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Martinez Gets MVP Honors

With each swing and miss, the excitement built.

Would Pedro Martinez do it? Would he equal, maybe surpass, the great Carl Hubbell?

One by one, baseball's biggest sluggers walked back to the dugout, bats in their hands.

Barry Larkin. Mincemeat.

Larry Walker. Toast.

Sammy Sosa. Bye-bye, a called third strike freezing him like a statue.

Throughout old Fenway Park, fans were buzzing. It was the first time the first three batters in an All-Star game had struck out.

In the National League dugout behind third base, all was quiet.

"It's pretty obvious there's not a lot to say," Jeromy Burnitz recalled, even before the end of the American League's 4-1 victory. "Guys aren't coming back happy and gay when they strike out."

Top of the second.

Mark McGwire, Mr. Home Run King, the man who conquered the Green Monster in Monday night's home run derby.

He didn't do any better, missing a 1-2 pitch.

"He's got the best lively arm in the game of baseball," Red Sox teammate Nomar Garciaparra said. "There's a very good chance he'll win 30 or more."

Now it came down to Matt Williams, no slouch himself with 23 homers this season. Williams, who threatened Roger Maris' home run record before the 1994 strike, turned out to be the only blemish. And it wasn't that much of a smudge, a grounder to second that was misplayed for an error.

No problem.

All Martinez did was strike out Jeff Bagwell, and Ivan Rodriguez threw out Williams at second for an inning-ending double play.

In 1934 at New York's Polo Grounds, Hubbell put on a performance they're still talking about as the century draws to a close, fanning Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, each and every one elected to the Hall of Fame.

Larkin (165), Walker (250), Sosa (305), McGwire (485) and Bagwell (249) have combined for 1,454 homers. Hubbell's victims in 1934 finished their careers with 2,218 and before long, Martinez's prey may top that.

Was Martinez happy with the comparisons? Did he know he set a record?

"I'm really happy and excited," said the seemingly overwhelmed Martinez, voted the game's Most Valuable Player.

Era of offense? Not with Martinez around.

"That was him. That's what you saw," Garciaparra said. "I'm sure he had adrenaline going, but he loves to pitch in front of the crowd, just like we all like to play in front on him. Then he went out and did what he does best."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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