All-Star Game--It's a Celebration of Baseball


When the two managers ran down the lineups for tonight's All-Star game, the juice flowed.

Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire. . . .

Ryne Sandberg, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith. . . .

All-Star games are small bolts of baseball lightning thrown into the middle of a long season--meaningless, forgettable contests that bring the biggest names in the game to one city, one ballpark, one electric moment.

They should not cause veteran baseball men to tingle, yet they somehow do. Jim Lefebvre, a coach this year, an All-Star second baseman in 1966, vividly remembers walking into the clubhouse in '66.

"My God, it was awesome," he said. "I walked into the National League locker room, and there was Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Henry Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Juan Marichal. I think seven, eight guys from that team went right to the Hall of Fame."

Eight did, not counting five others on the American League team.

And that is why these midsummer games are so extraordinary. Over a long season, fans can head to the Kingdome or Wrigley Field or Dodger Stadium as often as they like and see the best teams in the game. But once a season, only once, the best and brightest get together, grinning like Little League honorees, and play a little baseball.

It's like every youngster's baseball card collection come to life for a day, and not even the players seem quite able to get over the impact.

"I can sit at my locker and look over at Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Kirby Puckett, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire," Randy Johnson said. "And they're on my team for a couple days."

Jammed together in two clubhouses in July are October's award winners. From this group will come 1990's Cy Young Award winners, a pair of MVPs.

"You fill out the lineup card, then look at what you've got on your bench," laughed AL manager Tony La Russa, "and you're dazzled. You might win a pennant with that bench."

"Sometimes you feel like an old man by the Fourth of July in this game," Dawson said. "Then you show up here, and it's like you're a little kid again. For a day, you can forget the standings and just enjoy being around the best ballplayers there are."

This is major league baseball's company picnic, a big, friendly game in which every player wants to show that he can still do what he did at last year's picnic. It's for bragging rights and in-your-face taunts, all good-natured.

Ozzie Smith (10) and Lance Parrish (9) lead their teams in All-Star appearances. Seventeen players will be making their first All-Star appearances.

Aaron, Mays and Stan Musial, appeared in 24 All-Star games.

When they suit up today, a handful of 1990 All-Stars will be a day closer to the Hall of Fame.

"It's like falling in love with the game all over again," McGwire said. "It's just fun. Sometimes you forget that. It's just wonderful to have this much fun."

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