Years and joy add up for regulars ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

July 14, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Paul Molitor had planned to spend the All-Star break with his family, going to Niagara Falls and the Canadian Wonderland. Instead, he took them to Baltimore.

"My 8-year-old daughter said to me, 'That's OK, Dad. Maybe it will be your last time in an All-Star Game,' " Molitor said in the American League clubhouse before last night's game at Camden Yards.

At 36, Molitor was the oldest of the 56 players selected to this year's game. And it was obvious that Molitor's sixth All-Star appearance was just as meaningful as his first -- and maybe even more so.

"The fact that I only made it once in my first eight years, there's no question I appreciate it," said the infielder, who was making his first trip as a Toronto Blue Jay after representing the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I get kidded about being the oldest player here, but it makes me feel good about maintaining a high level of consistency," Molitor said.

Several of Molitor's American League teammates and National League opponents have maintained that level even longer. Last night was the 11th straight All-Star Game for Cal Ripken, the ninth in 10 years for Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn, the eighth straight for Kirby Puckett.

"The ninth one is just as exciting as the first," said Boggs, who after eight All-Star selections with the Boston Red Sox was making his first as a New York Yankee.

Said Gwynn: "When you first make it, you're very excited, but after your fourth or fifth one, your role on the team starts to change. It's different. For me now it's more fun to come off the bench."

Puckett played a familiar role in last night's 9-3 victory for the American League: star. After no extra-base hits among his four in 16 previous All-Star at-bats, Puckett had a bases-empty home run and an RBI double, and earned the Most Valuable Player Award. "It's something I never thought about," said Puckett, who will donate the van he receives for winning the MVP to charity.

Of all the players, last night's game had the most significance for Ripken. Having grown up in Aberdeen, having spent his entire career in Baltimore, playing in front of those who've supported him -- and booed him on occasion -- it was one of the highlights in his career.

The sellout crowd gave Ripken a standing ovation that ended only with the introduction of Boggs. "I've been through a lot of great moments in my short baseball career so far, but that has to be my No. 1 moment," Ripken said. "I couldn't even describe the feeling. It made me feel that good."

Ripken's first appearance came in 1983, and he remembers how nervous he was. Sent into that game to replace Robin Yount, Ripken couldn't keep still. "Every pitch, I kept moving one way or the other," Ripken said. "Manny Trillo just looked at me and shook his head. I see the young guys now and how excited they are, but then I look at guys like Kirby who's been here a zillion times, and he's still excited, too."

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