This is the Week of Baseball’s All-Star Break

This is the week of baseball’s All-Star break.

In the past it’s come at the mid-point of the season, but this year as in recent times every team has played well beyond that. Still, it remains the gauge of where things stand as far as team performance goes.

The All-Star game itself was always special to me.  Actually more than special.

I lived for the day when the game was played. If I couldn’t see it on television, I would have a transistor radio (that’s right kids, check it out on Google) on hand so I wouldn’t miss a pitch. I knew it was the only time other than the World Series, players from the AL and NL would be playing each other.

Then there were the uniforms. Each All-Star would wear his team’s uniform. White, if your league was the home team, gray for the visitors. Before color TV (that’s right again kids), you could only imagine what the colors would be. Before I was 10, my great father surprised me by bringing home two tickets to the 1952 Mid-Summer Classic as it was known. It would be played in Philadelphia at what was then known as Shibe Park,  later called Connie Mack Stadium for the legendary manager and yes, owner of the Philadelphia Athletics the American League team in that city. But the Phillies were the hosts of the ’52 All-Star game and I couldn’t wait to actually go out of town to a different ballpark and actually see all the colors of the uniforms. What could be better to a youngster enthralled with baseball. The only park I’d been to was the Polo Grounds in New York where my beloved Giants played. But my magical experience didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped and dreamed.
It rained the day of the game. I suffered the entire drive to Philly.
We walked into the park and prayed the rain would stop and the game would be played.
The field was covered with the tarp so there was no batting practice.  The players were in the clubhouse, nowhere to be seen. I was miserable.
Finally, the rain abated and the game got underway. I did see the All-Stars in their own uniforms, but the day was gray, overcast and drizzly. The spectacle just wasn’t what I had anticipated.
They managed to get in five innings before it poured again. We waited, and waited. Eventually it was canceled. It was an official game however, and the National League triumphed 3-2. Imagine, to this day, it is the only All-Star game in history shortened by rain.There have been many memorable moments in All-Star game history, but times have drastically changed and I feel the game has diminished in sheer excitement and dramatic moments, especially late in games.

When there were only 16 teams, the rosters were set at 25 players. Starters would play at least half the game, sometimes all the way.  Starting pitchers would try to work three innings before the relievers would come in.  That’s why a great hitter like Stan Musial of the Cardinals would hit a game-winning homer in the 11th inning to win the game for the Nationals. He played all 11 innings.
Today, with 30 teams, there are 32 players on the roster, including 12 pitchers.
The idea is to try and have everyone, except  some of the hurlers, make an appearance.
The starting pitchers usually pitch one-inning. The players in the field are out of there early.  So if the game comes down to the final innings, the players voted by the fans don’t figure in the late-game dramatics.
Speaking of the fans vote, I remember when the Cincinnati Reds had all eight starters, save for the pitcher named by the manager, voted in. That was in 1957. A Cincinnati newspaper printed a ballot in every edition with the names of the Redlegs already in place. All you had to do was send it in to the league office. They didn’t get away with it.
  • Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that three of those voted in would be replaced.
  • The replacements were Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and Stan Musial.
  • Other than the fine folks in Cincinnati no one complained.
  • You may be wondering about the name Redlegs.
  • It was during the Cold War with the Soviet Union that the name Reds didn’t go over well with Americans. So the club called themselves the Redlegs for a couple of years.
  • Commissioner Frick decided to take the vote out of the hands of the fans and let the players vote instead. The fans didn’t get the vote back until 1970.
  • How many recall when there were two All-Star games played in the same season? From 1959 through 1962, the same rosters would play a second game at a different ballpark.
  • The idea was to increase the players pension fund with the additional revenue.
  • In ’59, the games were played 27 days apart, the next season only two days passed before the second All-Star game was played. The two mid-summer exhibition game format lasted only four years.

More recently, to add more meaning to the game, it was declared the winner of the game would have the home-field edge in the World Series.

That didn’t go over well.

How can you make an exhibition contest where the idea is to show off the stars of the game more than it is for strategic purposes carry so much significance?  That plan ended just last season.

So throughout the 84 years since the All-Star game began there have been many changes that have come and gone.

I still feel it is the best of the major sports.
But, you have to know, something has slipped when there seems to be more anticipation for the Home Run hitting contest which is held on Monday, before the Tuesday game.
I can sense the players themselves enjoy that event more. Even those who are not participants. The All-Stars are out in force to watch that event. They bring their children who are on hand for picture-taking.I can only wish that someday, that kind of joy is evident again for the actual All-Star game.

An event that made an indelible mark on a young baseball fan. Once upon a time.