07/16/2003 1:23 AM ET
Selig: It was a great night for us
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The American League stole home-field advantage in the World Series away from the National League in dramatic fashion Tuesday night. And Commissioner Bud Selig couldn't have been happier.
Garret Anderson is presented the MVP trophy by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Sitting in box seats beside the AL dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, Selig was ecstatic as he watched the AL celebrate the come-from-behind 7-6 victory. He felt it was quick vindication for this summer's most hotly debated subject. For the first time ever, the winning league in the All-Star Game has the opportunity to host Game 7 with the World Series on the line.
"It was everything it was cracked up to be," Selig said, standing on the field just after the thrilling game had ended. "The intensity was amazing. Did you see the way the crowd reacted? Just watching the American League guys jumping up and down was really something. It was a great night for us."
This year, it really did count. And next year, both teams will get a chance to make it count again when the All-Star Game is played in Houston's Minute Maid Park. That will end this initial two-year agreement -- this All-Star experiment executed during the spring between Major League Baseball and its players' union.
The NL would have had home-field advantage in the World Series this fall. Under the old format, each league simply swapped that right every year and the AL had the advantage at the end of last postseason.
"It worked out great for the American League, taking away the home-field advantage," said the Yankees' Jason Giambi, who aided the AL comeback with his seventh-inning homer. "It only could have been an advantage to us to get the win tonight, because it would have been the NL's advantage before they came up with this."
This was Selig's brainchild and he moved it with ease through the owners, who passed the concept unanimously at January's meetings in Arizona.
The impetus is what happened in Milwaukee last season and what a difference a year does make. After last July's All-Star Game in Selig's hometown was halted after 11 innings with the score tied, 7-7, because both teams ran out of pitchers, Selig spent what he now calls "the longest, saddest night of my life."
After this year's game ended, Selig was on the field virtually exchanging verbal high fives with members of the Commissioner's Office -- President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy, Executive Vice Presidents Tim Brosnan and Sandy Alderson and Senior Vice President Rich Levin.
"We're just very happy with the format change," DuPuy said. "The fans seemed to have appreciated it before the game even started and you could see the emotion when it ended. The emotion was palpable. The drama of the game underscored what we were trying to do here. The significance of the game -- it counts."
The AL scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning against Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, who is almost always flawless. The final two were plated on a pinch-hit homer off the bat of Texas rookie Hank Blalock, who Giambi said might be voted a share if the Yankees make it to the World Series.
"I'm sure whatever AL team makes it to the World Series will send Blalock a 12-pack of something -- especially if it goes to Game 7," Giambi said.
"The game couldn't have ended any better," Selig said. "You know, I've been through too many ninth innings in my career like that when it's your team. It was great drama right to the end."
Some of the players may have groused about the format change, but to a man they now know the significance of it. Fifteen of the last 17 teams to win the World Series have had home-field advantage and no team has won a Game 7 on the road since the Pirates did it at Baltimore in 1979.
"I thought it was intense," said Colorado's Todd Helton, who started at first base for the NL. "I thought everybody was out there to play. I don't think you've ever seen a manager out there to argue a call in an All-Star Game. Everybody really was trying to win the game today."
Call it injured pride for Gagne, who hasn't blown a save in 31 regular-season chances this season, but certainly blew one big time on Tuesday night. But Gagne wants redemption if the Dodgers make it to the World Series.
"I hope I'll be the one in there and I'll be with the Dodgers," said Gagne, whose team goes into the second half 7 1/2 games out in the NL West and 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race. "Then I can get my stuff back and go out there and redeem myself."
Oakland closer Keith Foulke, who did save the game and was on the mound when Furcal skied out to right ending it, said home-field advantage was on his mind as he came into the game to start the final inning.
"Yeah, that's the way I thought about it," said Foulke, whose A's are four games out in the AL West and only one game back in the Wild Card race. "I could be pitching for something really important down the road, and we might be the team to benefit."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.