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A Midsummer Night Dream: Memories of MLB All Star Games Past and Present

“I think the National League has better biorhythms in July.” – Earl Weaver (1979 All Star Game) 

Before the days of inter-league play and free-agency and the multitude of national and regional television outlets for baseball the All Star Game was the one time outside of the World Series that fans of in a National League town or American League town could watch players from the opposing league play their “boys.”

MVP Melky Cabrera homers in the 4th inning. (Getty Images)

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22979315&topic_id=34326704

My dad was typical of his generation. He was a National League fan. He grew up with the Cincinnati Reds and when he moved west with the Navy he became a San Francisco Giants fan. When the All-Star Game rolled around at was if time itself would stop as we gathered around the TV as a family to watch it.

Me with Angel’s Manager Lefty Phillips in 1970 at Anaheim Stadium

I think that is in large part why I have such a veneration for this annual event. As I mentioned back then there was no inter-league play and with free agency very limited players spent their careers in the same organization or with teams of the league that they played.

As far as what league I am for it is hard to say. My dad took me to so many California Angels games at Anaheim Stadium when we were stationed in Long Beach in 1970 and 1971 that I became much more familiar with the players of the American League than the National League. That American League attachment grew stronger when we moved to Stockton California where the local minor league team, the Single A Stockton Ports of the California League were then affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles and because of going to Oakland Athletic’s games when the team was in its first era of World Series dominance. He also took me to an occasional Dodger’s game when stationed in Long Beach and sometimes to Candlestick Park to see the Giants but most of the exposure that I had to baseball in my early years was with the American League.

My favorite teams, with the exception of the Orioles tend to be West Coast teams, the Giants and the A’s. My dad was not a fan of the American League, especially of Earl Weaver’s Orioles but between the Ports and seeing the Orioles constantly in the playoffs or World Series in the late 1960s and early 1970s I became a closet Orioles fan. I remember the greats of that team, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Paul Blair and Pitcher’s like Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally the team was amazing to watch. I became fascinated with the “Oriole way” which to use Cal Ripken Sr.’s phrase “perfect practice makes perfect” really is a model for success in any field.

Despite this I also love the National League primarily because it does not use the designated hitter and there is more emphasis on pitching and because the San Francisco Giants are a National League team.

Both Leagues have had eras where they dominated the game. Between 1963 and 1982 the National League won 19 of 20 games and the American League won 12 of 13 between 1997 and 2009, the only game that they did not win was the 2002 debacle where Commissioner Bud Selig ended a tie game in the 11th when the teams ran out of substitute players, the only previous tie was in 1961 when rain stopped a tie game in the 9th inning at Fenway Park.

There are some All-Star Game moments that stand out to me more than most. The was Pete Rose plowing over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.

Pete Rose collides with Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5766041

I remember reverently casting my ballot at Anaheim Stadium that year, which was the first time that fans voted in for All-Stars since 1957 when after a ballot box stuffing scandal by Cincinnati Red’s fans caused then Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick to end the practice. I still remember taking that paper ballot and putting it in that box and those votes probably were more important than any political ballot that I have cast, at least I felt like my vote mattered.  Of course now the vote early vote often philosophy which has exploded on the internet takes away some of the reverence that I have for the All Star voting process, but at least no-one checks your ID to vote.

In 1971 I remember the massive home run hit by Reggie Jackson off Dock Ellis at Tiger Stadium, the longest home run in the history of the game, a home run that had it not hit a electrical transformer on the roof was calculated as a 532 foot home run.

Reggie Jackson’s massive home run in the 1972 All Star Game

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=15759689&topic_id=20156278

I remember the 1973 All-Star Game which was the last for Willie Mays, it was his 24th trip to the game, a record that still stands.

The 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park was one that brought tears to my eyes. It was magical as Major League Baseball announced its “All Century Team” including the great Ted Williams.  It was an exceptionally emotional experience for me as I watched many of the living legends who I had seen play as a child walk out onto the field.

Ted Williams at the 1999 All Star Game where the All Century Team was Inducted

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5570299

But I think one of the most memorable for me was watching Cal Ripken Jr. in his final All-Star Game when Alex Rodriguez insisted that Ripken start the game at Shortstop where he had played most of his career and when Ripken went yard in his final All-Star Game plate appearance.

Alex Rodriguez pushes Cal Ripken Jr. to Short in the 2001 All Star Game

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unF087sArpg

Tonight’s game was played in Kansas City, a town with a remarkable Baseball history especially with the Negro League Kansas City Monarch’s. The Negro Leagues were founded in Kansas City in 1920 and it is the home of the Negro League Hall of Fame. The Athletics played there between their time in Philadelphia and Oakland, and the Royals began as an expansion team in 1969 and opened Kaufman Stadium in 1973. I saw the Royals play for the first time in Anaheim against the Angels.  The Stadium was unique in its era because it was the last non dual-purpose stadium built until Oriole Park and Camden Yards opened in 1991. As such it was and is a beautiful yard and with the renovation completed in 2007 is still among the most beautiful parks in the Major Leagues and there is a seat designated in honor of the late Monarch’s player and manager Buck O’Neil and the home of such greats as Satchel Page.

Buck O’Neil

Tonight  like most All-Star Games I was torn my feelings. Unlike my dad I am not an exclusivist regarding the American or National League. I have favorite teams and players in both leagues. Tonight my Giants have a number of starters on the field including the Starting Pitcher Matt Cain, Catcher Buster Posey, 3rd Baseman Pablo “The Panda” Sandoval and Outfielder Melky Cabrera.  The Giants contingent aided by the ballot stuffing San Francisco Fans dominated the game.

On the other hand the American League had three Orioles on it for the first time in a long time, Closer Jim Johnson, Catcher Matt Wieters and Outfielder Adam Jones. There are future Hall of Famers on the field including Atlanta Braves 3rd Baseman Chipper Jones who is played in his final All-Star Game and got a soft single in the top of the 6th inning.

Chipper Jones 

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22978231&source=MLB

Justin Verlander was hit hard giving up 5 earned runs in the top of the 1st and Pablo Sandoval had a bases clearing triple. Joe Nathan of the Rangers pitched the 2nd inning and David Price of the Rays pitched the third while Matt Cain pitched 2 shut out innings and was relieved by Gio Gonzalez of the Cardinals. I hope that the game produces a great moment that will be replayed forever.

Managing the game for the National League is Tony LaRussa the now retired former Manager of the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The American League Manager is Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.

Pablo Sandoval hits a bases clearing Triple off Justin Verlander in the 1st Inning (Photo Getty Images)

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22978523&topic_id=34326704

Well the National League won 8-0 led by a home run by Melky Cabrera in the top of the 4th inning. Five of the 8 National League runs were produced by members of the San Francisco Giants.  Cabrera was the Most Valuable Player and Matt Cain got the win.  It was a long night for the American League  especially with the pitchers due to pitch including National’s Stephen Strasburg, Met’s Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Dodger’s ace Clayton Kershaw, and three closers, Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, Ardolis Chapman of the Reds and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves.  As Earl Weaver said “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Ooops…Who Hit the Self-Destruct Switch? Four Errors and 3 Hit Batsmen Doom Reds, Phillies Win 7-4

Jay Bruce misses a fly ball in the 7th inning (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Cincinnati Reds looked like that they had cracked the code on how to beat the Phillies after having been no-hit by Roy Halladay on Wednesday.  Tonight they went up against Roy Oswalt and drove the Phillies veteran out of the game after 5 innings.  Combining solo home runs by Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce as well as some “small ball” took a 4-0 lead and looked like they were going to cruise to victory in game two of their NLDS series against the Phillies. Then someone somewhere flipped the self-destruct switch.

Once that happened in the 5th inning the Phillies got on the board with 2 runs.  In that inning the with 2 outs and Bronson Arroyo in control the Phillies were aided by back to back errors on Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen to load the bases giving Chase Utley the chance to drive in 2 runs with a two out single.

The pain continued for the Reds in the 6th inning when Jayson Werth walked to lead off the inning and after Jimmy Rollins popped out Arroyo left being relieved by Arthur Rhodes who struck out Raul Ibanez for the second out. Werth stole second then Rhodes hit Carlos Ruiz in the knee to put runners at first and second.  Ben Francisco came in as a pinch hitter and Logan Ondrusek relieved Rhodes. Ondrusek then hit Francisco in the bill of his batting helmet just about an inch from his head in what could have been a tragic play. Instead it loaded the bases to bring up Shane Victorino. Ondrusek then walked Victorino to make the score 4-3.

Jayson Werth Scores (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Things got worse for the Reds in the 7th inning. They brought out rookie fireball pitcher Aroldis Chapman to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Chapman hit Utley in the forearm with a 101 mile an hour fastball to put the lead runner aboard. Chapman sent Howard down on strikes.  This brought Jayson Werth to the plate; he hit a ground ball that Utley beat out at second to put two aboard. Jimmy Rollins came to the plate and hit a line drive to right field that Jay Bruce who committed an error simply missing the ball to score Utley while Werth scored when Brandon Phillips dropped the relay with Rollins taking . Raul Ibanez singled Rollins to third and Carlos Ruiz hit into a fielder’s choice to score Rollins. Chapman then gave up a single to Mike Sweeney before being relieved by Nick Masset who got Shane Victorino to ground out leaving the Reds behind by a 6-4 score.

The Phillies got an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th when with 1 out Chase Utley singled and stole second. Masset intentionally walked Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth singled to score Utley before Masset retired the side.

The Phillies brought in closer Brad Lidge and after walking the leadoff batter sent the next three batters down in order to secure the victory and get the save. Phillies reliever Jose Contreras got the win while rookie Aroldis Chapman got the loss.

The Reds meltdown which included 4 errors which led to 5 unearned runs and 3 hit batters who all scored.

The Phillies now go to the Great American Ballpark where on Sunday Cole Hamels (12-11 3.06 ERA) will try to get the sweep against Johnny Cueto (12-7 3.64 ERA).  The last time Hamels faced the Reds he won the game giving up 6 hits and allowing no runs in 7.2 innings work. Things do not look promising for the Big Red Machine.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Padre Steve’s 2010 ALDS and NLDS Predictions

Note: Sorry for the delay in this post, most was already written but I spend the majority of the day on the road to West Virginia where we are taking some time to relax in between my assignments. I look forward to getting some rest and recreation, some good PT, a bunch of writing and take in a Marshall University football game while here.


It’s that time of the year again sports fans. After picking the Division and Wild Card winners it is time to get down and dirty as Padre Steve makes his picks to win the divisional races.  Last year I I did pretty well. During the playoffs and World Series I only missed one series picking the Angels to beat the Yankees in the ALDS based on their seasonal record in head to head games, especially those in Anaheim. That was the only wrong series pick that I made and when it came to the World Series I only made one mistake picking the Yankees to win game one versus game two.  When it came down the last game it was as if I had inside information, if you don’t believe me take a look at those posts, but I digress.

As I said last year I always try to be dispassionate about my picks even if I am for a particular team. This year I am praying that the Giants go all the way but this will not influence how I predict the series that they play in.  So here are my picks to get to the ALCS and NLCS from the division series.

In the American League:  Minnesota (94-68) versus New York (95-67). The Yankees will take the Twins in 4 games. The Twins have been the best team in the American league during the back half of the season and the Yankees have done well but have not been spectacular during the stretch. The Yankees are starting to show their age but the Twins have not been able to beat the Yankees with a stick. They are 2 and 14 against the bombers in the past two years and the Yankees have dominated the Twinkies in the playoffs in a very ugly manner.  I think that the Twins win one game but that the Yankees take them in four, though I cannot rule out a sweep.

Texas (90-72) versus Tampa (96-66):  The Rangers will take this in four. The Rays have the best record in the American League but were 28-28 from August 2nd until the end of the season. The Rangers were marginally better but play in a weak division whereas the Rays won the toughest division in baseball where ever the last place team had the best record in the division in the same time span. However, it comes down to Cliff Lee and hitting. The Rays starting pitching is marginally better in their ERA but their ERA was much lower post All-Star break than before and they are hitting only .236 since the All-Star break. Contrast this with the Rangers who are hitting .274 since the break and 3.89 ERA.  Cliff Lee ate up the Rays today and the free swinging Rangers are tailor made to win in the Trop.  If the Rangers take game two in Tampa the Rays are toast when they go to Arlington.

The National League: Philadelphia (97-65) versus Cincinnati (91-71). The Phillies have the best starting pitching in baseball and have been phenomenal since the beginning of August, the best record in the Majors. The Reds are a hitting machine leading the league in average (.272), runs (790), hits (1515) and home runs (188) but have a history of being dominated by the trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  Today Halliday pitched a no-hitter against the Reds and I expect that Oswalt and Hamels will also dominate. Bottom line the Phillies have the chance to get a sweep. I think that the Reds may win one at home but that the Phillies pitching will dominate and that their hitting will be more than adequate to deal with the rather pedestrian Reds pitching staff.  The most interesting thing will be seeing flamethrower Aroldis Chapman face Ryan Howard and the Phillies in the late innings.

Finally we come down to San Francisco (92-70) and Atlanta (91-71).  The Braves go into this banged up without Chipper Jones or and without much in the way of hitting but want to win for their legendary Manager Bobby Cox.  Their leading RBI producer is Brian McCann who has 77 for the entire year, 32nd in the NL.  The teams are evenly matched in hitting but the Giants have the best ERA in the NL and were even better in the second half of the season.  Pitching matchups favor the Giants and with the first two games at home they have the edge. Their pitching staff also has the best road ERA in the NL.  The Giants have continued to improve during the second half of the season adding key players and the Braves as I said are pretty dinged up.  Add to this the fact that in September and October the Giants were 19-10 while the Braves limped across the line with a 14-16 record for the same period. This is a harder series to call because of how evenly matched the teams are but I pick the Giants in four based on roster strength and how they are trending though the Braves might take it to five before falling to the Giants.

Of course I could miss the whole thing, but I try to take the emotion out and look at the stats and in most occasions the stats tell the truth.  I don’t think that I am missing anything and the ALCS should be the Yankees against the Rangers and the NLCS the Phillies against the Giants.  I will analyze those series when these are complete and factor in any roster moves and injuries incurred during the divisional series as well as how the teams are trending.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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