Monday, April 28, 2014

The Most Memorable All-StarGames--1980-1989

The 1981 strike was the fourth work stoppage in baseball history. At the root of the dispute was the controversial topic of free agent compensation. It was the first strike with a season in progress, beginning in June and lasting for fifty days. Play resumed with the All-Star Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on August 9. Though many fans were disgruntled with players and owners, the '81 affair drew the largest crowd in history at 72,000-plus. Another record was set when managers Jim Frey and Dallas Green combined to use fifty-six players during the game. Expos catcher Gary Carter hit two homers, placing him on a short list of players to accomplish the feat in the Midsummer Classic. Though Carter captured MVP honors, it was Mike Schmidt who stole the show with a game-winning homer off of closer Rollie Fingers in the eighth. "It was as good as I ever felt running around the bases," said Schmidt. "As good as the World Series."

Entering the 1983 season, the AL had won just 1 of the previous 20 showdowns. Angels slugger Reggie Jackson suggested that the annual event was lopsided because National Leaguers were more invested in the game. "They try harder," he told a reporter from the Dallas Morning News. Pondering the same conundrum, Pete Rose remarked: "The National League wins because the National League thinks it's supposed to win. A man wants to smell like a man." White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk weighed in on the topic as well, asserting that the outcome would be different if the two leagues played an all-star series as opposed to a single game match-up. He never explained his logic. Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the All-Star Game, the American League broke out of its' slump in spectacular fashion at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Carrying a 2-1 lead into the third inning, the junior circuit jumped all over Giants' southpaw Atlee Hammaker for 7 runs on 6 hits. The big blow was a grand slam by Angels outfielder Fred Lynn--the first in all-star history. Before Lynn came to the plate, NL skipper Whitey Herzong ordered an intentional walk to Brewers shortstop Robin Yount. The intensely competitive Lynn later said that he took it personally. After the 7-run explosion in the third, the AL tacked on 4 more runs for a convincing 13-3 win.

The 1986 affair lived up to its "all-star" billing as more than a dozen Hall of Famers were in uniform that day. Though there was not a single Cooperstown inductee to be found on either pitching staff, it was pitching that grabbed most of the headlines. Roger Clemens made his All-Star debut--the first of ten career appearances. He worked 3 stellar innings, facing the minimum 9 batters while striking out 2. He was the eighth hurler in all-star history to toss 3 perfect frames. National League starter Dwight Gooden pitched well, but faltered in the second inning, serving up a hanging breaking ball to Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker. Whitaker made Gooden pay for his mistake, blasting a 2-run homer. Fernando Valenzuela came on in the fourth and struck out five consecutive AL hitters. Among his victims were Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken and Jesse Barfield. Both teams managed just 5 hits apiece in a 3-2 AL win. The game held another point of interest as renowned sports imposter Barry Brennen snuck onto the field during batting practice wearing a Mets jersey with the number 13 on it. When NL skipper Tom Lasorda cornered him, Brennen said: "It's my fantasy to play in the All-Star game." Lasorda replied: "It's my fantasy to kick your butt off this field." During his "career" as an impersonator, Brennan worked his way into a World Series game (as an umpire), an NBA all-star game (as a player) and a Super Bowl game (as a referee). He also posed as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. He was known as "The Great Imposter."   

1 comment:

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