Of all the major sports, I believe that Major League Baseball has shown to be the best at presenting All-Star festivities. The NFL, NBA, and NHL games are usually high-scoring, no-defense affairs, imbibed with Harlem Globetrotter hijinx and sideline horseplay. The NBA game is a series of alley-oop dunks, while NFL players tweet rampantly mid-game. The NBA offers a slam dunk contest and other features, but honestly, slam dunks stopped wowing me about the time Spud Webb retired. Many NFL players elect to not even attend their game, and those that do are players that happen to not be injured or playing in the Super Bowl. The players that do attend seem to view it primarily as a Hawaiian vacation.
Eighty-two MLB All-Star games have been played since the first game took place in 1933. The NL has won 42 times, the AL 38 times, and they have tied twice.
Of the other sports, I don’t remember too many historic moments in All-Star games. I remember the return of Magic Johnson in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, and his winning the game’s MVP award, but little else of note. Baseball has had some awesome performances by the game’s greatest players throughout it’s history. Reggie Jackson’s home run in Tiger Stadium during the 1971 MLB All-Star game was a mammoth shot, crashing off the lights on the roof of the stadium, traveling an estimated 520 feet from home plate. The previous year, Pete Rose’s collision with catcher Ray Fosse on the last play of the 1970 All-Star Game was brutal. Fosse’s right shoulder was separated, and Rose was widely criticized for being too gung-ho in a meaningless exhibition game.
Which brings me to another positive about the game. It’s no longer meaningless.
The 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee ended in controversy in the 11th inning, when both teams ran out of pitchers. Commissioner Bud Selig declared the game to end in a tie after the 11th inning. The crowd roared it’s disapproval and Selig was soundly bashed in the media for his decision. This resulted in MLB reaching agreement with the players union to award home-field advantage in the World Series to the champion of the winning league. Also, beginning with the 2010 game, each league’s manager is allowed to designate one position player who can re-enter the game to replace an injured player. There has already been a loophole for catchers, in this regard.
Though the league and it’s players apparently take the game more seriously than the other sports, there is still a fun, festive atmosphere surrounding the game. The Home Run Derby is a fan favorite and has taken place on the day prior to the All-Star Game since 1985. Beginning in 1999, the All-Stars Futures Game has been scheduled, pitting young prospects from the U.S vs. an international squad. This year, Dylan Bundy, a right handed pitcher from the Orioles farm system, is joined by Cincinnati Red’s SS prospect Billy Hamilton on the U.S. squad. Hamilton has 100 steals through 79 high-Class A minor league games, and is being hailed as the second coming of Vince Coleman. Coleman holds the minor league record with 145 steals in 1983, and went on to steal 110 bases, a MLB rookie record, in 1985 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
And who can forget the old-timer/ celebrity softball game that’s now a staple ? This will only interest you if you want to observe the managerial skills of Jimmy Kimmel or are curious as to whether Kim Kardashian can handle the high, hard one ( If you’ve seen her home sex tape, you’ll know that she can ).
The selection of the players themselves is never without controversy. Fans vote for the starting position players for each league. Eight pitchers and one back-up player for each position are elected by the players, coaches, and managers. The manager of each league’s All-Star team will fill his team’s roster up to 33 players, with fans voting for one final player for each league, from a pool of five players. The NL manager will also select his team’s starting designated hitter. Each team is assured of being represented by at least one player.
Starting Line-ups for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game:
American League National League
C- Mike Napoli, TEX C- Buster Posey, SF
1B- Prince Fielder, DET 1B- Joey Votto, CIN
2B- Robinson Cano, NYY 2B- Dan Uggla- ATL
3B- Adrian Beltre, TEX SS- Rafael Furcal, STL
SS- Derek Jeter, NYY 3B- Pablo Sandoval, SF
OF- Josh Hamilton, TEX OF- Melky Cabrera, SF
OF- Curtis Granderson, NYY OF- Carlos Beltran, STL
OF- Jose Bautista, TOR OF- Matt Kemp, LAD ( injured )
DH- David Ortiz, BOS
Not making the roster, or even the five player fan vote in each league, are Brandon Phillips ( 10 HR, 47 RBI, .283 and gold glove fielder ) and Johnny Cueto ( 9-5. ,2.35 ERA, 86 K ) of the Reds in the NL, along with Edwin Encarnacion ( 22 HR, 57 RBI, .295 ) of the AL‘s Blue Jays. There have been accusations of Tony LaRussa being prejudiced against the Reds players. Though currently retired from baseball, LaRussa is managing the NL squad. The Cardinals won the NL pennant and eventually the World Series last year under LaRussa, and it is league policy that the two Series managers helm the All-Star squads in the next year’s game. Well, it just so happens that the Cardinals and the Reds are currently the biggest rivals in baseball. ( Yankees and Red Sox FANS hate each other, it’s true, but these teams PLAYERS clearly share a mutual dislike for each other, culminating in a brawl in 2010. Also, LaRussa and the Red’s fiery skipper Dusty Baker get along like Alec Baldwin and ex-wife Kim Basinger (well, Alec and anyone for that matter ). The feud between the two goes way back. LaRussa and Baker have disliked one another for so long, they are like feuding hillbillies who can’t remember what prompted their hatred.
Regarding the omission of Phillips and Cueto, Baker said, “A snub like that looks bad. Johnny and Brandon were at the center of a skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals who aren’t there anymore are making some of the selections. Baker also stated, “ I’m happy for the guys who made it , especially for ( Aroldis ) Chapman. You figured that Joey ( Votto ) would make it. We knew Jay ( Bruce ) had an outside chance. You also figured that Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips had a great chance. I don’t understand that one.” LaRussa has since accused Baker of “ questioning my integrity “.
One thing we know for sure is that the players who do participate this year will put on a good show AND go all out to win the All-Star game for their league. That’s more than we can say for the other major sports.
Topics: Alec Baldwin, Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Dusty Baker, Jeffrey Littrell, Johnny Cueto, Kim Kardashian, Magic Johnson, MLB All Star Game, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Tony LaRussa, Vince Coleman