Baseball’s All-Star Game used to be an event. It was an event when I was a kid because I planned my life around watching it.
That’s not to say it’s not an event now, probably even more so with the three-day bonanza of skills exhibitions, Futures All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby, which has taken on a life of its own lately.
The home run derby attracts as many fans as the All-Star game itself. It will fill up any stadium in baseball, just to see someone hit a baseball out of sight.
It’s all part of the instant gratification thing with today’s Millennial Generation. We don’t just want it now, we want it now and wow.
It’s not enough to see Josh Hamilton hit a home run, we want to see Josh Hamilton hit a dozen or so home runs… on consecutive swings no less. And we don’t want to see just a dozen ordinary home runs, we want to see tape measure shots, blasts that land in the next county, or into the Pacific Ocean like a returning Apollo space capsule.
When I was a kid they played the All-Star game during the day. I’d spend the night before with my Aunt Hazel because she had a color television set and we didn’t. Plus, I didn’t have three siblings arguing over the fact that I had taken over our 19-inch black and white TV with tin foil rabbit ears for three hours.
There are two All-Star Games I remember clearly, the 1970 and 1971 All-Star Games.
You say 1970 All-Star Game and you know what I’m talking about right away. Pete Rose, Ray Fosse, and a baseball all met at the same time at home plate, and Pete Rose won.
The ball got knocked to the backstop. Ray Fosse got knocked into next week.
Rose was on second, in the 12th inning of a 4-4 game. Jim Hickman was at the plate. Leo Durocher, the Cubs manager was coaching third.
Hickman lined a single to center and Rose took off like one of those race horses he loves to bet on. He didn’t break stride rounding third and Durocher, knowing this, waved him on. Fosse, a rookie catcher from upstate Ohio in Cleveland, guarded the plate, waiting on the throw home.
Rose saw Fosse blocking the plate and started a headfirst slide around him. In mid-slide he knew this wouldn’t work, so he lowered his shoulder and made like Jim Brown from a yard out.
The collision won the game for the National League, 5-4. It also put Rose out of action for more than a week and ended Fosse’s career.
You won’t see anything like that in this year’s All-Star Game.
The 1971 All-Star Game stands out because of the whole Josh Hamilton thing I mentioned earlier and home runs going a really long way.
Reggie Jackson hit a 536-foot shot off the light tower at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, the longest home run I’d ever seen hit at that time. It was special, once in a lifetime.
I guess that’s why I’m a little nonchalant about the Home Run Derby. I want the home run to be special, the tape measure shot something you see once in a blue moon.