Philadelphia Inquirer - July 8, 1980
All-Star Game in name only
By Bill Lyon
Comes now that annual midsummer exercise in huckstering and hypocrisy known as baseball's All-Star Game.
For starters, the name itself is a misnomer. It is not a game; it is an exhibition.
The very rules themselves legislate against a team trying its best to win. For example, if your pitcher is working on a no-hitter, he must be removed after three innings of labor only because the rules say so.
Additionally, the manager is obliged to litter the lineup with as many faces as possible so that instead of fielding the most efficient nine-man combination, he produces a final box score that is cluttered with so many names it looks like a phone book.
Neither is it, by strictest definition, an "all-star" competition. It started as a circulation gimmick in 1933 by the Chicago Tribune, a "dream game" between those players the public most wanted to see. And the ones the public most wants to see are not always the best.
That is the inherent danger in conducting what is essentially a popularity contest. There was a time, for example, when movie fans counted Rock Hudson as their favorite male actor; favorite is not the same as best. No one ever confused Rock Hudson's thespian talents with, say, Lawrence Olivier.
The problem with the All-Star Game begins with the selection process, which is flagrantly dishonest, cumbersome, and annually results in some grievous injustices. Baseball, see, under the clumsy stewardship of Bowie Kuhn, is blinded by numbers.
The office of the commissioner resounds with squeals of delight when it can be announced that fans are so turned on by the Ail-Star Game that they have punched out a record number of balloting cards. The same office blithely overlooks the fact that the election is more rigged than vote-casting in a Latin-American dictatorship.
Is it really an efficient election when some kid who is not old enough to use the razor blades made by the company that sponsors the voting stuffs the ballot box with 5,000 cards by himself?
Every summer there are glaring omissions because the public votes for "names" or reputations instead of merit. In this city, the most obvious victim this time around is Manny Trillo. Not only is he the best defensive second baseman in the National League – if not the major leagues – he is batting a mere .320. Yet he finished far back in the voting and will sit this one out.
"I'll watch it on TV, and laugh," he said. That is a brave front, but his laughter will be hollow and tinged with justifiable bitterness.
As long as the process itself is unsupervised and is presented strictly as a popularity contest, it is patently dishonest to pass it off as a genuine "all-star game." Rename it for what it really is, the "Popularity Exhibition." Or eliminate the abuses and make the composition of the teams truly reflective of who is having a deserving season.
The commissioner's office argues with righteous zeal that the game belongs to the people. That, of course, is a transparent political ploy. But there is an element of truth in it. The fans do, indeed, deserve a say in who plays.
But not the whole say.
A suggestion has been advanced that seems to contain considerable merit: Split the voting into three parts. The public. The players. The managers. And let each carry equal weight.
The fans would then still be free to wage frenzied campaigns for their favorites. But such box-stuffing fraud would be offset because it would count for only one-third of the total.
The players could vote for anyone except themselves. Their ballots also would count for a third.
The managers could select any players except those on their own teams. That would also be worth a third of the total.
No system is perfect, obviously, and this one would have its flaws. Players are people, after all, and so are managers, which means that they are subject to prejudices and petty jealousies, just like the rest of us. And, protected by the anonymity of a secret ballot, it is not unreasonable to assume that, in a fit of pique, fhey might not vote for a certain player, even if they felt that he was the best, simply because they didn't like him.
Still, this system would enable the public to generate the voting numbers that the commissioner's office dotes on so much, and at the same time give a voice to the people who are" in a position better to judge the talent, the players and the managers.
And it's just possible the result might be a contest that comes close to living up to its billing.
If Expos don’t cool it, a chilly World Series to greet shivering fans
By the Associated Press
As baseball's elite meet in Los Angeles for tonight's All-Star Game, one chilling prospect looms on the horizon World Series night games in Montreal.
The Expos are in first place in the National League East at the traditional mid-summer break, one game ahead of the Phillies and 1½ in front, of the defending world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. None of those are exactly warm-weather cities, but of the three, Montreal would seem to offer the least hospitable climate for night baseball in October.
Would commissioner Bowie Kuhn be able to sit in Olympic Stadium and watch World Series night games in his shirt sleeves, as he once did in New York?
The Expos, of course, have no lock on a World Series berth. They haven't even played half their regular-season games yet, and a one-game lead with 86 games to play is hardly what you'd call commanding.
Then there's the matter of the divisional playoffs against the winner of the NL West, where the Houston Astros lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by two percentage points.
But the Expos are in first place, and besides that, they have a unique baseball superstition on their side. That's the one that says the teams in first place after games of July 4 are the ones that will finish there and the Expos were on top of their division on that magic date.
From 1901 through 1968, that superstition held up 45 times in each league. Since the leagues were split into divisions in 1969, 28 of 44 leaders as of July 4 have ended up as winners.
That bodes well for the Expos, Astros, New York Yankees and Kansas. City Royals, who held division leads on July 4 as well as at the All-Star break.
Since entering the National League in 1969, the Expos finished in the first division only once. That was last year, when they stayed in the thick of the pennant chase until the final weekend and ended up second, two games behind Pittsburgh.
This year, bolstered by the addition of former Detroit outfield star Ron LeFlore, who is tied with Pittsburgh's Omar Moreno for the major league lead with 49 stolen bases, the Expos climbed to first place with a 10-game winning streak in early June despite injuries to key performers like Ellis Valentine and Larry Parrish.
They've held the top rung on the ladder for a month now, although they haven't been able to open any daylight on the Phillies or Pittsburgh, two experienced and explosive contenders.
Houston's heralded newcomer, Nolan Ryan, has contributed only five victories so far. But J. R. Richard, Joe Niekro and Ken Forsch have picked up the slack with a combined 27 wins to fuel the Astros' surge.
Houston, which held first place for two weeks in May, reclaimed it from Los Angeles on June 10 and has held it for all but one day since then.
Los Angeles, with four All-Star starters, has been within three games of first place since April 26 and has shown no signs of dropping out of the race, while Cincinnati remains within striking distance despite Tom Seaver's disappointing season.
While tight races loom in the National league, the American could find itself with a pair of runaways unless some teams get hot in a hurry. New York and Kansas City, which met in the division series three years in a row before being displaced by Baltimore and California last fall, have big leads over their competition.
The Yankees, who faded to fourth in 1979, have bounced back to post a 51-27 record, the best in the majors and good for a 7½-game lead in the East Division. Young, improving Detroit and power-packed Milwaukee are neck-and-neck for second place, with perennial contenders Baltimore and Boston next in line.
In the West, Kansas City is the only club playing better than .500 ball and leads second-place Chicago by 8½ games. The defending champion California Angels have been baseball's biggest bust, sinking to last in the West with a 29-48 record – the worst in the majors.
The leading hitter in the major leagues, based on a minimum of 175 at bats, is Miguel Dilone of the Cleveland Indians – hardly a household name. But the speedy, line-drive hitting outfielder is batting a robust .364.
Second baseman Paul Molitor of Milwaukee is next in the AL race at .358, followed by Seattle's Tom Paciorek at .351. Then, finally, comes a name fans are familiar with – Rod Carew of California, .337.
Nobody has taken command of the NL batting race. Reggie Smith of Los Angeles leads at .328, but right behind are Garry Templeton of St. Louis, .327; Warren Cromartie of Milwaukee, .324, and last year's winner, Keith Hernandez of St. Louis, .323.
Mike Schmidt of the Phillies and Ben Oglivie of Milwaukee are the top home-run hitters so far, leading their leagues with 21 apiece. Reggie Jackson of New York is second in the AL with 20, followed by last year's champion, Gorman Thomas of Milwaukee, 17. George Hendrick of St. Louis and Dusty Baker and Steve Garvey of Los Angeles are tied for second in the NL with 18 each.
The top run-producers in the A.L. are two men who played in the National League last season Tony Perez of Boston has driven in 64 runs and Richie Hebner of Detroit 60. Garvey is the NL RBI leader with 66, followed by Hendrick, 65, and Schmidt, 57.
The winningest pitcher in baseball is Steve Carlton of the Phillies (14-4), while the AL leaders are Steve Stone of Baltimore and Tommy John of New York, both at 12-3.
Those three were expected to win their share of games, but the pitcher with the best winning percentage in the majors is a surprise. Jim Bibby of the Pittsburgh Pirates made his first relief appearance of the season Sunday and won a 20-inning, 5-4 marathon over Chicago to raise his record to 11-1, a sizzling .917 percentage.
Major league attendance this season is more than 115,000 ahead of last year's record pace, the baseball commissioner's office announced yesterday.
A total of 20,880,628 fans have witnessed baseball games through July 6, the commissioner's office said. That would put this season's pace 115,609 fans ahead of last year at this time. A record total of 43,550,398 saw major league baseball in 1979.
The commissioner's office also announced that baseball had its greatest attendance week ever in the June 30-July 6 period, when 2,280,324 fans attended games.
Long-suffering know: This is the AL’s year
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
LOS ANGELES – Danny Kaye, the entertainer who always wanted to be part of a major league baseball team but wound up with the Seattle Mariners instead, tried the door to the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. It was locked.
"What's going on ?" he asked.
"The American League is having a meeting," he was informed.
Kaye smiled. "Ah," he said, "we must not interrupt that meeting, because somebody has to say to them, 'Fellas, it's getting very embarrassing. One out of 17 you've won. Ver-r-ry embarrassing.'"
Frankly, embarrassing is putting it mildly. No major league baseball team should lose 16 of 17 games, whether it's playing the National League All-Stars, the '27 Yankees, anybody. The worst teams in baseball generally win 30-35 percent of their games by accident. Yet the best players in the American League have come up with one All-Star victory since 1962. Ridiculous. 1 mean, look at some of the players who have been part of those last 16 losses: Brooks Robinson... Mickey Mantle... Al Kaline... Luis Aparicio... Carl Yastrzemski... Harmon Killebrew... Tony Oliva... Elston Howard... Frank Robinson... Denny McLain... Catfish Hunter ... Rod Carew... Boog Powell... Mickey Lolich... Frank Howard ... Jim Palmer... Thurman Munson... Nolan Ryan... Sparky Lyle... Gaylord Perry... Dick Allen... Reggie Jackson... Carlton Fisk... Goose Gossage... Graig Nettles... George Brett... Fred Lynn ... Ken Singleton... RonGuidry... Jim Rice, et cetera.
Sure, they were playing against some great National League stars, but one victory in 17 years. The Toronto Blue Jays probably would have done that well. At least they couldn't have done much worse.
I suppose I had better make a confession along about here. I grew up rooting for the American League. I still root for the American League. Not in a very loud voice, you understand. But deep down inside, I really get upset over these annual midsummer embarrassments.
It hurts me to hear Chub Feeney, the president of the National League, cluck his tongue sympathetically over the injury that knocked Milwaukee second baseman Paul Molitor out of tonight's game, and say, "Molitor's a good, young ballplayer. I wish he could play. I like to see their young players play us so they can learn early in their careers that they can't beat the National League."
Such is the arrogance built up over nearly two decades of win-win-win.
"Having come over from the American League, I can tell you the National League's much more aggressive," Reggie Smith, one of the National's starting outfielders, was saying yesterday. "I can remember when I got here. It was, 'Here comes another American Leaguer. He's going to have his problems in the National , League.' Well, my first two years here I hit .300. If you're a good ballplayer and you have the talent, you're going to hit no matter where you play. But I always felt I was supposed to be a National League player, anyway. That's been my attitude – an aggressive attitude.
"(In the American League), it's, 'OK, let's play the game and be nice,' instead of playing the game to win, doing what you want to do. Now I see them starting to do that.
"You have to do what you have to do. If it means to slide hard to take a guy out of a play, that's what you do. If it means that you intimidate a guy to win, that's what you do. I definitely believe in the Vince Lombardi theory of winning through intimidation. If a man can be intimidated that easily, that's his problem."
And that, to hear Smith tell it, is part of the American League's problem.
Kent Tekulve, the Pirates' workhorse reliever, had another answer to the incredible run of NL successes. "I think with all the artificial surfaces we have, speed became a much more important part of the game in the National League," he said. "The American League's not as smart. It took them time to realize speed is important."
Earl Weaver, the AL manager, wasn't about to get drawn into that discussion.
"Why's the National League won all these games?" he asked. "That's simple. After you play nine innings and the last out is made, it seems the National League always has more runs."
And while we're on the subject, I've got a theory of my own. The American League, it says here, wouldn't have lost 16 of the last 17 games if a man named Weaver hadn't stubbornly refused to put relief pitchers on the All-Star squad in his three previous turns as AL manager.
In 70, Weaver's first AL All-Star team carried a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth in Cincinnati. All he needed was a good reliever to lock it up. Instead, with only starters on his staff, he used Catfish Hunter, Fritz Peterson and Mel Stortlemyre in the ninth. The Nationals tied the game and won it on Rose's mad dash to the plate in the 12th.
Weaver got away with his starters-only theory in 71, winning in Detroit, 6-4. But in Atlanta the following year his team blew another ninth-inning lead, finally losing in the 10th. "A ground ball went by Davey Johnson in the ninth to let the tying run in," Weaver shrugged, still unwilling to admit that he might have made a mistake by bypassing the league's bullpen specialists in those years.
This time around, it should be noted, Weaver has relented – presumably with a strong nudge from the American League office. Three relievers – Goose Gossage, who blew the 78 game in San Diego, Ed Farmer and Tom Burgmeier – are on the AL staff.
"The year I won I used (only) three pitchers," Weaver said. "Do you think Mr. MacPhail (AL president Lee MacPhail) would be happy if I used three pitchers this time and won?"
At this point, MacPhail would be happy if Weaver used the batboys and won. But Weaver's memory is a trifle shaky. He actually used four pitchers – Vida Blue, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Mickey Lolich – to beat the Nationals in 71.
Why quibble? It's a new year, a new All-Star game. Who cares if Molitor and Rice and Brett are injured? So what if the American League All-Star roster reads more like a "Who Are They?" than a "Who's Who"? Take a tip from somebody who's been living and dying with this game for years. The American League is going to win tonight. Maybe even win big.
A word of caution, though. My track record isn't all that good. Fact is, I've been wrong 16 times in the last 17 years.
Stone ecstatic about getting All-Star start
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
LOS ANGELES – Four years ago Steve Stone was a journeyman pitcher whose career seemed at an end. Yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles' 12-game winner was named as the starting pitcher for the American League in tonight's 51st major league All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.
"I've played this game 12 years now," said Stone, "and I've never received any honors. When you're a .500 pitcher you don't receive too many honors. In the last two weeks I've been fortunate enough to be named American League player of the week, American League pitcher of the month and now I'm starting the All-Star Game for the American League. I know that I haven't sold my soul to the devil, but I'm having a hard time convincing my parents of that."
Stone may have an even harder time tonight pitching against Houston's fireballing J. R. Richard, who will try to start the National League off to its 17th victory in the last 18 All-Star games. But it was apparent yesterday that Stone was ecstatic over the opportunity.
The 33-year-old curve-ball specialist, whose career was threatened in 1976 by that most serious of pitching injuries – a torn rotator cuff – was so happy at merely being named to the All-Star squad that he wrote "thank-you" notes to each of his Baltimore teammates for making it possible.
"My ball club this year is not playing behind me like the 1980 Baltimore Orioles," Stone said. "They're playing like the (American League champion) 1979 Baltimore Orioles."
Now Stone has to hope that the injury-riddled 1980 American League All-Stars play behind him not like the 1963-64-65-66-67-68-69-70-72-73-74-75-76-77-78-79 American League All-Stars, but like the 1971 team that beat the Nationals, 6-4, on the wings of a mammoth Reggie Jackson home run.
Three would-be AL starters – Milwaukee second baseman Paul Molitor, Kansas City third baseman George Brett and Boston outfielder Jim Rice – have been kayoed by injuries. So has Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt, unable to play for the National League tonight because of a recurring muscle pull. As a result of those injuries, and some weird voting by the fans, two rather unusual All-Star squads will be facing each other.
The National League, believe it or not, has a grand total of one .300 hitter in its starting lineup and that talented gentleman, Dodgers outfielder Reggie Smith, has made no secret of the fact he'd rather be elsewhere.
"At least the game's here (at his home park)," Smith said. "I can imagine what it's going to be like when I'm announced. But other than that I'd rather be fishing."
Judging from some of the All-Star batting averages, too many players have been fishing already – for low outside breaking balls and the like. The first man Stone will have to face tonight is Smith's Dodgers teammate Davey Lopes. His batting average is a cool – no, better make that cold – .236. Yet Ballot Stuffers of America, headquartered in Southern California this year – gave Lopes more votes than any other big-leaguer.
The next lowest average in the NL's starting lineup belongs to that noted ex-journalist, Dave Kingman, who has been hitting the ball at a .264 clip for the Chicago Cubs. Not great maybe, but a lot better than he was doing for the Chicago Tribune.
The American League, at least, has four .300 hitters in the starting lineup: first baseman Rod Carew (.337), centerfielder Fred Lynn (.311), left-fielder Ben Oglivie (.320) and catcher Carlton Fisk (.300). On the other hand, the AL is starting a third baseman, Graig Nettles, who's hitting .246.
The less-than-star-quality averages didn't seem to bother the baseball fans in this city. About 20,000 of them turned out yesterday afternoon to watch the two teams – minus such notables as Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Keith Hernandez and Dave Parker take batting practice.
Among those present were the honorary captains, Al Kaline of the American League and Roy Campanella of the National.
"You know," said Campy, "to be picked to play on an All-Star team "I thought was the greatest honor a player could attain... I can't understand why some of our younger players today hesitate in doing it."
Smith was one of those who hesitated, but at least he decided to play. "If I had to be picked (as an extra) I was going to ask not to be," Reggie said. "But No. 1, the fans took the time to vote. They're entitled to see me play and, No 2, there's no need me risking a confrontation with the commissioner's office where I could be fined or suspended."
Speaking of the commissioner, he unwittingly provided the best laugh of All-Star eve.
It was triggered yesterday morning when Max Patkin walked out of his room at All-Star headquarters wearing a blazer with a crest that said, "Clown Prince of Baseball," on it.
"This kid – he must've been about 13 – saw the crest and asked me, 'What's that for?'" Max said.
"I told him, 'That's for being 'The Clown Prince of Baseball.' He said, 'Oh, are you Bowie Kuhn?'"