Legends win Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams game
Former All-Stars enjoy lacing up their cleats, playing together
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rickey Henderson planted his foot, took a healthy cut then grabbed his lower back and grimaced.
The Hall of Fame outfielder had swung and missed at a 54-mph "fastball," the first pitch of Saturday's Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams game at Huntington Park. Henderson, 53, looked his age at that moment. After that, however, he and the team of Legends summoned their All-Star ability in a 12-11, six-inning exhibition victory against contest winner Tim Wisecup and his team of average Joes.
Wisecup, one of 2.5 million entrants, won the opportunity last fall to host a game against a selected squad of Hall of Famers and other greats. Wisecup and his collection of friends from work, church and home were understandably starstruck on Saturday. So, too, were some on the team of legends.
"A lot of my heroes are in this dugout, so it's fun to be on the same field as them," said Frank Thomas, who hit 521 career homers and batted cleanup for the Legends on Saturday.
Henderson, who is baseball's all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, enjoyed the opportunity to see what his teammates -- who ranged in age from 43 to 66 -- had left in the tank.
"It's given me a chance to be up with these great guys that played the game and get a little more knowledge and joke about it and play against some of the young guys and old guys who feel they can still play the game," Henderson said.
Pedro Martinez, who said he hadn't pitched in two years, was most excited to play on the same side as Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson.
"I spent $250 that I earned when I was [playing] in Class A ball and then I had to borrow money to pay for my rent and my meals because I spent it all for a Reggie Jackson signed ball," Martinez said. "I feel honored to just be part of their group and to be taken into consideration. Also, to just make someone else's dream happen, well, guess what? I'm one of them, too, being here with these guys that I grew up watching and collecting cards of."
Edgar Martinez batted third for the Legends and filled the designated-hitter role. His career overlapped with several of his teammates from Saturday, and he felt privileged to reconnect with the stars.
"It's a great honor," he said. "These guys, I admired them when I was coming up. Being in the field with guys like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs and Johnny Bench, it's surreal."
Dennis Eckersley pitched an inning in relief of Martinez and served up back-to-back homers. The Hall of Fame closer said it's common for stars of the past and present to get together, but not in an environment that enables them to perform on the field.
"That's what's unusual," Eckersley said. "Going to the Hall of Fame, you go to dinner with the guys and laugh and this and that. You talk a lot of smack because you don't have to play. Now, we have to play.
"You don't see this happen very often. Everybody has fantasy camps, but they're playing against old-timers that played, but not Hall of Famers. That's the difference in this game, and that's what makes it neat."
Each athlete stressed the importance of escaping the injury bug. Boggs, who said the team "hit the Advil pretty hard" rather than endure a strict stretching regimen, was fearful for how adrenaline could fool the old-timers into thinking they were young again.
"When the competitive juices start flowing," Boggs said, "and you think you can run like you did when you were 25, then the muscles just don't want to work."
In the end, as evidenced by Henderson's first trip to the batter's box, the Legends were left with only the aches and pains suffered by many people of their age.
"We'll feel it tomorrow morning," Boggs said. "That's the big time, when you feel it the next day."
Other perspectives from the legends:
Did you ever hit an opposing batter on purpose?
Martinez: "Intentionally? Never. It was never intentional. It was always for a reason."
How much effort will you give during the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams game?
Martinez: "Somebody asked me, 'Are you going to give 100 percent?' I'm going to give 100 percent of what I have left, whatever that is."
What makes the ideal closer?
Eckersley: "You want to see somebody that doesn't make you bite your nails. I hate that, even now, watching a reliever come in and making it interesting. I want somebody that blows everybody away, strikes everybody out and gets the thing over with. Not that I did, but that's what I would want as a manager."
Best moment in your career?
Henderson: "The biggest moment in my career was when I set the all-time runs scored record. As a leadoff hitter and the guy to be out there first who tried to score runs for our team to win ballgames, I think that was the greatest."