, while Key was named to the pitching staff and Joe Carter was added as a reserve. Cito Gaston was selected as one of the American League coaches by Tony LaRussa and Expos outfielder Ivan Calderon joined Martinez on the Senior Circuit team.
Other Canadian links included former Expo Andre Dawson belting a homer off of Roger Clemens in the fourth inning, and ex-Jay George Bell, now a Cub, participated in the home-run hitting contest for the National League squad.
Twelve future Hall of Famers toiled in the 1991 mid-summer classic, including Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Andre Dawson and Eddie Murray on the National League squad and Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, Kirby Puckett and Paul Molitor for the American League.
The 1991 All-Star Game represented the second – and so far, last – time that the all-star game was held north of the border. Given that 19 years have passed, I would say it’s time for the mid-summer classic to return to Toronto.