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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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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Northern Road Trip gets Frosty: Cold Tides Lose 5-3 and 4-0 in Buffalo

Mike Hessman in his Toledo Mud Hens uniform the all time Minor League Home Run King victimized Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta (James Venes photo 2007)

The Norfolk Tides have dropped their last four consecutive games on their northern road trip. After the last two games of their series against Syracuse including the heartbreaking 2-1 loss on Thursday the Tides have lost two more this time to the Buffalo Bisons the AAA affiliate of the Tides former parent club the New York Mets.  With cool weather and blustery winds the two teams faced off at Coca Cola Field and the Bisons took both Friday and Saturday’s games with Mike Hessman the all time minor league home run king victimizing Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta for his 11th and 12th home runs of the season.

On Friday night in front of 5729 with temperatures in the 50s and winds blowing 17 miles an hour the Tides started Chris Tillman (3-4 3.83) who as of late has done quite well.  Friday was a different matter. Tillman allowed 5 runs 4 of which were earned runs on 8 hits including two home runs in six innings work.  The damage started in the third inning when Tillman allowed a single to Alex Cintron who went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ruben Tejada. Tillman struck out Jason Pridie but then balked which allowed Pridie to advance to third. Jesus Feliciano then bunted for a single to score Pridie before Tillman got out of the inning getting Mike Jacobs to fly out to right fielder Blake Davis.

The Bisons added three more in the 4th inning beginning with Mike Hessman hitting a home run to left to lead off the inning.  Valentino Pascucci then popped out and Tillman walked Russ Adams.  J R House a former member of the Tides from 2007 who was just signed by the Mets to a minor league contract after playing with the Astros and the Astros organization singled Adams to second.  Alex Cintron grounded to Brandon Snyder at first which Snyder misplayed allowing Adams to score and House to advance to third. Meanwhile Cintron attempted to stretch his good fortune but was thrown out at second by right fielder Blake Davis who had fielded the ball after it got away from Snyder.  Ruben Tejada then singled to score House before Tillman retired Jason Pridie on a pop up to Justin Turner at second.

The Tides came back to score 3 runs in the top of the 5th.  Blake Davis singled to center and went to second on a passed ball. Robert Andino grounded out to second moving Davis to third. Catcher Michel Hernandez grounded out for the second out and Davis had to remain at third.  With two out Joey Gathright reached on an error by second baseman Alex Cintron and Davis scored.  Gathright then stole second and was driven in by Justin Turner who singled to center. Jeff Salazar then singled to right and Turner went to third. Josh Bell singled to score Turner before Nolan Reimold in his first game with the Tides since being optioned by Baltimore to Norfolk grounded into a force play to end the inning.

It seemed that the Tides were back in the game and that their dormant bats were alive again.  However in the bottom of the 6th inning Valentino Pascucci hit a leadoff home run to increase the lead to 5-3.  This was not an insurmountable lead but the Tides managed just one more hit the rest of the game going down in order in the 7th and 8th innings and only managing the hit, a single by pinch hitter Michael Aubrey  with two outs in the top of the 9th.

In the end the Tides had 3 runs on 9 hits and allowed an error the Bisons 5 runs on 11 hits and 1 error. Tillman (3-4 3.83) got the loss and knuckleballer R A Dickey (4-2 2.23) got the win for the Bisons.

The Tides fared worse on Saturday.  Today the Tides would scatter just four hits and only get one runner into scoring position and were shut out by the Bisons 4-0.  Jake Arietta (3-2 2.20) took the hill for the Tides going up against Pat Misch (3-0 3.30). Arietta gave up a run in the 1st inning when Mike Hessman who had victimized Chris Tillman on Friday singled to drive in Jesus Feliciano. The Bisons scored another run in the bottom of the 2nd inning after Arietta walked Andy Green to start the inning and Green advanced to third on a single by Ruben Tejada. He would score on a ground ball by Jason Pridie.  In the bottom of the third the Bisons scored again when Mike Hessman homered to lead off the inning. Hessman was drafted by the Braves in 1996 and has played 15 years in the minors 9 years at the AAA level getting to the majors in only four seasons for a total of 77 games hitting 13 home runs.  Hessman is interesting, he played on the 2008 Bronze Medal US Olympic team has hit 323 home runs in the minor leagues and holds the minor league record for home runs.  The shot in the 3rd inning was his 12th of this season.

The Bisons added a final run in the bottom of the 6th inning when Andy Green homered off Arietta.  Even though Pedro Viola and Denis Sarfate held the Bisons to no more runs once again the Tides could manage no offense and they fell to the Bisons by the score of 4-0.  The Tides final line was 0 runs on 4 hits with one error, the Bisons 4 runs on 5 hits and no errors.  With the loss the Tides drop to 15-22 having lost five of the first six games of the northern road trip and into the cellar of the IL South.  The Tides and Bisons will square off Sunday afternoon. The pitchers are not announced but the number three man in the Tides rotation Chris George was placed on the seven day DL which could move Troy Patton up in the rotation as the Tides have no real starters in the bullpen.  Short reliever Jim Miller was brought back up from Aberdeen.

Up in Baltimore the Orioles who had won their last three games relearned the hard lesson that you have to get 27 outs to win the game. The O’s blew a 2-0 lead to the Cleveland Indians in the 9th inning with Alfredo Simon and Cla Meredith each allowing four runs in an 8 run rally once again denying Brian Matusz his first win of the season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Shutting the Other Team out for 26 Outs is not good enough: Tides Lose to Syracuse 2-1

“You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.” Casey Stengel

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” Earl Weaver

Corey Patterson seen here with the Norfolk Tides hit his 1st Home run as a Oriole

Brandon Erbe must wonder what is going on. The young prospect was one out from winning his first AAA game when is disappeared like a fleeting cloud on a mid-summer day.  However it was not mid-summer and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when Erbe watched his victory evaporate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Alliance Bank Field in Syracuse.

Erbe had pitched his best game of the season.  He allowed no runs giving up no hits and 4 walks in 7 innings work. Kam Mickolio came on in relief and had another strong outing and then closer Frank Mata who has been has been solid in relief blew the save and lost the game after getting the first two batters that he faced in the bottom of the 9th out.

The game was a pitcher’s duel all the way.  Syracuse starter Andrew Kown went 6.2 innings giving up one run on seven hits. Had it not been for the Chiefs’ two out comeback in the bottom of the 9th he would have taken the loss. Instead he was off the hook got a no decision instead and Jason Bergmann in relief got the win.

Michael Aubrey seen in 2009 had a double and scored the Tides only run

The Tides went ahead in the top of the 5th when Michael Aubrey led off with a double, advanced to second on a ground out by Robert Andino and scored when Michel Hernandez singled.  The Tides loaded the bases in the top of the 7th and could not score and left a runner on in each of the 8th and 9th innings.

Usually reliable Frank Mata blew the save and lost the game with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th

In the bottom of the 9th Frank Mata who has been almost lights out each time he has come into a game retired the first two batters. With two outs Chris Duncan a .244 hitter batting in the 7th position singled. Eric Bruntlett the third baseman a .219 hitter smacked a triple to right which scored Duncan to tie the game and blow the save. With one out and the runner on third and Mata facing catcher Deven Ivany the unthinkable happened.  Mata threw the first pitch in the dirt past Michel Hernandez who could not stop it and Brunlett scored easily giving the Chiefs’ the victory.

It was the kind of loss that tears the heart out of a team, a game that by all means the Tides should have won was lost on two hits by marginal hitters and a bad pitch by a solid closer.  For Erbe who has had nothing but trouble this year it seemed that he would have his first win after pitching his best game.  Instead of getting a 1-0 win the Tides went down to defeat by a score of 2-1.  The Tides had 1 run on 8 hits with 1 error and left 9 men on base.  The Chiefs who looked like they were going down in defeat got to celebrate the victory with 2 runs on 6 hits and no errors while stranding seven.

The Chiefs take the series 3 games to one and the Tides travel tonight to Buffalo where they will play the team that used to be the Tides, the New York Mets AAA affiliate the Buffalo Bisons with Chris Tillman (3-3 3.49) going up against Bisons’ knuckleballer R A Dickey (3-2 2.56).

Up in Baltimore the Orioles won their series against the Seattle Mariners by a score of 6-5 doing something that they have not been able to do in a long time by coming back from a four run deficit in the top of the 8th.  With recently promoted former Tides outfielder Corey Patterson starting the inning with a solo home run and Luke Scott slammed a grand-slam giving the Orioles the lead Mark Hendrickson got the win and former Tides pitcher Alfredo Simon got his 5th save.   The Orioles improve to 11 and 24 and have a two game winning streak going into their three game series at Camden Yards against the 13-9 Cleveland Indians.

Until tomorrow all the best,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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