Maybe the baseball gods just don't want to get kicked out of Yankee Stadium. How else do you explain an All-Star Game that stretched so deep into the Bronx night?

The 79th Midsummer Classic began with a stirring tribute to 49 Hall of Famers that was capped by an appearance from an ailing and emotional New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Then it was time to play ball. And play. And play. And play even more in the longest game ever in the series.

In an affair that seemingly neither team wanted to win, the American League finally did, 4-3, in the 15th inning early Wednesday morning. The winning run scored on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right field by Texas' Michael Young that drove in Minnesota's Justin Morneau on a close play at home.

The 15 innings tied the record set in 1967 in Anaheim and the time of 4 hours, 50 minutes smashed the mark set in that game of just 3:41. The win extended the AL's domination in the series to 12 games (11-0-1) and gave it home-field advantage in the World Series for the sixth straight year it's been determined by the winner.

Tuesday's game was so long the ballpark organist even did a 14th-inning stretch and the remnants of the crowd of 55,632 sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" again. Less than half the fans were still in the park as the winning run scored at 1:37 a.m.

"Yankee Stadium is tough, I'm telling you," said a smiling Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who pitched 1- 2/3 gutty innings and was the fan favorite all night. "She didn't want the game to end. But she finally gave it up for us. She was tough."

"It was a great day ? I mean besides the fact that the game took forever," added Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter. "It just seemed like this stadium didn't want it to end. But it was fun. It was fun to be a part of. I wish we would have won a little bit earlier. But as long as we got the job done."

It was the first extra-inning affair since the 7-7, 11-inning tie in Milwaukee in 2002. That result became one of baseball's biggest fiascoes and prompted the change of awarding home-field advantage to the league that won the contest. The AL's only other walkoff win was the 1941 classic in Chicago captured on Ted Williams' three-run homer in the ninth.

The teams combined to use 23 pitchers and both were down to the last man in the bullpen. Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir, the 12th AL hurler, pitched a scoreless 15th to win it. Philadelphia's Brad Lidge came on in the 15th for the NL and lost it.

Kazmir went six innings and threw 104 pitches Sunday in Cleveland and wasn't supposed to pitch. AL manager Terry Francona had no choice. How many pitches could Kazmir have thrown?

"We were gonna go on hours, not pitches," deadpanned Francona.

"I was pumped," Kazmir said. "It meant so much to me to get that chance."

All 63 players available were used, setting an All-Star record. The only no-show was San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum, felled by an overnight flu that hospitalized him for a few hours and left him back in his Manhattan hotel room. The NL could have used him.

"I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on," said NL manager Clint Hurdle. "I felt like I was in algebra class. It got wild."

Boston outfielder J.D. Drew was named the most valuable player. He walked as part of the rally in the 15th and turned the venom directed toward the Red Sox contingent by Yankees fans into cheers with a line-drive, two-run homer to right in the seventh that wiped out a 2-0 NL lead.

Young's two-run triple in the ninth inning two years ago in Pittsburgh off Trevor Hoffman gave the AL a dramatic 3-2 win and he struck again on this third chance in this one. His 11th-inning single looked like a winner, he struck out in the 13th with Drew at second and he made no mistake in the 15th.

"The Pittsburgh thing helped me feel calm," Young said. "I was thinking about it in both at-bats. Absolutely. It really helped me."

In the 15th, Lidge gave up singles to Morneau and Tampa Bay's Dioner Navarro sandwiched around an Ian Kinsler liner that was speared by a dive from St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick. Young lofted Lidge's first pitch to Corey Hart and the Milwaukee outfielder fired a good throw home but Morneau slid past the tag of Atlanta's Brian McCann and hopped up in celebration as his teammates poured out of the dugout and Sinatra's "New York, New York" could finally be cued.

"You start doing crazy things hoping to make something happen," Young said. "Come on, it was like 1:45 in the morning. I couldn't believe it. We had helmets, rally caps, everything.

"It just shows how this game is special. Football has a game after the season. Hockey they can't go full-blast into each other. Basketball is an alley-oop fest. Not baseball."

Until the AL finally broke through, both teams pulled remarkable escapes to keep things going.

The NL had men at the corners with one out in the 10th but Rivera got Florida's Dan Uggla to bounce into a double play, starting an horrific stretch of extra-inning play for the Marlins' second baseman.

The NL left the bases loaded in the 12th as Kansas City's Joakim Soria fanned Uggla with a wicked curveball and Baltimore's George Sherrill got San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez.

Those at-bats ? combined with a record three errors in the extra frames ? left Uggla vulnerable for the night's goat horns but his teammates kept saving him.

The AL escapes were nothing compared to what NL pitcher Aaron Cook of Colorado pulled in the 10th, 11th and 12th.

The AL had the bases loaded with no outs in the 10th but Cook induced two forceouts at home and Morneau's grounder that Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada needed to make a lunging throw to first to get the runner.

It looked like the AL won it in the 11th on a single to center by Young, but Navarro was thrown out at the plate on a perfect strike by Pittsburgh center fielder Nate McLouth. Cook got out of the inning on a grounder by Chicago's Carlos Quentin, leaving runners at second and third. McLouth barely missed a home run in the 14th, driving Drew to the wall in right.

Cook found more trouble in the AL 12th. Detroit's Carlos Guillen led off with a first-pitch double off the wall to left that was nearly a walkoff home run. Cleveland's Grady Sizemore sent him to third with a sharp grounder before Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria struck out. Justin Morneau was intentionally walked but Texas' Ian Kinsler grounded to Washington third baseman Christian Guzman.

In the AL 13th, Drew reached on an Uggla error and stole second but Michael Young and Quentin both fanned.

After reviled Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up the lead in the eighth and Billy Wagner of the hated Mets gave it back in the bottom of the inning, Rivera worked 1- 2/3 innings and looked certain to get the win in the 10th but it didn't happen.

In the NL 10th, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin singled off Rivera with one out and went to third on Tejada's hit-and-run single. But Rivera got Uggla to bounce into a double play with Texas teammates Kinsler and Young doing the work around the bag at second.

Maybe he was still thinking about that at-bat when he went to the field because Uggla booted Young's grounder for an error leading off the AL 10th and then allowed Quentin's rocket on the next pitch to scoot through his legs for another error.

"My heart goes out to the young man," said Hurdle. "He's a great kid, a great player. He'll have big days. He'll be all right."

Papelbon couldn't feel good when he gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth on Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. But the AL tied it at 3-3 on a two-out, ground-rule double by Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria that scored Cleveland's Grady Sizemore.

Los Angeles' Francisco Rodriguez opened the ninth with a walk to Chicago's Aramis Ramirez and got Milwaukee's Corey Hart on a pop-up. Then came the moment the entire park was waiting for.

Enter Sandman. Metallica's beat pounded through the stadium and the fans roared as Rivera ran in from the bullpen.

With flashbulbs popping and chants of "Let's Go Yank-ees," Rivera worked against ex-Bison Ryan Ludwick. It seemed like the cameras were making Ludwick flinch as the pitches came in. On a full-count pitch, Rivera got Ludwick to swing and miss. "I can't thank the fans enough," Rivera said. "I'll never forget that."

"I was freaked out," Young said. "I would have been totally screwed with all those flashbulbs if he made contact. The whole thing gave you the chills."

Pinch-runner Christian Guzman was gunned down stealing on the back end of a double steal, with Kinsler making the tag on Dioner Navarro's throw in the dirt. While the NL was at the plate against Papelbon in the eighth, the fans chanted "Mar-i-an-o, Mar-i-an-o." They booed lustily when Tejada led off the inning with a single to right. Then they came in with that college basketball staple of "over-rated, over-rated" as Papelbon was fanning Uggla.

Tejada then got to third by stealing second and advancing when Navarro's one-hop throw skipped into center field. The boos rained on Papelbon when Gonzalez lofted a sacrifice fly to left to make it 3-2.

The National League scored in the fifth on a solo home run to right by Colorado's Matt Holliday and added a run in the sixth on Gonzalez's sacrifice fly.

The American League had been 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in the game but it all turned around on one pitch with two out in the AL seventh. Boston right fielder Drew, crushed a 2-ball, 1-strike fastball from Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez just over the right-field fence for a two-run homer to tie the game.

mharrington@buffnews.com