grow up to Allan Huber Selig, Commissioner of Baseball. aka, former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, owners lackey, leader of the Great Lakes Gang which ousted Fay Vincent. Selig, could also be found cowering beneath his desk if the Players Association’s Gene Orza or Donald Fehr showed up to see him.
This is the week that the Major Leagues pause to conduct the Midsummer Classic, the All-Star Game. First played as part of the 1933 Chicago Expo, the game provided a tableau for the best players of the American and National leagues to face each other and also given national coverage it gave baseball fans in remote areas and in cities with only one team to listen to the broadcast of the game and to hear the exploits of players they had only heard about. In 1933 and until the early 1950s eleven of the sixteen major league teams were located in just five cities. New York had three, Boston; the Red Sox and Braves, the Athletics were in Philadelphia, the Browns in St. Louis and Chicago had two. Each of these cities had players of both leagues ready available to see play. Cincinnati, D.C., Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh had one team. Prior to the mid 50’s less than 50% of families owned automobiles, so travel to see a game was somewhat restricted. The spread of television ownership in the early 50’s gave the All-Star game a boost and increased fan interest. That interest continued through the 70’s. During the 1980’s we started to see a change in the player’s commitment to the game. Players began passing on attending, others limited themselves to three innings before that became more the norm, and some who had played three left before the game was over, with this player attitude, fan interest also waned. The Home Run Derby was created to regenerate interest and to produce revenue for the media as well as baseball. Perhaps the fans in the park get a kick out of it, but it is three labored hours of batting practice and Chris Berman. It may be the singular reason that remotes have ‘off buttons’. Another blow to the game was struck in 2002 when the team mismanagers ran out of players in the eleventh inning and the commissioner (Selig) called the game a tie.
Baseballs response was swift and profitable, partnered with FOX, Selig announced that “This One Counts. Going forward the league winning the AS game would have home field advantage in the World Series and to insure that the rosters were sufficient to avoid mismanagers they were expanded, a reentry provision was created, and managers were advised to withhold players for emergencies. Everything that could be done, outside of penalty kicks was done to keep the egg off the commissioners (Selig) face.
Perhaps the death knell was sounded in 1997 and wasn’t heard. 1997 was the beginning of regular season inter-league play (Selig) which involves eighteen games a year. Besides the unbalanced regular season intra-league schedule and games now scheduled against teams that you may see every fourth year, it also removed the cachet of the All Star game which was to that point the only time that AL and NL players faced each other than the World Series.
It has not been surprising that manager, players and journalists are disenchanted with the Midsummer Classic. Despite the value now placed on the exhibition game more than twenty percent of the players elected by the fans or selected by the manager opted out, some due to injury, some for personal reasons. The value of “This One Counts”, zero. Not one World Series in the past eight years dating to 2003 has gone seven games.
It has been on the watch this commissioner that the All-Star game has suffered its greatest loss of esteem. This is the reign of the Worst Baseball Commissioner who also gave rise to another WBC, an abomination known as the World Baseball Classic.