Meet me in St. Louis?

Pete RoseI like to tell this story, which is about to become obsolete this week. In all of these years of covering and writing about sports, I have been to exactly two All-Star Games. One was the 2002 NBA All-Star Game at the Wachovia Center. As I recall, I watched the first quarter of the game, saw Michael Jordan miss a dunk and Ali and Joe Frazier sit together at courtside, and took off.

That was enough.

The other All-Star Game was the eighth grade CYO spectacular where our Sacred Heart squad turned out a 2009 Phillies-esque representation at the game. This one I stuck around to the end, started the game and had a game-high 12 points.

But this year I could avoid the Major League All-Star Game no more. After years of watching – dating back to the 1978 game – I’m actual going to witness this made-for-TV event. Call it a behind-the-scenes look at the bastardization and corporatization of our beloved game.

You know, all the things that everyone loves.

As such, certainly the big guns in baseball will be in St. Louis this week. We’ll have the self-important national media types as and league officials as well as a cadre of Hall of Famers and celebrities like Rollie Fingers and Alyssa Milano.

See, who would want to miss that.

Of course Ryan Howard will be in the worst of all made-for-TV travesties called the Home Run Derby where ESPN is required to show 35 commercials for every meatball of a pitch thrown and offer Chris Berman at his most nauseating.

Listening to Chris Berman is a lot like trying to put your entire fist into your mouth. Not only is it difficult and a tremendous waste of time, but if you succeed and get those knuckles past an incisor and/or molar and actually get your fist in your mouth, you know… then what?

All you are is some jackass sitting there in front of the TV with your fist in your mouth… how are you going to get it out?

My advice? Don’t listen to Berman — turn down the sound if you must. And please, for the love of all that’s holy, do not put your fist in your mouth.

Regardless, watching this show from inside of the ballpark-turned-TV studio will be a hoot. Veteran ball scribes say the Monday before the All-Star Game is the longest work day ever. It’s even longer than busy days at the winter meetings, which just so happens to be every day at the winter meetings.

But since I write sentences about baseball for a living, the work doesn’t bother me. It gets busy and the days long, but so what. Baseball writers that complain about the work and the writing should go dig ditches or get a job as a stagehand for Chris Berman.

bud-seligAnyway, as a veteran observer of the All-Star Game, here are some of the most memorable moments I have seen either with my eyes or through osmosis.

• Bo Jackson’s leadoff homer in 1989
Who didn’t love Bo Jackson?

• That pre-game Ted Williams thing at Fenway in 1999

A couple of years later they cut off Ted’s head and froze it. They even named the MVP Award after Williams which is apt. Williams was the personification of the selfish ballplayer whose greatest on-the-field glory came in the All-Star Game. It certainly wasn’t the only World Series he played in.

• The crazy 1987 All-Star Game in Oakland

Tim Raines won this won for the NL with a two-run triple in the 13th – the only runs of the game. The American League almost won the game in the ninth when Phillie Steve Bedrosian nailed Dave Winfield attempting to score from second on a botched double play.

• Brad Lidge throwing 100 pitches in the bullpen
According to Charlie Manuel the first rule of the All-Star Game is to return players back to their teams healthy. Maybe K-Rod ought to get his right arm limber for all those times he is going to warm up on Tuesday night.

• Pete Rose decking Ray Fosse
Arguably the most famous play in All-Star Game history. This is the one where Rose bowled over Fosse in order to score the winning run in the 1970 game and separated the catcher’s shoulder. The thing about the play was Fosse never had the ball. He also spent the night before the game having dinner with Rose.

• Commissioner Bud Selig flapping his arms during extra innings of the 2002 game
According to Charlie Manuel the first rule of the All-Star Game is to return players back to their teams healthy. Therefore, managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly didn’t want to continue the game past the 11th inning when both teams ran out of pitchers. Forced with making a spontaneous decision in Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Selig freaked and flapped his arms like a pigeon attempting to leap over a mud puddle.

Aside from cancelling the 1994 season, the arm flapping was Selig’s most memorable moment.

It ain’t about the numbers

shane-victorinoI can’t help it. I know all about the objectivity of the job and all of that, but I really can’t help it.

I really hope Shane Victorino makes it to the All-Star Game next week in St. Louis.

There, I said it. In fact, I told Victorino as much before Monday night’s game against the Reds. Of course I told him this after I busted his stones about Pablo Sandoval having far superior statistics and that the Giants’ rookie really suffered an injustice when he wasn’t named to the National League squad.

“It ain’t about numbers anymore,” Victorino said. “It’s a popularity contest.”

He has that right, but then again it’s always been a popularity contest. But my motives for Victorino getting to St. Louis are completely selfish. Oh sure, Victorino is as worthy of an All-Star nod as anyone in the league. Though his numbers don’t pop off the page, they are above average and he has been a consistent cog for a team that has been wildly inconsistent.

But I told Vic that I hope he gets there even after he explained how he spent Monday afternoon going door-to-door along Oregon Avenue with Mayor Michael Nutter. Of course he had to endure more teasing about the mayor of Philadelphia taking time out of his busy day to help him get to the All-Star Game.

“What, are you going to go help him with his budget deficit after the game? You’re doing all of this just to spend three days in St. Louis?”

Victorino knew why guys like me want him in St. Louis. He understands the media-player dynamic and has seen how stodgy and scripted ballplayers are in press situations. It’s like they are coached to be as uninteresting as possible, which is no fun for anyone.

Nope, there is no altruism about wanting Victorino to get to the All-Star Game and he knew it.

“You just want me to do something bleeping stupid at the All-Star Game,” he said.

“Well, yeah…”

Oh, but it was much more than that. Certainly if Vic were to “do something bleeping stupid,” it would be very entertaining. In fact, it was a blast to see him in the World Baseball Classic and the madness he must have spewed into the notebooks of the scribes covering those games. However, if Victorino were to get to St. Louis there would actually be someone (gasp!) to talk to. That’s downright revolutionary in this age of verbosity.

Besides, the other Phillies in St. Louis won’t be free to cut loose like Victorino. Chase Utley doesn’t have much to say unless he’s dropping F-bombs before large crowds and Ryan Howard will be in his hometown and surely will have a limited amount of time to hang around and chat. Manager Charlie Manuel likely will only be able to offer official comments from a podium or to the right’s holders, though we’re pretty sure Chuck will offer up some nuggets to the hometown scribes.

Charlie is good like that.

Nevertheless, it’s Victorino who might be the go-to guy. Hey, the guy just can’t help himself. Here’s an example of that:

After Game 3 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium last October, I waited out Victorino. Taking his time to emerge from the off-limits areas, Victorino knew media types wanted to ask him about the bench-clearing incident with Hiroki Kuroda. Word had been sent out that he wasn’t going to talk about it, but c’mon. We all knew how he was.

So when he walked over to his locker in that old visitors’ clubhouse in Los Angeles, I kind of held up my palms, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Yo Shane, what’s up?”

“What’s up with what?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“Yeah.”

“Well…”

“I’m not talking about it.”

That’s when he talked about it for 15 minutes.

Hey, the guy just can’t help himself and bygolly, get this guy to the All-Star Game so we have someone to talk to.

And just to be sure, I won’t cast a vote for Victorino. I’ll root for him to get there, but won’t cross the line to actually cast a vote.

Besides, have you seen Sandoval’s numbers? How did he get left off the roster?

*

Oh yeah, has anyone seen the big No. 8 on the big Amtrak building next to 30th Street Station? Obviously the city is rallying to try and get Victorino that trip to St. Louis, but what about the guys who actually made the team already? Charlie, Utley, Howard and Raul Ibanez are in… where’s their building?