The World Series may be baseball's ultimate test of a player's mettle, but he won't face stiffer competition than in the All-Star Game. Virtually every star in the sport's history suited up for at least one Midsummer Classic, and the elevated talent has brought out some truly memorable performances.
Below is a ranking of 13 of the best box score lines compiled in baseball's summer showcase, stretching all the way back to the inaugural All-Star Game in 1933.
(Note: Since we're looking at performances over a game's entirety, individual moments like Reggie Jackson's towering home run in 1971 or Torii Hunter's sensational catch to rob Barry Bonds in 2002 will have to be remembered in other spaces.)
1. Pedro Martinez, 1999
Final line: 2 IP, 0 R, 5 K out of 6 batters faced
Whose performance was more dominant: Martinez or Carl Hubbell?
We'll get to Hubbell later, but Martinez gets the edge here for his incredible five-strikeout performance given the competition, the high-octane offensive era and the tight dimensions at Fenway Park. Making his first start in the All-Star Game, Martinez took the mound right after an emotional tribute to Red Sox legend Ted Williams and proceeded to punch out five of the game's most feared sluggers of the time: Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell. Martinez's combinations of high-90s fastballs and his devastating low-80s changeup were simply untouchable that night in Boston, sending the raucous home crowd into pandemonium.
"I just wanted to be part of it," Martinez would say afterward, "have fun with it. I thought seeing Ted Williams come in, the crowd going wild and the planes passing by, this is one we'll hopefully all enjoy, the fans and me."
That much was certain, and Martinez's All-Star Game MVP Award was essentially locked up as he walked off the mound following a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end the second inning. It's safe to say Martinez's start will never be forgotten in New England.
2. Bo Jackson, 1989
Final line: 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB
Jackson simply was sports in the late 1980s, captivating America with his incredible athleticism while excelling in both Major League Baseball and as a running back in the National Football League. One of the big storylines heading into the '89 All-Star Game was where manager Tony La Russa would pencil Jackson into his lineup. As it turned out, the leadoff spot was an excellent choice. NL manager Tommy Lasorda compared it to both a golf ball and a cannon ball. Former President Ronald Reagan, who was up in the broadcast booth beside Vin Scully, said it "sounded different, and it went forever." No matter the description, Jackson's leadoff homer off Rick Reuschel had to almost be seen to be believed as it traveled an estimated 448 feet over the center-field fence at Angel Stadium. Jackson later stole second, joining Willie Mays as the only players to both homer and steal a bag in the Midsummer Classic, on a sore hamstring that no one was aware of. In those days, it truly did seem like Bo could do it all.
3. Carl Hubbell, 1934
Final line: 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K
The second All-Star Game was held at the Polo Grounds and Hubbell, the Giants' ace, certainly seemed to feel right at home. It's easy to forget that the AL's first two batters reached against Hubbell to begin the game, because what he did afterward was truly astonishing. Employing his trademark screwball, Hubbell struck out five straight future Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Hubbell later said Ruth was the only one of the five that he tried to strike out, but try or not, Hubbell's two innings mark one of the most impressive pitching displays in history -- All-Star Game or otherwise.
4. Ted Williams, 1946
Final line: 4-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 4 R
Honorable mention goes to Williams' walk-off homer to end the '41 All-Star Game, but we'll highlight one of the most dominant complete-game displays ever seen in the Midsummer Classic here. Williams was simply unstoppable in his first All-Star Game following his three years of service as a fighter pilot in World War II, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances and driving in nearly half the AL's runs in a 12-0 rout. Williams' most memorable moment in this virtuoso performance was his homer off Rip Sewell's famous "eephus" pitch in the bottom of the eighth. The way the "Splendid Splinter" was swinging the bat that day, one can hardly blame Sewell for trying something different.
5. Ichiro Suzuki, 2007
Final line: 3-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R
The "HR" initials in the box score hardly do justice to Ichiro's breathtaking trip around the bases in which he recorded the first inside-the-park homer in All-Star Game history. Taking advantage of the ball's crazy carom off the right-field wall at San Francisco's AT&T Park that eluded Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro turned the AL's 1-0 fifth-inning deficit into a 2-1 lead in the blink of an eye as he strolled to home plate standing up to make history.
"You know, in batting practice tonight, I saw some balls take some weird hops off that fence out there," fellow All-Star Torii Hunter told ESPN. "And I said to myself, 'If anyone ever hits one off one of those corners out there, somebody's going to get an inside-the-parker.' Well, here came Ichiro."
Ichiro's inside-the-parker might have been enough to make this list, but of course that wasn't his only contribution. The Seattle star led off the game with a single off Jake Peavy and singled again in the third to complete a perfect night at the plate.
6. Tim Raines, 1987
Final line: 3-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 3B, 1 SB
Raines' line is all the more impressive considering he didn't enter the '87 All-Star Game as a defensive replacement until the bottom of the sixth inning. His first hit didn't come until the ninth inning, but Montreal's speedster made each of his three plate appearances count. Raines singled off Dave Righetti in the ninth and got to third base in his typical lightning-quick fashion via a steal and a throwing error, but he was stranded there as the go-ahead run. Raines singled again in the 11th and was stranded again before he decided to drive in his own runs two frames later. With the game still, incredibly, scoreless in the 13th, Raines drove a pitch from Jay Howell into the left-center-field gap and plated what proved to be the game-winning runs with an electric triple. Speed and power were Raines' trademarks, and he put both on display that night in Oakland.
7. Al Rosen, 1954
Final line: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 R
The '54 All-Star Game was a pure slugfest featuring 20 combined runs on 31 hits. The AL eventually came out on top, 11-9, thanks in large part to Rosen's pair of dingers. Cleveland's slugger broke up an early pitcher's duel with a three-run blast off Phillies ace Robin Roberts, and then plated two more on a dinger off Johnny Antonelli in the fifth. Rosen went on to single in the sixth and drew a walk in the eighth that led to Nellie Fox's two-run single which drove home the winning runs. In an All-Star Game chock full of big offensive stat lines, Rosen's stood out above the others. Incredibly, Rosen excelled that day and went on to hit .300 for the season with a broken finger.
8. Arky Vaughan, 1941
Final line: 3-for-4, 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 2 R
Williams, as mentioned, played the role of hero on this afternoon with his game winner, but Vaughan did all he can in the NL's losing effort at Detroit's Briggs Stadium. One of the best shortstops in baseball history, Vaughan homered off Sid Hudson and Eddie Smith to plate four of the Senior Circuit's five runs. The pair of dingers represented one-third of the homers Vaughan would hit over the entire '41 regular season.
9. Willie McCovey, 1969
Final line: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
The '69 season was a banner year across the board for McCovey, who captured his lone NL MVP Award that season with an NL-leading 45 homers and 126 RBIs and an MLB-best 1.108 OPS. The NL jumped all over the AL with nine runs over the first four innings in this matchup at Washington's RFK Stadium, highlighted by McCovey's two-run homer off Blue Moon Odom in the third and his solo shot off Denny McLain in the fourth. That was plenty good enough to earn "Stretch" the game's MVP Award as the NL claimed its eighth consecutive All-Star Game victory.
10. Derek Jeter, 2000
Final line: 3-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 R
Jeter took full advantage of his first All-Star Game start at Turner Field, the same place he had helped the Yankees defeat the Braves for a second time in the World Series the previous fall. Batting second, the Yankees shortstop doubled to left off an in-his-prime Randy Johnson in the first inning and then singled up the middle against peak Kevin Brown in the third. Jeter knocked a go-ahead, two-run single off Al Leiter in the fourth before he was pulled the next inning, easily earning the game's MVP honors. That fall, Jeter would become the first player to capture both the All-Star Game and World Series MVP Awards in the same season.
11. Dave Parker, 1979
Final line: 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 outfield assists
Parker's plate performance takes a backseat here to his work from right field, where he made not one but two game-saving throws that live on in All-Star Game lore. Red Sox star Jim Rice led off the seventh with a double, but Parker threw him out with a cross-field throw as he tried to go for three. That kept the NL within a run to set up Lee Mazzilli's game-tying homer in the eighth, and Parker promptly followed with an arguably even more impressive throw home to nab Brian Downing in the bottom half. Mazzilli put the Senior Circuit ahead with a bases-loaded walk and the NL walked away with a 7-6, comeback win thanks in large part to Parker's clutch defense.
12. Babe Ruth, 1933
Final line: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R
The All-Star Game was far from a certainty as a perennial showcase when the game's biggest star ushered the event in with what he did best. Facing NL starter Bill Hallahan with a runner on in the third, Ruth slugged a pitched deep into the right-field seats at Comiskey to record the first All-Star Game home run and send the crowd of nearly 48,000 into a frenzy. The Midsummer Classic may have never reached its current notoriety if Ruth hadn't launched it off the ground with one mighty swing.
13. Larry Jansen, 1950
Final line: 5 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6 K
The 1950 All-Star Game at old Comiskey Park is remembered more for being the first one to go to extra innings, but don't sleep on Jansen's clutch performance out of the bullpen. Making the first of his back-to-back All-Star appearances, Jansen came in with his NL club down a run in the seventh and proceeded to hold a mighty AL lineup scoreless for five brilliant frames. The righty's six strikeout victims included future Hall of Famers Larry Doby, George Kell and Williams, and he held the Junior Circuit at bay long enough for Red Schoendienst to hit his game-winning homer in the top of the 14th.