All-Star Snafu

By Stew Thornley

At a press conference on Monday, July 8—the day before the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee—National League manager Bob Brenly was asked about his decision to replace the injured Tom Glavine with another starting pitcher, Vicente Padilla. “This is my first go-round with these All-Star Games,” Brenly said, “but I have to believe you have to save somebody who can eat up innings late in the ballgame in case we go extra.”

The next night, following an All-Star Game that was prematurely ended because of Padilla’s inability to eat up innings, Brenly said, “This is not like taking his [Padilla’s] turn on a regular rotation where you expect him to go out and throw 85 or 90 or 100 pitches. This probably would have been Padilla’s side day, and certainly what he did today was a lot more than he would normally do on a side-session day so we got everything out of our guy that we could.”

And with Padilla being Brenly’s last pitcher, the National League skipper found himself having to inform the umpires and commissioner Bud Selig in the middle of the 11th inning that he would have no one available to take the mound should the game go to the 12th inning. Later, stating that he had “no alternatives, and there is absolutely no one to blame,” Selig decided that the game would not advance beyond the 11th inning, regardless of whether there was a winner or not. As it turned out, there wasn’t, and the fans—already informed by the public-address announcer that the game would end in a tie if the National League didn’t score in the last of the 11th—were not happy with their home-boy commissioner, some chanting “Bud Sucks!” as they left the stadium with others hanging around long enough to throw beer bottles and seat cushions onto the field.

As Selig gathered with the two managers to explain the bizarre ending to reporters, he said, “Obviously, in your wildest dreams, you would not have conceived that this game would end in a tie.” However, it’s not beyond one’s wildest dreams that a game could go 11 innings (five All-Star Games, including a 15-inning contest in 1967, have gone longer). Combined with the recent trend of managers trying to use their entire roster, it could be argued that the principles in this affair should have been better prepared with plans for such a contingency. Not only was there no winner in the game, the decision was made to not select a Most Valuable Player for the game, meaning that the first-ever Ted Williams Award (the award being renamed following the death of Williams the previous Friday) went to no one.

So the All-Star Event—which included what had been a highly entertaining game itself, a home-run derby, the Futures Game, Fan Fest, and a slew of press conferences and other attractions—ended in controversy and bitterness for many.

Fan Fest, held at the downtown Midwest Express Center, had already been underway for a couple days when the rest of the events began on Sunday, starting with the fourth-annual Futures Game, a pitting of the top prospects from the minor leagues splitting off into teams of the United States and the rest of the world.

The Futures Game, by rule, cannot go past its regulation seven innings. In this case, extra innings were never a threat as the World put the game away with five runs in the top of the third inning, the first three coming on a bases-loaded triple by Jose Reyes, the game’s Most Valuable Player. Each pitcher in the Futures Game is limited to a maximum of one inning. The later pitchers didn’t even get that much work as managers Dave Concepcion and Paul Molitor emptied their bullpens, each using nine pitchers in a 5-1 World win.

The attendance was announced as 37,414 for the game, although it appeared that many of the fans did not arrive until later, as the stands were fuller for the celebrity softball game that followed the Futures Game.

The big event on Monday was the Home Run Derby. Sammy Sosa once again drew the most oohs and ahs as he connected for five drives that were measured in excess of 500 feet in the first round along with two more in the semi-final round. Sosa advanced to the finals against Jason Giambi, who hit first and sent seven over the fence. Sosa couldn’t match that, producing only one home run in his final time.

It was 91 degrees and humid at the start of the home run derby. As the semi-final round began, the roof on Miller Park was closed because of approaching thunderstorms. Milwaukee has had trouble with its roof, both in that it leaks and that it makes a horrible squeaking noise when it is opening or closing. There was no squeaking noise from the roof, but we could see the lighting and clearly hear the thunder (through the still-open side panels). As the final round started, rain began pouring through the seam in the roof where the sections came together, falling on to the field and into parts of the stands.

Earlier in the day, the starting pitchers and managers, along with honorary captains and league presidents, were at a press conference at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. The questions, comments, and responses were overall more enlightening than usual with both the players and managers showing little willingness to talk about the labor negotiations and the fact that the players were reportedly ready to set a strike date later in the day in their meetings in Chicago. One reporter asked the pitchers, Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe, if their excitement of starting the All-Star Game was tempered by what was happening in Chicago. Schilling: “No, not at all.” Lowe: “Same answer.” The questioner then persisted by asking if it weighed on their minds. Schilling: “No.” Lowe: “Same.”

Another reporter asked about the possibility of a strike. Schilling said he was hoping to start the All-Star Game with a strike and then said he didn’t want to talk about labor issues and wanted the questions to focus on the All-Star Game. Jim Powell, who was moderating the press conference, asked Lowe if he had anything to add. Lowe: “No.” A reporter then asked American League manager Joe Torre about the what would happen if a strike occurred. Torre, who normally addresses all questions and comments without getting testy, first expressed optimism that things could be worked out, then added, “I’m a firm believer in positive thinking as opposed to some of the people who ask questions here.”

The main event during the day on Tuesday was the announcement of baseball’s most memorable moments, another contrived event as part of major league baseball’s partnership with MasterCard, but one that included the presence of some great stars. The dais included Rickey Henderson, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Don Larsen, Bill Mazeroski, and Jack Morris in addition to Julia Ruth Stevens (Babe’s daughter), Rachel Robinson (Jackie’s widow), and Robert Paige, Kevin Maris, and Luis Clemente (the sons of Satchel, Roger, and Roberto, respectively). After the formal conference, the players and relatives were available for one-on-one interviews.

The pre-game ceremonies included a recap of the memorable moments and a tribute to Ted Williams, with Red Sox All-Star representatives Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra, and Ugueth Urbina pulling a tarpaulin off a section in left field where a number 9 had been painted.

The preliminaries finally done, it was now time for the main attraction. The game itself was an entertaining one. With two out in the last of the first, Barry Bonds hit a long fly to center, only to have Torii Hunter keep it in the park with a leaping grab over the top of the center-field fence. In the third, Bonds made sure that Hunter, nor anyone else, could snag his drive by hitting it off the facing of the second deck in right, a two-run homer that capped a three-run third and gave the National League a 4-0 lead.

The Americans got one back in the fourth on a two-out, run-scoring single by Manny Ramirez in the fourth and another on a home run to left-center by Alfonso Soriano in the fifth, but the National League scored again in the last of the fifth as Damian Miller doubled home Jimmy Rollins to give the National League a 5-2 lead.

The American League used speed to start a rally in the seventh. Damon grounded to Lance Berkman at first and was able to outrace him to the bag for an infield single. Damon stole second on the first pitch to Omar Vizquel, who then hit the next pitch for a fly to right. Even though Damon had started toward third, he was able to get back to the base after the catch and still tag up and advance to third. From here, Damon scored as Garret Anderson grounded to second for the second out. Randy Winn drew a walk, prompting Brenly to relieve Mike Remlinger with Byung-Hyun Kim, who gave up singles to Tony Batista and Miguel Tejada to bring in Winn and cut the National League lead to 5-4. The lead disappeared completely as Paul Konerko connected for his second triple of the game to score Batista and Tejada, putting the American League in front by a run.

Seattle ace Kazuhiro Sasaki was on the mound for the last of the seventh and struck out Scott Rolen to start the inning before giving up a single to Mike Lowell and double to Damian Miller to put runners and second and third. Junior Spivey grounded to third with the runners holding, but Berkman lined a single to center to bring home both and put the National League back in front, 7-6.

Robb Nen started the eighth for the National League and gave up a leadoff single to Rob Fick, who stole second as Damon was striking out. Next, Omar Vizquel dropped a long fly inside the right-field line. Fick scored the tying run as Vizquel motored all the way to third. With the infield pulled in, Vizquel had to hold at third when Anderson grounded out. Winn then struck out to end the inning and strand Vizquel.

The game stayed tied through nine innings. Padilla started the tenth for the National League with Freddy Garcia coming in for the American League in the bottom of the inning. With these additions, both rosters were depleted. The American League got Vizquel to third with two out in the top of the inning, but the Cleveland shortstop (who was actually playing second base in this game), was left there again when Batista flied to right for the third out.

The half-inning break lasted nearly five minutes as the umpires and managers met with Selig. Freddy Garcia, who after the game said he could have gone several more innings, retired Luis Castillo to start the last of the 11th. At this point, the announcement was made that the game that the game would end at the end of the inning. As boos cascaded from the stands, Mike Lowell gave the fans—and more significantly, Selig—a bit of hope when he lined a single to left and, with Padilla up, went to second on a wild pitch. Padilla, who had fouled off one bunt attempt, made another feeble attempt at a sacrifice before taking a ball and finally a full swing, which he missed with to strike out.

Benito Santiago was the last hope for having a winner and loser in the game, but he left it as a tie by looking at a third strike on a 2-2 pitch. The game was over, a 7-7 final, and Selig’s dream game had turned into a nightmare for him.

At his Town Hall meeting that afternoon, in which he responded to e-mail questions, Selig had noted that he had been “uptight” the past few days because of the pressures brought on by the game being played in Milwaukee. Wanting more than anything to smooth sailing for the game and everything that led up to it, Selig saw it crash at the end.

The finish left some critics almost (emphasis on the almost) feeling sorry for the commissioner who never seems to have anything go right for him. Said one, “If Selig were a funeral director, nobody would die.”

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