Enough about All-Star interruptus!

The pundits who think this year's tie was worse than the game in which Ted Williams broke his elbow need to take a drug test.


King Kaufman
July 11, 2002 11:54PM (UTC)

What if I told you that 63 percent of the people who have complained in public about the All-Star Game ending with no winner had turned the game off and gone to bed before the 11th inning, thus demonstrating a lack of interest in who won? Could we stop talking about it then?

No? What if I made up an even bigger number?

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OK, well, can we admit that All-Star managers have been saying for about a decade that their main goals are to have some fun and get everyone into the game, and that no one has complained about this? Not even you?

I've never heard a single cross word about this concept, even though it's obvious to any thinking person that Tuesday's scenario, an extra-inning game and no pitchers left to continue it, was inevitable. Commissioner Bud Selig's postgame comment that "not in your wildest dreams would you have foreseen this game ending in a tie" speaks volumes about the man's lack of foresight.

It's only since Tuesday's All-Star interruptus that people have suddenly become outraged. What is this, Little League or the big leagues? The poor widdle players have to get into the game? The poor widdle pitchers can't pitch more than an inning or two? Hogwash! Applesauce! Horsefeathers! Why, in 1935, Lefty Gomez pitched six innings! Six! The '55 game lasted 12 innings before Stan Musial won it with a home run off a pitcher in his fourth inning of work.

Shoot, get everybody into the game? Bullhickey! I can remember a time when nobody played! That's when ballplayers were ballplayers, sonny. In 1950, Ted Williams broke his elbow going for a fly ball, and he stayed in the game! Played the whole thing! Missed the rest of the season! The injury bothered him for the rest of his career! And the American League lost anyway! Now that was some fun!

Listen, the 1955 game and Stan the Man and Lefty and Ted's elbow and all that are so irrelevant, they would have to go through a relevance supercharger just to be called irrelevant. We just don't live in that world anymore, the world where pitchers take the ball every fourth day and throw 25 complete games and pitch 15 innings if they have to and then go shoot an elephant and walk home five miles barefoot in the snow, and glad to do it too, not like these kids today, I tell you.

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And we're also no longer living in the world where National League president Warren Giles can march into the locker room and tell the boys they better win this thing or he'll make sure they all get pay cuts next year. And we're not going back to that world. Let's all get over it finally, shall we?

The fact is, it's fun to have everybody get into the game. It's fun for the fans, who get to see their favorites, and it's fun for the players, which makes it even more fun for the fans. Sports are so uniformly pompous and self-important that it's refreshing to see these guys just out there having a good time, to see Curt Schilling and Alex Rodriguez jawing good-naturedly before A-Rod's at-bat, to see Barry Bonds throw Torii Hunter over his shoulder after Hunter takes a home run away from him, or Alfonso Soriano's almost permanent grin. It's fun to hear N.L. manager Bob Brenly tell announcer Joe Buck that, no, Shawn Green won't be running on this next pitch and then say, "Oop, there he goes" and dissolve in laughter as Green takes off for second.

I'm afraid that all this hot air over the ending of a game that nobody cared about the ending of in the first place is going to cause baseball to overreact and ruin what remains, even after Tuesday, a perfectly good event.

I mean, more than one commentator this week has pointed to Williams' broken elbow in dogged pursuit of a fly ball in 1950 as a positive example of the competitive marvel the All-Star Game used to be. Let me get this straight. An exhibition game ending in a tie is worse than the game's best hitter injuring himself and missing the rest of the season because he was going all-out to win that same meaningless game?

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Forget drug testing the players. Let's make the commentators pee.

Taking the fun and goofiness out of the All-Star Game in the interest of making sure there's a winner -- of an exhibition game, remember -- is just so NFL it hurts. The typing classes have been referring back fondly to the 1987 game, which the National League won 2-0 in 13 innings. Now that was competitive! It was also a snooze-producer nonpareil. I've had dental appointments that were more fun. That's the standard?

And besides, the more competitive, and less fun, you make the game, the more star players are going to give it a pass. There will be an epidemic of mild sprains and general soreness. You can get as uptight as you want about how players today are pampered millionaires and big babies and ol' Ted Williams would have swum through an ocean of flaming snot to play in an All-Star Game, but that won't change anything.

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Sure, some adjustments can be made. The All-Star managers should have to dedicate two or three guys as extra-inning pitchers only. Maybe those could be middle relievers or set-up men, which would remedy the shameful situation of those positions almost never getting an All-Star bid. And in extra innings, players who have been removed should be allowed to return, and the manager should be able to hit for the pitcher and not remove him.

The game still might end in a tie, but it could probably go 15 or 16 innings before then, and by that time you would have long since gone to bed, or switched over to ESPN Classic, where you can watch that exciting new documentary, "Ted Williams' Elbow."


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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