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Rollins stoppin' the show
07/10/2002 2:48 AM ET
MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Rollins, the Speed Merchant of Veterans, gave the National League a fast-track start in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

Unfortunately, not even he could out-run the sour finish.

The Philadelphia shortstop energized the NL as it jumped to a 5-2 lead by the end of the third inning. He singled twice, maintaining a lifetime 1.000 All-Star on-base average, and scored after each.

By the end of the 11th inning though, it was 7-7. The teams had no more pitchers, so they had no more game.

The letdown of a finish seemed to spoil a wonderful evening, especially for the 41,871 who sulked their way out of Miller Park.

But not for Rollins. Takes more than that to wipe that infectious grin off his mug.

"Oh no, not at all," Rollins said in the, er, deadlocking NL locker room. "When you don't have any more pitchers, you've got to call off the game.

"We still have a season to play, and that's the most important thing. Bottom line, once the pitchers are gone, there's nothing more you can do. We came to have fun and put on a show for the crowd. And we did that."

Rollins put on a show-stopper.

In the third, leading off against Toronto right-hander Roy Halladay, he sent a hot one-hopper up the middle that eluded Alfonso Soriano's glove for a single. After advancing on an infield roller, he scored on Todd Helton's base hit for a 2-0 NL lead.

Two innings later, he singled off White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. When Damian Miller whistled a liner to the base of the left-field fence, Rollins turned on the jets to score without a play.

"Frank had me running around the bases like a madman," he said, referring to Montreal manager Frank Robinson, taking a turn as the third base coach. "It was definitely fun."

Certain stages of Rollins' young career thus continue in perfection.

He has made the All-Star Team in each of his first two seasons, only the 11th National League to ever achieve that.

And, having walked in his only plate appearance in last summer's game in Seattle, he has yet to be retired.

"One-thousand's a pretty good average in any league, I guess," he said in the rapidly emptying locker room in the wee minutes of Wednesday.

"My main focus was just trying to get that first hit. Then when I got the second, I'm on first base thinking it'd be nice if I got the chance to turn it on."

When he did, the crowd clearly enjoyed it. The NL partisans also enjoyed their league still taking a 6-2 lead into the seventh in its attempt to snap a five-year losing streak to the AL.

The NL did stop that streak. Now it has a six-year winless streak. As well as a bunch of disappointed fans on its hands.

Rollins was surprised by that.

"If they're true baseball fans, they know the game," he said. "They understand that once the pitchers are done, there's nothing more you can do about it. You can't re-warm up guys.

"We still got 70-80 games to play for the World Series."

Interestingly, before the sudden-draw finish, the NL appeared set to prevail in an extended game. On the mound was Vicente Padilla, its last remaining pitcher.

But it was a good set-up for the Philadelphia right-hander, who had last pitched on Thursday, thus was on the mound on his regular work-day.

However, rational thinking prevailed. As magical as an All-Star show is, it isn't about results, which quickly fade. So it certainly isn't about asking pitchers to fire too many bullets, and Padilla was reeled in after two innings.

It's mostly about memories, and Rollins returns to the regular-season wars with a few enduring ones.

Topping those is the two-run Barry Bonds homer soon after he'd returned to the dugout after scoring his own run.

It was a nice display of persistence by Bonds, robbed of an earlier home run by Torii Hunter's flight of fancy glovework.

"He pretty much said he was gonna get another one," Rollins recalled Bonds' pledge after Hunter's denial. "He was definitely going to try. Then he hits that line drive about 180 mph out of the yard."

That made Bonds the early favorite for the first Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award. Rollins, too, was in contention.

As it turned out, there was no MVP chosen for the tie. But Jimmy Rollins may still be the inaugural Ted Williams MVP. They'll have to give it to someone next summer in Comiskey Park and, unless some AL pitchers finally figure out how to retire him, Rollins is a perfect choice.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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