Fit to be tied

When it comes to screwing things up royally, few sports can go toe to toe with Major League Baseball. You have the designated hitter, artificial turf, a crazy out of control pay scale that keeps every team from being competitive, and you have labor disagreements that lead to strikes and lockouts. And of course you have Bud Selig, who is possibly the worst commissioner in the history of professional sports. While watching the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft, I would see NBA Commissioner David Stern on television and it would make me soooooo jealous. Why can't MLB have a commissioner as good as David Stern? David Stern bosses the owners, he bosses the players, and he bosses the player's union. Sure, he always has that cat who got the canary smile and he may be a tad Machiavellian, but at least the trains run on time. My secret fantasy is for David Stern to march into MLB headquarters in New York and instigate a hostile takeover. The owners and Bud Selig are not organized enough to stop him. It would really work. But, regardless of how many things Selig and company screw up, they can't screw up the All-Star Game.

The Mid-Summer classic began in 1933 as the invention of Arch Ward, the sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, and it is now the crown jewel of the baseball season. It is important beyond the obvious fact of providing a showcase for the cream of the crop of baseball talent, the All-Star game also provides a large part of the funds for the Players' Association, who receive the game's revenue benefits. This in turn goes toward the pension and benefits of retired players, who, believe it or not, did not make the millions and millions of dollars that players make now. This history and meaning put Baseball's All-Star game over those of the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL. In other leagues, these games are just that, games, while in Baseball they are another chapter in a long rich history.

If you think long and hard, you may come up with a few memories from the NBA All-Star game, the NFL Pro Bowl, or the NHL U.S. vs. World game, but there are not many. Most of the NBA memories have more to do with Michael Jordan winning slam dunk titles than the actual game, while the other two barely draw enough of an audience to even mention. Baseball's All-Star game, however, is chock full of moments. Personally, I remember being excited about the All-Star game as far back as the early 80s. Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, would always do his patented back flip on his way to his position. Recall Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds hitting a home run in Montreal in 1982 to win the MVP. In 1989, the coming out party was held by Mr. Vincent "Bo" Jackson, quite possibly the greatest athlete of my generation. Directly after he drilled a lead off home run for the American League, in one of the best convergence of destiny and dollars ever, Nike debuted the "Bo Knows" ad series. On the summer night, a star was born. In 1995, there was the hilarious showdown between John Kruk and "The Big Unit" Randy Johnson, never was a professional athlete more visibly scared. The late great Ted Williams provided the memories in 1999 and Cal Ripken Jr. punctuated his swan song with an All-Star home run in 2001. The greatest, and most defining, All-Star moment of all time happened in 1970. That is the game the National League won on Pete Rose's mad dash to home in extra innings, which he capped off by bowling over Oakland A's catcher Ray Fosse. This desire to win a game that is supposed to be in exhibition is another part of what sets this game apart.

Then, of course, along came Bud Selig who decided, "Hey, I CAN screw up the All-Star Game!", and that is what he did. What was the one argument baseball fans always yelled at football, soccer, and hockey fans? At least our game does not end in a tie! Wrong. The 2002 All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie in the 11th inning. All of the fans in Milwaukee who paid up to $175 for a game, they simply got a spring training exhibition; the Pro Bowl, except without Hawaii. All of the fans who stayed up past midnight around the country waiting for a conclusion, sorry guys, we ran out of pitchers. It became quite obvious late in the game that extra innings were a distinct possibility, but AL Manager Joe Torre and NL Manager Bob Brenly unwisely did not hold a few players back. This relatively new obsession with making sure everyone plays has ruined the "Only All-Star Game That Mattered." It is sad really, because otherwise great moments provided by the 29 first-time All-Stars may simply be forgotten. Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter's amazing catch in the 1st inning, when he soared through the air to rob Barry Bonds of a home run was one of the greatest catches ever seen on this big of a stage. New York Yankee Alfonso Soriano, "The Skinny Guy with the Big Bat," hit a majestic home run for his first All-Star hit. Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko and Arizona Diamondback Damian Miller, each had two big doubles to help their teams. These things will simply become footnotes. The only thing people will remember is how, given the chance, Major League Baseball stuck it to the fans one more time. The MVP Trophy, recently renamed for the late Ted Williams, was given out to no one last night. How appropriate.

Baseball is more than likely going to go on strike again. Bud Selig and the owners fighting the players over how to split millions of dollars. It can make the average baseball fan crazy. When this happened in 1994, there was no World Series, which was previously the one thing that baseball couldn't screw up. There was hope by me that this game would be the one shining moment that the storm cloud of controversy could not hide. I was wrong. Baseball deserves every nasty thing that will be said about this game, and if they do not give some sort of refund to the fans in attendance, they should be ashamed of themselves. This has left a nasty taste in the mouth of baseball fans everywhere. I sincerely doubt David Stern would have let this happen, but then again, he is a real commissioner. Baseball should be ashamed of itself.