The Major League Baseball All-Star game has become a mid-summer classic. It’s a showcase of the current “who’s who” in Major League Baseball where the best of the best come out to shine. For some, an All-Star selection is another milestone on the path of a great career, for others, it’s a brief moment in time that will fade into baseball history only to be relived by the player himself or a very dedicated fan. We have seen it all in All-Star games of the past. Everything from thrilling performances worthy of song and poetry to complete disaster. It is true that the game has something for every fan of baseball no matter which team he or she roots for during the regular season.
This year, the Diamondbacks will send first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and pitcher Patrick Corbin to the 2013 All-Star Game, hosted at Citi Field in New York City. While their accomplishments on the field during the first half of the regular season are impressive, it makes one wonder who represented the early Diamondbacks in the first All-Star Games in 1998 – 1999? Let’s take a look at who those players were, how they did playing in the All-Star Game and where they are now.
The Arizona Diamondbacks entered Major League Baseball as an expansion franchise in 1998. With their inaugural season half over, center fielder Devon White was chosen as a backup outfielder for the National League squad in that year’s game held at Coors Field. White played center field during the game, and had 3 at-bats. He went 3 for 3 that afternoon with 1 RBI and a triple. He was released by the Diamondbacks after the season was over, going on to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers before retiring from baseball in 2002. He finished his career with a .262 batting average, 208 home runs and 846 RBI’s. He currently is an Outfield Coordinator for the Chicago White Sox.
The 1999 season for the Diamondbacks was very promising, both for the club’s overall success and individual player achievements. The lineup featured three well-known Diamondback legends: Jay Bell at second base, Matt Williams anchoring third base and Luis Gonzalez patroling left field. Combined, all three had been in 8 previous All-Star Games before the 1999 season. Early in the season, Gonzalez had a 30 game hit streak, and Bell was named National League Player of The Week. The All-Star Game that year was hosted on the hallowed grounds of Boston’s Fenway Park. The Diamondbacks would have 4 representatives in the game, the most of any club in the National League. Jay Bell started the All-Star Game at second base and Matt Williams at third base. Gonzalez was a backup outfielder and Randy Johnson was listed as a backup pitcher behind starter and future D’backs legend Curt Schilling.
Despite being on the losing club, the Diamondbacks on the field that day had a decent performance. While Jay Bell was 0 for 1, Matt Williams went 1 for 3 and Luis Gonzalez turned in the best day at the plate by going 1 for 2 with a double. Randy Johnson pitched one complete inning, recording one strikeout while hurling a mere 9 pitches with 6 of them being strikes.
All four Diamondbacks on the field that day would eventually have wonderful careers, including winning a World Series Title in 2001. Randy Johnson retired from baseball in 2009 and is currently a professional photographer. Jay Bell retired from baseball in 2003 and now serves as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Matt Williams also retired in 2003, and is a beloved fixture on the current Diamondbacks staff as a third base coach. Luis Gonzalez retired in 2009 after a 19-year career in Major League Baseball, and he now works with the front office of the Diamondbacks and is the first Diamondbacks player to have his jersey, number 20, retired at Chase Field.
This year sees two fan favorites, Goldschmidt and Corbin take their place amongst Diamondbacks and MLB history as representatives for the National League. What happens during the game and throughout their respective careers is a tale to be told only over the coming years. I’m excited to watch what happens next.