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You Could Read Handwriting in the Sky

Times Staff Writer

The All-Star game is, of course, meaningless, except as it establishes the season’s symbolic halfway point. It dresses up the game a little, shows it off, casts it in its best light. So it’s amazing, when you think about it, that nobody ever thought to put the ushers in tuxedos before.

That may be what you’ll remember about the 60th All-Star game--Anaheim Stadium ringed by perhaps a hundred folks in cummerbunds. Bo Jackson’s shot onto the tarp behind center field--448 feet according to an announcement in the press box--was sensational. But the site of so many people in tuxedos, 380 in all according to a man running the elevator in formal wear, was somehow unnerving.

It was obvious that the All-Star game has come to represent an opportunity for window dressing. Some Disney characters cavorted in the pregame ceremony. And that was unnerving, too, seeing Chip and Dale in foul territory. But, all in all, the ceremony of the game was much like the Main Street Parade: Organized, unlittered and modestly entertaining.

Good idea, no, to invoke some friendly cartoon figures in a season, in a game, that has been notable for the mistresses and bookmakers which some players are said to be involved.

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Beyond that, the scene seemed to be remarkable as much for the stuff above the stadium as in it. The sky has become a vast billboard for these events. It was interesting to stand on the field during the pregame activity and see the Goodyear blimp drag its shadow directly over the field. Once upon a time, a blimp was all that occupied the sky in these events, and that was plenty annoying enough.

But Tuesday night there were enough planes and skywriters to cause consideration of mandatory domed stadiums for big events such as these. The sky was cluttered with messages and, most disappointing of all, a happy face. It was excruciating to sit in Anaheim Stadium and watch the tiny plane fill in the eyes, the nose and eventually the smile with its smoke. The little plane that could.

The air traffic was considerable. During a lull in the game, a fan with a cellular phone at his side would have been able to dial a 900 number. This was advertised on a streamer pulled by a small plane, around and around. “Fans 4 Rose,” it promised. A phone call got the fan a recorded message from Ty Gaston of Millionaire Sports, a call for a national petition to free Rose from allegations of gambling on his own team. “Gambling is as old as prostitution,” Ty began, offering a logic that only a few baseball commissioners would find compelling as a defense.

It may have been the only reminder that the game is more like an emperor with no clothes than an usher in a tuxedo these days. Ty went on to say that all the evidence against Rose has been supplied by “notorious hoodlums, and us fans and gamblers will not tolerate it.” Even at the All-Star game, the year’s lingering sordidness was available.

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The rest of the air pollution was more commonplace. The Los Angeles Police Dept. advertised for new officers, a man with a strange name disclosed wedding plans by a plane-tugged banner. Here was one: “The Chinese don’t have a 2nd amendment.”

The usual stuff. Yet Bo Jackson said afterward that he was mightily stirred by four F-14s that appeared on the horizon for a nifty fly-by.

“I got more kick out of watching the F-14s than hitting the ball out,” he said. He admitted, “I am a big military man. My weakness.”

The F-14s were impressive, though they lacked the velocity of Jackson’s drive over the center-field wall. In any event, they were the high point of the Anaheim Air Show, which also featured, sadly, the happy-face plane chugging across the sky to write “All Stars.” The poor aircraft, without the resources of jets, maybe even propellers, could not finish “Stars” before “All” had melted into dimming sky. It was kind of sad to see.

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Of course, things happened inside the stadium, too. It was fun to see the players grouped in center field before the game for a team picture. Fun to watch them afterward form lines and walk past shaking hands. It was so high school-like. As if this were fun for them, too.

And it was fun--odd, too--to see the field still ringed with men in tuxedos a half-hour after the game ended. It was as if the game had dignity, after all, untainted by the stuff that has swirled around it this season and, for a night, above it, too.


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