The All-Star Game is supposed to be an annual showcase reserved only for the greatest major league players of the moment. But who would win a showdown between the best all-time National Leaguers and the best all-time American Leaguers?
To find out, ESPN.com has constructed the Ultimate All-Star Game with the help of senior writer Rob Neyer, Diamond Mind Baseball and you, SportsNation.
Here's how it works: Neyer has selected his all-time starters for each league based solely on single-season performance at their respective positions. His choices are listed below, including his top relief aces; just use the dropdown box to find out who he picked at each position.
Next, you chose the starting lineups, from Nos. 1-8, for each league, and the stadium where you thought the game should be played (results on the right).
Then, based on the player statistics and your lineup and stadium choices, Diamond Mind Baseball will simulate our Ultimate All-Star Game multiple times and arrive at a representative outcome.
The final game story, box score and play-by-play results will be published Tuesday morning, hours before the first pitch of the 77th All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
Yes, we can talk about his defense; in 139 games, Piazza permitted 112 steals. But (1) the Dodgers finished with the second-lowest ERA in the National League, and (2) Piazza batted .362 and hit 40 home runs in a combination of batting average and slugging power that hadn't been seen before and hasn't been seen since among catchers.
Roy Campanella (1953)
Johnny Bench (1970)
Here, perhaps, is the best measure of Berra's brilliance: In a season in which the Yankees did not win the American League pennant -- for the first time since 1948, and they didn't come close -- Berra still managed to win his second MVP award. Granted, it helped that two Indians drew significant support, thus splitting the vote. But Berra, who played almost every game, really was among the very best players in the league.
Bill Freehan (1968)
Carlton Fisk (1972)
Remembered as an outfielder, of course, Musial filled in ably at first at two points in his career (1946-1947, 1955-1958), playing more at first base than at any particular outfield slot. In 1946, having spent the '45 season in the service, Musial jumped back into the National League fray with gusto, topping the loop in batting average, slugging average, runs scored, doubles and triples.
Will Clark (1989)
Jeff Bagwell (1996)
Most fans probably think 1927 was Babe Ruth's greatest season: 60 homers, etc. It wasn't. It was, on the other hand, Lou Gehrig's finest season. In just his third season as an everyday player, Gehrig totaled 117 extra-base hits (No. 2 on the all-time list) and 175 RBI (No. 4). Gehrig wasn't the best player in the league. Ruth was. On the other hand, Ruth had one edge over Gehrig -- having Gehrig batting behind him in the lineup.
Jimmie Foxx (1932)
Dick Allen (1972)
It's long been my contention that Morgan is baseball's greatest second baseman -- just ahead of Rogers Hornsby and Eddie Collins -- and it's also my contention that 1975 was, by just a hair, his greatest season. Why? The "little things," mostly. In 1975, Morgan set career highs in walks (132) and on-base percentage (.466). He stole 67 bases and was caught only 10 times. And he won the third of five straight Gold Gloves. For all this and more, Morgan won the MVP award in a landslide. And he deserved it.
Rogers Hornsby (1922)
Craig Biggio (1997)
This was certainly one of the great unnoticed seasons. Alomar finished a distant fourth in the MVP balloting (and well behind No. 3 finisher Bret Boone, a fellow second baseman who didn't play nearly as well). True, there is little in particular that pops out; Alomar didn't lead the American League in any statistical category. But he did finish third with a .336 batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and runs scored, and garnered his 10th (and last) Gold Glove.
Nap Lajoie (1910)
Eddie Collins (1915)
Charlie Gehringer (1934)
It's not easy to imagine just how good Honus Wagner was. But let's try. First, take Alex Rodriguez's 1996 season, when he batted .358. Next, take his 1998 season, when he stole 48 bases. Then, look at him from 2001 through 2003, when he led the American League in home runs in each season. Mix in one of the game's best gloves at shortstop, and you've got Honus Wagner and not only in 1908, which was merely his best of many wonderful seasons.
Arky Vaughan (1935)
Ozzie Smith (1987)
It's not easy, and perhaps not even correct, to select Rodriguez's 2002 instead of Lou Boudreau's '48 or Cal Ripken's '83 (or '84, which was just as good). After all, Rodriguez's heroics came in the service of a last-place Texas squad that lost 90 games, while Boudreau's and Ripken's teams won World Series. But Rodriguez's numbers stack up with those of the other players, he played against bigger and better pitchers, and his 57 home runs mean he could regularly turn a game around with one fluid swing.
Lou Boudreau (1948)
Cal Ripken (1983)
One of the great forgotten seasons. Rookie Dick -- then called "Richie" -- Allen batted .318, scored an NL-best 125 runs, and very nearly drove the Phillies to a pennant (he was one of the few Phils who didn't struggle down the stretch). Allen improved with the bat as he matured, but he never again showed the combination of skills and durability that he did as a rookie.
Eddie Mathews (1953)
Mike Schmidt (1980)
In 1985, Brett didn't hit .390 or capture MVP honors -- as he did in 1980 -- but he did stay in the lineup all season, he did bat .335 with 30 homers, he did win the only Gold Glove in his career, and he did hit four home runs in the season's last five days to push his Royals into the playoffs (and, of course, they eventually beat the Cardinals in the World Series).
Frank Baker (1912)
Al Rosen (1953)
Take your pick. Do you want the Barry Bonds who batted .328 with 73 homers and 177 walks in 2001, or the Barry Bonds who batted .370 with 46 homers and 198 walks (and only 47 strikeouts) in 2002? There's really very little difference between them, in terms of production per plate appearance. But the 2001 version was slightly more available to play, and certainly had the greater aura of absolute invincibility. So we'll take that one, while acknowledging that these -- and a few other of Bonds' greatest seasons -- are rivaled among left fielders by only Babe Ruth.
Yes, the numbers suggest that Williams played just as well, and perhaps a bit better, in both 1942 and 1946. But 1941 wins the sweepstakes for two reasons. One, it was in 1941 that Williams batted .406. And two, 1941 was the last season before the U.S. -- and many of its better baseball pitchers -- went to war, and in 1946 many of those pitchers, back from the war, were still getting into playing shape. It's likely that Williams, if not for the war, would have enjoyed his greatest season at some point between 1943 and 1945. We'll never know. What we do know is that in 1941 there was nobody in the game who could hit remotely like he could.
Babe Ruth (1921)
Rickey Henderson (1990)
Mays did everything in his career except for one thing: He never did everything in one season. He won a batting title once, but didn't lead his league in much else that season. He led his league in home runs four times, and in stolen bases four times but he never led his league in homers and steals in the same season. He once led his league in walks but that came years after he'd lost much of his power and his speed. All of which makes choosing Mays' greatest season all the more difficult. But for the sake of this exercise, we've chosen 1954, when he won that single batting title (.345) and was perhaps at the peak of his considerable defensive prowess.
Cy Seymour (1905)
Duke Snider (1954)
Mantle titled a book about 1956 as "My Favorite Summer," and a quick glance at his statistics that season explains why. While Mantle enjoyed other brilliant seasons -- particularly 1957 and 1961 -- it was in '56 that he showed what he could do when healthy and happy. His .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBI were good enough for the Triple Crown. Mantle won three other homer titles, but this was the only season in which he led his league in batting average or RBI.
Ty Cobb (1915)
Aaron enjoyed any number of excellent seasons, of course, but this was probably his best before 1962, when the woeful Mets and Colt .45s were welcomed into the National League fold, thus diluting the pitching talent for at least a spell (and the American League also expanded, in 1961). One might argue that the National League in the late 1950s -- before expansion, and with most of the best black players in the NL -- featured the best baseball anybody would see for quite some time. And in 1959, Aaron batted .355 with 92 extra-base hits.
Mel Ott (1936)
Frank Robinson (1962)
It's not easy, picking the Babe's best season. And in 1923 he hit only 41 home runs, good enough to lead the league but just the 10th-best total of his career. On the other hand, he also rapped 45 doubles and batted .393, both career bests, and played well in the outfield. And this was the year in which the Babe played so well in the World Series that he inspired this classic line: "The Ruth is mighty, and shall prevail." (If there was room for two Babe Ruths on this team, by the way, he'd also be in left field with his 1921 season.)
Ty Cobb (1909)
Jose Canseco (1988)
Due to a late-starting season (because of the player strike) and a bit of gimpiness in August and September, Maddux started only 28 games in 1995. But oh, those 28 starts 19 wins, two losses, and a 1.63 ERA (that was slightly higher than his 1.56 in 1994). Ideally we'd have a starter with more than 30 starts in this slot, but Maddux did rack up 209 innings, and the National League needs him if it is to compete with the awesome American League lineup (not to mention the American League's starting pitcher).
Christy Mathewson (1905)
Bob Gibson (1968)
Dwight Gooden (1985)
Randy Johnson (2002)
Martinez makes a good match for Maddux. Like Maddux, Martinez wasn't particularly durable in his best season, and started only 28 games. And with these two being close contemporaries, we don't have to worry about adjusting for the historical context (which can be problematic). Everything was working for Pedro in 2000, with his mid-90s fastball and baffling changeup making him practically unhittable: only 128 hits allowed in 217 innings. Mix in his uncanny control, and it generally seemed as if Martinez could do whatever he liked, no matter who was batting.
Walter Johnson (1913)
Lefty Grove (1931)
Ron Guidry (1978)
Roger Clemens (1997)
The consecutive-saves streak was nice, of course. But Gagne wasn't getting by on luck and guile; he was simply overpowering the best hitters in the world. In 77 games and 82 innings, he allowed 37 hits (including two home runs) while walking only 20 batters and striking out 137.
Trevor Hoffman (1998)
Billy Wagner (1999)
Robb Nen (2000).
Eckersley's 0.61 ERA in 1990 was somewhat anomalous, of course; nobody's that good. But his other stats were not a fluke. In 73 innings, he gave up only 41 hits and four walks which was roughly what he'd done in 1989, too. The only real differences between the two seasons were that Eckersley was somewhat healthier in '90, and that while he allowed five home runs in 1989, in '90 he allowed only two.
Troy Percival (1995)
Joe Nathan (2004)
Mariano Rivera (2005)