One Strike Away

One strike away.

That will be the epic tale of the 2006 All-Star Game.

One strike away.

You aren't supposed to win games like this, when you're down to your final strike with one of the greatest closers in history holding the baseball.

A magical ninth inning for the American League makes All-Star history.

You aren't supposed to win games like this when a game-tying double with two outs in the ninth has just taken a fateful hop into the stands and forced that tying run to U-turn back to third base.

You aren't supposed to win games like this just because no team has ever won an All-Star Game like this.

Not when it was one strike away from losing.

But then the great Trevor Hoffman decided it was the wrong time to throw one more changeup Tuesday night, just like the 2.7 billion he's been tossing up there for the last 14 seasons.

So Hoffman sent a fastball floating toward home plate. And Michael Young, one of baseball's buried treasures, inside-outed it into the open spaces in right-center field. And a sold-out stadium tried to make sense of what it was witnessing here.

One run would score. Two runs would score. Michael Young would pull into third with a triple he'll be running out for the rest of his lifetime. And the American League suddenly, improbably, was going to win an All-Star Game unlike any of the 76 that came before it.

One strike away one moment ...

AL 3, NL 2 the next.

Only once in history had a team been losing an All-Star Game with two outs in the ninth and managed to come back to win. That was in 1941, when a gentleman named Ted Williams turned defeat into triumph with one of the most fabled All-Star home runs ever hit.

One strike away.

Think about that. Think about what just happened here.

Nearly an hour after he'd stood at home plate in that pressurized moment, Michael Young stood at his locker, knowing his name was being etched into an All-Star Game MVP trophy -- and knowing exactly what that meant.

Asked how many of these All-Star Games he once watched as a kid, he replied: "I watched them all -- every one I could."

So if he'd been watching one of those games in another time, in another place, and he'd just seen somebody do this, he was asked, what would he have thought?

"Well," he laughed, in deference to Hoffman, "it depends on if I was a Padres fan or not."

But he wasn't a Padres fan in this time, or this place, or this moment. So it was beginning to dawn on him what had just happened here.

"I know a lot of great players have played in the All-Star Game," said Michael Young. "I know a lot of great players have won an MVP in the All-Star Game. I know even more great players didn't win an MVP in the All-Star Game. So this really is a humbling experience. And to do it against a guy like [Trevor Hoffman], who I respect so much, who's about to break the all-time saves record -- it just makes it a little more special."

Trevor Hoffman rolled into this All-Star Game with one blown save in 25 chances. He'd allowed four earned runs all season. Four.

So how did this happen?

It's way too easy, way too convenient to say it happened just because Hoffman plays for the National League and Young plays for the American League, and the American League always wins the All-Star Game.

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