Bill Kostroun, Associated Press
All-Star players and Hall of Famers listen as Sheryl Crow sings the national anthem before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in New York on Tuesday.

NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez cut across the diamond to third base, then warmly embraced Chipper Jones, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Wade Boggs.

Now that's some hot corner.

Baseball blended its past and present Tuesday, starting with Yogi Berra leading a red-carpet parade through midtown Manhattan. Hours later, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron highlighted a procession of 49 Hall of Famers onto the Yankee Stadium field before the All-Star game.

Starting pitchers Ben Sheets and Cliff Lee were greeted by the likes of Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Steve Carlton.

"Kind of nervous to meet the guys on the mound," Sheets said after throwing two scoreless innings. "Probably should have been in the bullpen, but I didn't care.

"The pregame ceremony was amazing. I wanted to be a part of it, because I thought it was unbelievable they got everybody together and I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

Toronto ace Roy Halladay enjoyed the experience, and had only one regret.

"The one guy I read a lot about but didn't get to meet, Whitey Ford," Halladay said. "It was very impressive.

"A lot of guys, a lot of history. Being able to be on the field with those guys is an honor," he said. "I felt like a kid in a candy store."

Once all the Hall of Famers took their old spots, the starting All-Stars trotted out to join them. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter drew a rousing ovation on his way toward his position — and the eye of ol' Brooksie.

Earlier in the day, Robinson said Jeter was his favorite player to watch "but I've never met him."

"Maybe tonight," Robinson said.

Known for throwing hard, high and tight, Gibson presented a much different face at the festivities. The no-nonsense pitcher waved to thousands of fans and beamed for their snapshots during the parade.

Hey Gibby, going soft on us at 72? Not even one glare for the crowd?

"I really am getting tired of it," the St. Louis Cardinals great said. He was joking, sort of.

"I didn't do half the things they said I did," he said. "They said I was always knocking guys down and hitting guys. But I won a game or two in there."

Gibson and Gary Carter rode together for the 1 1/2-mile route up the Avenue of the Americas — and down baseball's memory lane.

Ferguson Jenkins, Tommy Lasorda and 40-some Hall of Famers took part, too, sitting in the back of shiny pickup trucks. The two-hour procession included the current All-Stars.

Feller recalled the first All-Star game held at the big ballyard in the Bronx — it was 1939, and the 20-year-old fireballer threw 3 2-3 scoreless innings to preserve an AL win.

On that day, the men who would become monuments were on the field. Joe DiMaggio homered and an ill Lou Gehrig was an honorary captain.

"I was not much in awe," said Feller, the oldest living Hall player at 89. "I had good stuff that day. I threw that overhand high fastball out of the bleachers. We figured the National League hitters hadn't seen it."

All-Star games often are about moments more than results — Reggie Jackson hitting the light tower, Cal Ripken homering in his final game, Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse.

Baseball hoped this blend of old and new would create a lasting image at a ballpark in its last season.

Gibson spent very little time at Yankee Stadium.

"Only pitched there once," he said, matter of factly.

The part he left out: That one time was Game 5 of the 1964 World Series, when he struck out 13 while going the distance in a 10-inning win.

Aaron gladly shared his favorite memory at the park — Milwaukee winning Game 7 of the 1957 World Series for his only championship. That was about enough time in New York for him.

"This is not the easiest city to play in," Aaron said. "You can't shuck 'n jive the people in this city."

On this sunny afternoon, everyone got an easy ride.

Berra and Ford sat together, and it was fitting. They were the starting battery for the 1960 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.

Robin Yount and Paul Molitor rode with each other, recalling their days with the Brewers. Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver shared the same pickup. Naturally, the need-to-be-perfect pitcher and his often-ornery manager sat with their backs to each other.

New Hall electees Goose Gossage and Dick Williams drew cheers.

"I'm done writing my speech, it's about 10 minutes long. I hope I make it through," Williams said. "Tony Gwynn told me don't look at anyone in your family or you might not make it."

Plenty of fans were on hand for the parade, standing four and five deep as the players rode past Radio City Music Hall. A Cardinals rooter called out to Ozzie Smith for one more All-Star performance.

"Too old, man," the Wizard said, rubbing his back.