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View from the 'ville
Thursday, July 17, 2008

By Al Myatt

Stay tuned for more of great sports year

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Fox Sports columnist Kevin Hench called 2008 an incomparable year in sports, and that was before Tuesday night's (and Wednesday morning's) classic major league baseball all-star game at Yankee Stadium.

The New York Giants' monumental triumph over the seemingly-invincible New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, a college basketball Final Four with four No. 1 seeds and an overtime final, the dramatic U.S. Open golf playoff that showcased Tiger Woods' determination on a bad knee, the Boston Celtics' return to glory in the NBA finals against an old nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the classic showdown between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the Wimbledon tennis singles final were all components in Hench's lofty evaluation.

The all-star game certainly deserves to be included in that impressive group of events.

New York literally rolled out the red carpet for a pregame parade, and the collection of 49 hall of famers assembled for pre-game introductions was unmatched.

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, was shown as he talked to the National League All-Stars in their clubhouse before the game. George Brett was shown exhorting the American League's elite prior to the midsummer classic.

"Don't think about being a hero," Brett said. "Think about being a winner."

The game itself managed to live up to the mountain of hype that had been generated, which is saying a lot.

This is the last season for Yankee Stadium, as a newer version of the House that Ruth Built goes up on the adjacent block. The current greats of the game gave the venerable structure a fitting sendoff with both clubs dodging more bullets than Wyatt Earp before the American League managed to scratch across a run in the bottom of the 15th inning for a 4-3 win.

It was the longest all-star game ever, lasting four hours and 50 minutes. It was a delight for night owl baseball fans but a sizeable stumbling block for those who had to go to work on Wednesday morning.

"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin was among those who had to retire early as threat after threat was defused by clutch defensive efforts. Godwin is involved with his hitting camp for youngsters at ECU this week and missed the start of the all-star marathon.

"I was in camp until probably 9:30 (p.m.) and then I probably saw until about the tenth inning," said the Pirates coach. "I'll be honest — that was about all I could hold out for."

It was an appropriate game to be played in the city that never sleeps.

As managers Terry Francona of the AL and Clint Hurdle of the NL were contemplating how they might continue if they had to send position players to the mound, Michael Young's sacrifice fly off of Brad Lidge scored Home Run Derby champion Justin Morneau on a bang-bang play at the plate to decide it.

The AL's 11th straight win in the All-Star series means home field advantage in the World Series for the AL champion. Although Fox commentators were speculating that commissioner Bud Selig might have to declare another tie as happened in Milwaukee in 2002, it's difficult to see how that would have happened with home field advantage in the Series depending on the outcome.

Right fielder J.D. Drew, who played at Florida State, was MVP with a tying two-run homer in his initial all-star at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. Francona said Drew might have had to pitch if the game had gone much longer.

Meanwhile, Godwin was catching his Z's so he could be fresh to teach the aspiring sluggers in his camp.

"We've got about 100 kids and it's going good," Godwin said.

The ECU coach enjoys working with the younger age group.

"I love it," Godwin said. "I'm probably more involved than most people. I just think where a great game has been good to us, we've got to keep the fire burning."

And last night's game was one that had the ability to stoke the passion of future major leaguers.

"It's got to, certainly" Godwin said. "You sit there and watch. You saw the second baseman (Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins) make a couple of errors. It just shows that the game ain't as easy as most people think because they're the best players in the world.

"When he made those, there was some adversity and they pitched out of it. They just kept battling. For a game like that to go 15 innings, you've got the best players out there competing at one o'clock in the morning in the middle of the summer when they've played 80-some games already this season is pretty impressive."

The All-Star game certainly strengthened Hench's contention about the greatness of sports in 2008.

ECU had its share of success in the 2007-08 school year. The Pirates won the Hawaii Bowl over Boise State on the last play of the game, handed N.C. State an unprecedented loss in basketball and made the NCAA Tournament once again in baseball.

It already has been a special year in sports. Expect the fun to continue at the Olympics in Beijing next month, where former ECU sprinter LaShawn Merritt will be one of those in the world's spotlight.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

07/17/2008 02:28:25 AM


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