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When it was a game

July 09, 2002|by AL DITZEL

While living in Virginia nearly 30 years ago, I remember getting psyched up for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I looked forward to it as a 10-year-old would.

I remember drawing up my own scorecard and scribbling in the lineups as they were announced. Bobby Grich, then the second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, was penciled in at shortstop when the lineups were announced. I was stunned. More stunned when Grich played the whole game.

In those days, I was an American League fan. I remember watching the All-Star Game in Detroit with Curt Gowdy's call of Reggie Jackson's monster home run. I think that was the first time I heard the word transformer.

Those were must-see games those days. Maybe it was because of my youth or maybe the games were more important then. I don't remember players bailing on the game because they needed to gear up for the second half. I don't remember announcers complaining about only three days off for the non-All Stars.

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Baseball is the game I love, but now I really don't care about the All-Star Game. And, it seems to me, that some of the players don't care either.

I don't know if anyone on either side is going to fire himself up and try to get his teammates fired up before they take the field. I don't believe either team cares about winning.

No way is someone going to bowl over a catcher like Pete Rose did in 1970 when he destroyed Ray Fosse. Yes, Rose took some heat then for playing the game all out, but baseball is the one all-star event that players can actually play all-out and not get hurt.

In the 1980s, Dwight Gooden, the young phenom with the New York Mets, set the tone for the National League as he struck out the side with fastballs and curveballs that shook up his adversaries.

I remember when the American League let it be known that it wanted to win the game. And, when Fred Lynn drilled a grand slam off Atlee Hammaker in 1984, the AL accomplished its task.

I can remember back in 1981 when a work stoppage in midseason threatened the All-Star Game. Instead, it was agreed that the All-Star Game would be the first game back from the strike/lockout/whatever.

Back in 1976 when the game took place in Philadelphia, I remember a friend of mine bragging about having tickets for the game. It didn't matter that he was in the last row where Bob Uecker would gain fame.

Today, the game is much different. Star pitchers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Matt Morris and Tom Glavine are missing the game. Glavine we know has a blister. Martinez, well he has a history of sore arms. Morris, he lost a teammate this season and he needs to regroup. The Big Unit simply wants to ready himself for the second half of the season.

While all these reasons seem logical and understandable, really they're not. Some of the stars missing the game will still show up and tip their caps. After all, it is for the fans.

Somehow, this game has become a job for the players, instead of the honor it once was. These guys make the game all the time. They don't mind missing it.

Yeah, Willie Mays never missed an All-Star Game. Neither did Brooks Robinson nor Cal Ripken. This game meant something then.

But, I guess, that was when it was a game.

Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 7520, or by e-mail at alfredd@herald-mail.com

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