CHARLOTTE, NC: Ever since the days when baseball was dubbed the honor of the “National Pastime”, the MLB (Major League Baseball) All-Star game has been called the “Midsummer Classic.”
Today, though the game has lost much of its early luster, it arguably remains the best of the annual all-star exhibition contests of any big-time professional sport. There are reasons, of course, not the least of which has to do with the make-up of the game and the way it is played.
The NFL has, and will, never catch a baseball in the all-star competition category
If for no other reason, then due to the physical toll it takes on its players, the Pro Bowl must be played after the regular season is over when fans couldn’t care less about a meaningless game following the run-up to the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
In that sense, an NFL all-star game is much like the now-defunct consolation games that used to be part of the NCAA college basketball championships.
The problem with the NBA is that their all-star games are little more than offensive showcases for individual players where no defense is played, thus making the game itself boring to all but the most die-hard basketball fans.
Only the NHL can come close to matching baseball, but history and tradition still give the diamond sport the edge.
MLB All-Star Game
As for the old-time magic of the MLB All-Star game, there are reasons why it, too, is no longer the attraction it once was. Cable television and internet streaming combined with inter-league play are two of the biggest culprits.
Time was when the midsummer game was the only time of the year when fans could see players from both leagues compete against each other, except for the World Series. The difference is that the All-Star game was a league-wide challenge when all the best players in the game battled against each other.
Professional pride was at stake and the competition was intense.
The 90th edition of baseball’s all-star classic unfolds in Cleveland tonight with a couple of important changes that will give the contest more interest this time around than it has had in recent years.
Over the decades the American League has won 44 games to 43 victories by the NL. There have also been two ties, and it was the last tie game that is largely responsible for the changes this year.
In 2002, with the score tied at 7 in the 11th inning of the game in Milwaukee, the teams ran out of players to substitute. In an effort by the managers to give the fans a chance to see as many of their favorite players as possible, the rosters depleted and Commissioner Bud Selig declared the game a draw.
The controversy raised so much anger among fans who felt cheated that the following year, in an effort to revitalize interest and player pride, it was determined that the All-Star game-winner would earn home-field advantage for its league in the World Series.
This year that rule will be dropped with the team that has the best overall won-lost record during the regular season gaining the extra game in the fall showdown.
The most interesting innovation, however, will be what happens if the game goes into extra innings this year. Among the rules changes, baseball is considering for the future is automatically putting a man on second base to start each extra inning when a game is tied. The idea is to reduce strain on bullpen relief pitchers and, more importantly, to hopefully streamline games that go beyond the 9th inning.
Such will be the case in this year’s All-Star game as an experiment to see how it works. Of course, it would be an ultra-small sampling size but it does give a controversial idea a chance to be used in what is essentially a meaningless game.
Just to show how close the leagues have been over the years, the AL has scored the most runs with 369 to 367.
MLB All-Star Game
Wrapping up our MLB All-Star game review, we answer the age-old question of why baseball is the only sport where the manager wears the team uniform during the game.
Here again, it goes back to the early history of the sport when a manager was more often referred to as “captain” because he was frequently on the roster as a player as well.
According to Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn, the definition of the bench or dugout is described in the official baseball rulebook as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes, and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field,” and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else.
Therefore, technically a manager is required to wear a uniform to comply with the rules.
As time progressed, managers gradually moved away from their playing duties and took on the role of primarily being the on-field general. Baseball itself, however, always a stickler for tradition continued the legacy of having its manager in uniform during a game.
Of course, there were exceptions.
Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Burt Shotton wore suits and ties to games, though Shotton sometimes layered a team jacket on top of his street clothes. When they left the game, so, too, ended the era of non-uniformed managers.
Which makes it all the more interesting to conjure the image of Bill Belichick or Larry Brown coaching on the sidelines in full uniform. Now that would be an “all-star” sight worth remembering.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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