July 11 - All-Star Blues
In 1964, Johnny Callison, a solid but unspectacular hitter, won the All-Star
game at Shea Stadium by slugging an extra-inning home run into the wedge of
seats above the rightfield wall. The game was played in the daytime, and I still
remember where the ball landed.
In the days before cable TV and ESPN, the All-Star game was special because
it was a rare opportunity to see the big stars from the other teams across both
leagues. Usually, I'd have to wait for the Yankees to play the Detroit Tigers to
see the cannon-armed Rocky Colavito or tobacco-chewing Norm Cash. The Mets? I'd have to mark a
schedule and circle games against the Cardinals to note the few chances to observe the incomparable
Stan Musial whip doubles from his odd, threatening batting crouch.
Now you can see the Padres play the Mariners in an interleague game, which would be interesting, if
you only knew who the players were.
But back then, in the All-Star game, you'd see Willie Mays pat the pocket of his dark glove with a fist as
he prepared to gobble up a lazy fly ball. You'd see Nellie Fox, with a bat handle the thickness of a tree
limb, lay down a bunt, the ball landing like a jelly doughnut on the infield grass along third. Hank Aaron
would lash line drives and Maury Wills would dance off first base, already thinking about second.
This was a treat for a young boy who knew all the lineups of major league teams, that Frank Lary was
the "Yankee killer" and that Solly Hemus was the player-manager in St. Louis.
The All-Star game is special and provides special memories, if only the wide-eyes boys and girls
around the country could stay up late enough to see them. Now, of course, they play the All-Star game at
night, at 8:15 or so, because of the TV ratings, which means they play at night because of money and
greed, as if a more reasonable 7 PM start would bankrupt the major leagues, the networks, and Third
World Countries across Asia.
My eight-year-old son will probably be asleep before the end of the first inning - maybe too soon to see
his idol, Johnny Damon, punch a single or one of the hated Yankees like A-Rod flash the leather at third.
The game won't end before 11 PM, but baseball seems not to care.
It is hardly an original thought that the major leagues are bypassing the ability to develop the next
generation of fans, but the major leagues do not mind, evidently. The thinking seems to be that they will
simply grab the attention of these kids once they have matured to about 25, and have the disposable
income, with a barrage of TV highlights, faux voting polls, web site "interactions" and marketing
Baseball is a beautiful sport. I watch it more now than I have in many years. I am hopelessly optimistic
about the Mets, astonished by the outfield acrobatics of Torii Hunter, and flushed with obedient
admiration of Tony LaRussa's careful leadership. I am grateful for the skill level I'm privileged to witness
(although I could do without the complaints of slumping millionaires who object to a seat on the bench).
But I am in my 50s now, and it would be nice to share the All-Star game with Sean curled on the couch
Alas, he'll be in bed, but I suppose he'll read the score in the morning.