07/16/2003 1:45 AM ET
Williams has tough night for NL
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Woody Williams, competitor of competitors, simply could not take much pleasure in his first All-Star Game appearance. Not just yet, at least. After all, his team lost. And he gave up two runs.
"It is what it is," said Williams, who was a man of relatively few words after the National League's 7-6 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. "It's competition. It would have been nice to come out on top, but it is what it is."
This was not what Williams had in mind. In the middle innings, things started to shape up perfectly for him. Williams had the chance to be the "setup man" for the National League's imposing three-armed closer monster of Billy Wagner, Eric Gagne and John Smoltz. He would pitch the sixth with a four-run lead, then hand the ball over to the closers.
But it was against Williams that the AL began its comeback. Alex Rodriguez hit a grounder up the middle, and Rafael Furcal threw the ball away. It was scored as a hit and then an error allowing Rodriguez to take second, but either way it was tough to swallow. The next batter, Garret Anderson, pummeled a homer 401 feet to right-center field and it was a 5-3 game. Anderson was later named the game's MVP.
Williams retired the next three batters in order, including a strikeout of venerable Edgar Martinez. But this is a man who is hard on himself, and giving up runs is not his idea of fun.
"I just knew I had to pitch one inning," Williams said. "Hopefully, I would go out there and not give up any runs, but it didn't work out."
In the week-plus since All-Star rosters were announced, one Cardinal after another spoke of the excitement the whole team felt for Williams, who was making his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic at age 36. His mates were still happy for him afterward.
"I know he's probably disappointed a little bit, but I was excited for him," said Jim Edmonds, who started in center field for the NL. "I made an effort to track down a ball he threw in the stands. I went and got it (for him). I'm just excited for him. I'm sure he will appreciate it a couple years down the line. Any time you just get to go to one, it's enough."
Williams said that he wasn't plagued by nerves -- he just didn't make his pitch to Anderson.
"I was just disappointed I couldn't throw the ball down," he said. "I threw it up too high and gave them some pitches to hit.
"Garret had a nice night."
As for striking out Martinez, Williams did acknowledge that as a special moment.
"He's one of the best right-handed hitters of all time," Williams said. "I was fortunate to get him out -- much less strike him out. ... It's not easy."
Now Williams gets on with the second half and the business of trying to help pitch the Cardinals to a division title. He has one more first in mind -- his first World Series. But for now, he'll hold on to this. Maybe a little sooner than later after all.
"It's something I'll never forget," he said. "A great competition. Obviously, you're never gonna get any better competition than this."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.