07/10/2002 2:03 AM ET
Bauman: ASG needed ending
MILWAUKEE -- As a general rule, you do not want your showcase event to end without a conclusion; without a winner, a loser, something that clearly indicates that a competitive athletic event has occurred.
Baseball Commisioner Bud Selig talks with the managers and umpires during the 11th inning Tuesday night. (Darren Hauck/AP)
When the announcement was made Tuesday night that the 73rd All-Star Game would not proceed past the 11th inning, the 41,871 patrons of the game in Miller Park booed. They booed as though the sale of beer and bratwurst had been permanently banned. They booed as though they had just learned that Brett Favre had been traded to the Chicago Bears.
"Let them play!" thousands of fans chanted. They were still chanting that when the main characters in this non-drama had finished the public wringing of hands that went along with this non-result.
But what could be done? The Americans had run out of pitchers. The Nationals had run out of pitchers. The Commissioner had run out of alternatives. The managers presented their cases to the Commissioner. We have no pitchers left, they said. Do not make us go on, and risk injury to pitchers who have been entrusted to our care, they said. The Commissioner was left to make the only decision the circumstances would allow him to make.
"As much as I hated to, with all the reluctance in the world, I really had no choice at the end," Bud Selig said as Tuesday night turned toward Wednesday morning.
"I feel bad for Bud, especially here," said American League manager Joe Torre. He was referring to Milwaukee, the Commissioner's hometown. But he could also have been referring to Miller Park, the house that Bud built, with a little help from his friends, the taxpayers of metropolitan Milwaukee.
Before this game, all of us were concerned that the Midsummer Classic has been "overshadowed." It has been "overshadowed" by the possibility of a strike, by rampant speculation about steroid use, by competitive imbalance, by whatever it was that had been troubling about baseball this week.
Well, for the moment, that "overshadowed" thing is history. The All-Star Game will not be overshadowed now, not when it went 11 innings and ended 7-7.
It's too bad, because what we had here, pre-tie, was evidence that the Midsummer Classic was still something special, something compelling, something sometimes even poignant. For a few hours Tuesday night, before we all ran out of pitchers, the quality of the baseball and the quality of the emotion was getting rid of that "overshadowed" label.
For instance, when Torii Hunter went to the center-field wall in the first inning and soared above it to take a home run away from Barry Bonds, were you thinking about the possibility of labor strife? No. You thought that it was an All-Star play by one of the finest outfielders of this generation.
When Bonds answered two innings later with a laser to right that was too supercharged to stay in the premises and be caught, did you ponder which revenue sharing plan had the most merit? No. You thought that like it or not, Bonds is one of the most amazing hitters in the history of baseball.
When Henry Aaron was introduced before the game in the city in which his career began and flourished and the ovation went on and on and on, were you concerned about artificial performance enhancements? No. You thought that "The Hammer" would get an ovation anywhere because of the 755 home runs, but that here, people remembered personally and were especially grateful. Or if they didn't remember personally, their parents had told them to be especially grateful.
When Curt Schilling threw 24 strikes in 28 pitches and allowed only one ball to be hit out of the infield against the best the American League had to offer, were you worried about contraction? No. You thought that great pitching beats great hitting. The game has always been this way, unchanging in principle, unchanging in result.
At any moment during the pregame festival of memorable moments did you feel that baseball was hopelessly dated, out of step with modern America, doomed to a completely secondary standing in contemporary society? No. You understood that each of these moments was an event that reached across the years and brought people together. You saw again how these moments had been and were still fundamental parts of American culture. You realized that Ken Burns was never going to do a PBS documentary on the XFL.
On this one night you felt the rush of emotions as decades of baseball history all converged in one more special moment-an All-Star Game. This should have been a moment of refreshment and reprieve for the grand old game.
But then there was this tie. For anybody who wants to take a shot at baseball -- and the number of these types are not decreasing -- this will be a golden opportunity to rip somebody. You know the drill. The Commissioner has become a perpetual target. Maybe the managers changed pitchers too often. Maybe the pitchers are too pampered. It was the All-Star Game, for Cy Young's sake. The last two guys were supposed to take the ball and keep throwing until they needed either oxygen or Tommy John surgery.
Bob Brenly, the National League manager, suggested that this was not a time to place blame. That was a good plan, but it will not be carried out by most of the people writing about this event.
What was the one thing you did not expect from this event? A tie. Or maybe you thought that the biggest surprise would occur if Jose Hernandez did not strike out. I'm sorry. He struck out twice. The tie wins, so to speak.
If you feel that somebody must be blamed, then go blame somebody. That's not the core thing here. At a moment when baseball needed a lift, a lot of uplifting stuff was, if not wasted, then certainly watered down by this draw.
Baseball may be a timeless game, but a baseball game requires an ending. There were wonderful moments here, but the lasting memory will be of a Midsummer Classic that had everything but a real result. The game deserved something better. The game needed something better.
Mike Bauman is the national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.