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THIS ONE'S FOR ALL THE MARBLES.
July 11, 2003

by Bill Hogan

 
 

So this year the All-Star game actually counts for something. The winning team's league will secure home field advantage in the World Series. This is baseball commissioner Bud Selig's response to the public relations fallout created by ending last year's game after 11 innings in a 7-7 tie?

An ingenious competitive twist orchestrated by the powers that be in order to make the "midsummer classic" more meaningful; for the fans, of course. Gee, thanks Bud. I'll be sure to root extra hard now that there's so much riding on the outcome.

 
 


This year's game will feature 29 first-timers. Young, hungry, up-and-coming stars of the future. Should be great. Should be very competitive – especially with the newly added incentive. Should elevate the game – not to mention the television ratings, right?

After all, last year's game was the lowest-rated prime time All-Star broadcast in history. I guess a few changes were in order. I have to wonder why Selig thinks because the game is now more important to the eventual A.L. and N.L pennant winners, it will somehow be more interesting for the fans.

You know what would interest me? Roger Clemens facing Barry Bonds with men on first and second. What a great match-up. You know he isn't going to walk him. It's power against power and may the best man win. But we won't get to see it because Clemens didn't make the roster.

I'd like to see Rafael Palmeiro take a couple of cuts at Kerry Wood's fastball. The man just became the latest member of baseball's 500 Home Run Club. Why shouldn't he be displaying his talents on Tuesday night?

I know we all cringe a little at the sight of Palmeiro now that he's doing Viagra commercials. Nobody really wants to think about a baseball star with Erectile Dysfunction, but give the guy his due.

The All-Star game is an exhibition. A mid-season break that affords Major League Baseball the opportunity to showcase the best it has to offer. Instead we get Armando Benitez, Mike Williams and Rondell White. Where is Pedro Martinez and his three Cy Young Awards?

This game isn't - or shouldn't be - about winning and losing. This game is about history. There's a reason Cal Ripken and Tony Gwinn were there two years ago. It's their lifetime contribution to the game, and the fact that they were fan favorites that got them to SAFECO Field.

Selig doesn't get it. The All-Star game is losing its popularity because baseball is losing its popularity. Not because the game has no meaning. Not because the outcome really isn't important.

Babe Ruth played in the first All-Star game at Comisky Park in 1933. He was 38-years old, his best years were well behind him, and he stole the show. He hit the first home run in All-Star history and led the American League to a 4-2 victory.

He'd be back at age 39 for the second All-Star game in 1934 midway through his last season as a Yankee. A season in which he hit a seventeen-year-low 22 home runs. But what would that game have been without him?

In 1973, 42-year old Willie Mays appeared in 66 games for the New York Mets. He batted .211, hit six home runs and had 25 RBI. Oh yeah, he also made his 24th consecutive All-Star appearance.

Do you think any of the 40,849 baseball fans packed into Royals Stadium in Kansas City cared about Willie's stats? They must have had chills when he came up to bat for the last time in the eighth inning. At least I would have. By the way, I don't have a clue – nor do I care - who won the game.

If Elvis were alive today he'd be 68-years old and probably weigh about 400 pound but he'd still be swiveling his hips to a packed house. Sure women would be throwing control-top granny pants on stage now – and that's pretty disgusting - but he'd still be the King.

There is plenty of room on each 32-man roster for the seasonal All-Star. But there should always be room for the game's perennial stars as well. It's a much better way to peak fan interest than trying to impose more importance on the game.

It's obvious that Bud Selig and Major League Baseball want desperately to win back the hearts, minds and wallets of the American fans. Melvin Mora just ain't gonna get it done.

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