Tuesday, July 17, 2018
🌟🌟🌟 Still excited 🌟🌟🌟
The other day, I let someone sucker me into following a link about how we can "fix" the All-Star Game.
I think you know, I loathe this kind of "fixing" talk, especially when it comes to baseball and especially when it comes to the most exciting game of the summer for me. The author of the article is not one of my favorites (famous baseball card collector, former SportsCenter host, you know who I'm talking about), so I knew where this was going right away.
His suggestion for "fixing" the game was to copy what the NHL is doing for its All-Star Game now. Honestly, I'm not 100 percent sure what they're doing, but it's not a real hockey game. It's some sort of one-period playoff involving some all-stars, and then there's another one-period playoff with other all-stars and then we eventually reach the final and a winner, without ever really playing an actual game.
So he says, play two three-inning "games" with four separate groups of all-stars and then the winners play each other in a winner-take-all three-inning "game."
I think we've found the gimmick of all gimmicks.
I know it's an exhibition game. But this?
I get why the NHL is doing this. Almost nobody pays attention to their league in the U.S. and especially their All-Star Game, so they need to create some sort of buzz. But even though the baseball All-Star Game doesn't hold the thrill that it did back in the 1970s and the 1980s, thanks to interleague play, there's no reason to blow it up and re-portion it into baby-sized pieces for the ADD crowd. (How about get rid of interleague play instead? No chance of that I suppose). No other All-Star Game can match it.
Despite all of the tinkering that's happened to baseball's All-Star Game, I still enjoy it immensely. Ask my family. It's all I've been talking about all day. And contrary to this particular baseball progressive's opening premise on "fixing" the ASG, I still do remember stuff about recent All-Star Games.
He asked whether I remember the MVP of the All-Star Game last year. I sure do. Robinson Cano hit a home run in the 10th inning to take the honors. It was kind of notable.
He asked whether I remember where the game was played. It was in Miami. Every 2017 Topps Update All-Star card has that fish fin logo pictured on the front.
He asked whether I remember who managed the AL last year. Well ... I knew it wasn't Terry Francona because I remembered he had health issues last year and couldn't do it. But I confess I didn't recall who his replacement was (Brad Mills).
However, memory doesn't prove anything. Half the time six months after the Super Bowl I don't remember one of the finalists. Who won the college football championship in 2016? No idea. The Masters winner in 2017? Couldn't say. I'm assuming I'll forget who won the World Cup by November.
The test for me is: am I still excited? And that answer is definitely "yes." I will watch the entire game, as I do most All-Star Games. The game may be interesting or ho-hum, the same prospects for every baseball game. But the opening thrill is still there, no matter how many pitching substitutions, no matter how many MLB-mandated sponsor interruptions. As long as it's a baseball game filled with star players, then I will be watching.
I've written several posts over the years about the All-Star Game and all-star cards. It's a way to keep that excitement that I felt for the game and the cards alive.
I'm starting to run out of topics, but I was able to latch onto one idea earlier today:
This was in reference to the 1979 Topps Don Money card. And when Phungo asked about players with just one All-Star card, I remembered I had this thought once upon a time, too.
However, it's not the easiest question to answer.
Topps has recognized All-Stars in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it creates a separate card for the All-Star, sometimes it puts an All-Star notation directly on the player's card. Sometimes it names its own All-Star team instead of recognizing the All-Star starters. Sometimes it does both in the same year. Sometimes it makes a card for everyone who played in the All-Star Game, starter or not. Sometimes it ignores All-Stars completely.
With all those variations, finding out which players had just one All-Star card is not that easy.
So, I did what Phungo probably wanted me to do in the first place -- restrict this exercise to the glory years of the All-Star card, from 1975-81. Going outside that time period just creates complications.
When I looked through the cards between 1975-81, I found 25 players who received just one all-star card.
Eight of those players were pitchers, which is understandable as pitchers are not voted in by fans but selected to start at the whim of the manager. You're bound to get someone different almost every year. So here are those eight:
Each of those pitchers started one All-Star Game. There actually should be one more, but Topps didn't give a banner to 1980 NL starter J.R. Richard in the 1981 set (instead selecting Jim Bibby).
I did go through many of the Topps 1980s sets before deciding it was much too confusing to determine which starters had one and only one card. There was Steve Rogers in 1983 (he received both an All-Star card in the 1983 Topps flagship set and 1983 All-Star glossy card). There was Charlie Lea and Lamarr Hoyt in 1985 (just a glossy card for each). Then I gave up.
For starting position players, here are the players who received just one All-Star card between 1975-81:
Jeff Burroughs and Dick Allen, both American League starters.
Dick Allen actually received another start while a member of the National League in 1967. But he didn't appear on an All-Star card. He's also on a 1974 Topps All-Star card when Topps featured both position starters (AL and NL) on the same card. But that's sharing a card so that doesn't count.
Another big year for first-time and only-time All-Star cards. Besides Jerry Reuss, we have two Yankees and two A's with their only All-Star cards.
Nettles did start another All-Star Game in 1980, filling in for elected starter George Brett, who suffered a fractured ankle.
The 1976 season was a big one for the Tigers as they received three All-Star starts (Fidrych included). But the one I was most excited about was Toby Harrah.
Besides Don Sutton, Rick Burleson is the only one-All-Star card guy. The National League was filled with established All-Stars in the 1970s (Bench, Rose, Morgan, Garvey, Luzinski, Bowa, Cey, Parker, Concepcion).
Here is the Don Money card that kicked off this post. And I still remember being blow away by Rick Monday's start to the 1978 season.
There should be one more card here. Freddie Patek started at shortstop for the American League in 1978 but did not get an All-Star banner on his card. That was his only chance, too. Poor Freddie.
A few more personal All-Star favorites with the very 2004 Topps-esque Frank White and Roy Smalley cards.
The two one-time position starters from the 1980 game are both Dodgers and the team received a big All-Star boost by hosting the game in 1980.
From there the All-Star cards get a bit muddled. In the 1982 Topps set, Fernando Valenzuela rightfully receives an All-Star card as he started the 1981 All-Star Game. But then what do I do with the 1987 Topps Valenzuela All-Star card? He didn't start that game, Dwight Gooden did.
I didn't even bother with the 1990s. Most All-Star recognition during that period was relegated to one-off cards or insert sets.
Perhaps that's one of the reasons why so many people younger than me are so dismissive about the All-Star Game and why every year at this time I have to hear how the All-Star Game is boring and they don't care (the ASG is not nearly as boring as hearing about how someone doesn't care).
Perhaps for them, the All-Star Game does need "fixing," and maybe, hopefully after I'm long gone, we'll have three-inning "games."
But right now, tonight, I will be sitting in front of my TV, ready for nine innings or more. I'll have my snacks ready just like I did when I was 13 years old, and I will hope the players on the field create a new memory for me -- Dave Parker gunning down Brian Downing at the plate; John Kruk ducking out of the batters box against Randy Johnson; Fernando striking out five straight AL batters; Brian McCann's bases-loaded double in the 7th to give the NL a long-awaited victory in 2010.
I don't remember all of them. But I do remember some.
And I remember enough to want to keep coming back for more. 🌟