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07/13/05 1:24 AM ET
NL notes: La Russa's luck runs out
National League skipper loses first All-Star Game in four tries
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Bill Giles can't get a break. The National League's honorary president had counted on Tony La Russa's magic touch to snap his All-Star losing streak and get him a step closer to his father's legacy. "When my father, Warren, was the National League's president from 1951 to 1971, we won 75 percent of the All-Star Games," Giles, chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies, had lamented. "I'm zippo. But now I've got Tony." Alas, he's still zippo. Tuesday night's 7-5 loss in the 76th All-Star Game was the NL's fourth consecutive since Giles was named the league's honorary president in 2001, at the same time Jackie Autry was accorded that honor with the American League. La Russa had won in each of his three prior All-Star managerial assignments, for the AL, in 1989-91. He would have become the first to manage All-Star wins in each league out of the four who have had that opportunity -- Sparky Anderson, Alvin Dark and Dick Williams were the others. The 11 Black Aces & counting: Not too long ago, Vida Blue preached to Dontrelle Willis about one of the most unique groups of men in baseball history: African-Americans who have logged 20-win seasons. Blue talked to the Marlins left-hander about his chances to join the 12 Black Aces. What the former Oakland great forgot to mention is Willis' opportunity to again make the 12 Black Aces whole. Earl Wilson, who joined the club-to-be in 1967, passed away April 23, leaving the group one short of living up to its title. "I definitely would love to be in that group. I'll hope and pray," Willis said on his way to the NL pitchers' pre-practice meeting before Tuesday night's All-Star Game. "It'd be nice, a very high honor." D-Train's nomination is in place: He took a 13-4 record into the break, setting up well to become the first African-American to win 20 in 15 years; the line ended in 1990, with Dave Stewart. "We'll see. It'd definitely be an honor to do something like that. That's a special group," Willis said. "And I'm real happy for the attention those guys are getting now. Personally, I don't think they've gotten as many accolades as they deserve." Let there (still) be light: Due to Detroit's location on the extreme fringe of the Eastern time zone, this was the first All-Star Game in a long time to actually start in daylight. Even though Mark Buehrle didn't make his first pitch to Bobby Abreu until 8:44 p.m., Comerica Park was awash in plenty of daylight. The lights didn't take full effect until the fourth inning. His brother's keeper: All-Stars traditionally go out of their way to treat family and friends, but no one enjoyed a bigger perk than the older brother of St. Louis shortstop Dave Eckstein. Rick Eckstein, a batting coach for Vermont (New York-Penn League) in the Washington organization, was here not only as a guest of his brother, but as a full-fledged member of the NL All-Star Team. David, the NL's starting shortstop, asked his and NL manager Tony La Russa whether there could be a spot for Rick. "Bring him along. We'll find something for him to do," La Russa replied. So there was Rick, dressing in his Nationals uniform in the visitors clubhouse right next to David. "When David called to tell me and asked, 'Will you be coming?' I said, 'Darn right,'" said Rick, still shaking his head over the treat. All-Star Game events offered a welcomed distraction from the brothers' concerns over their dad, Whitey Eckstein, due for a kidney transplant on Aug. 9. Kidney failure is a genetic epidemic in the tight Eckstein family. David called home late Sunday night prior to boarding a San Francisco-to-Detroit flight. Whitey answered, but only to gasp, "I can't breathe. Here's your mom." "It's the second episode like that he's had," David said before going out for batting practice. "It's tough, but we think he'll be OK." No mystery: David Eckstein had a unique perspective on the AL's All-Star dominance, which reached eight straight wins Tuesday night. He was the only NL All-Star who concluded the 2004 season in the AL. Eckstein isn't puzzled, in so many words saying, "Just take a look at the starting lineups." "It's one of those things," said the former Angels firebrand. "They're pretty good over there. Man for man ... I definitely can't do what [Miguel] Tejada does with the bat." Eckstein was selling himself short, so to speak, but did make a valid point. The AL's starting shortstop has 209 career homers, 19 this season. Eckstein checked in with 19 career homers. Such differences, of course, merely reflect the leagues' alternate styles. "They play great ball over there and score a lot of runs, but they do have a different style of thinking," Eckstein said. "We try to get men on base and move them around. They're out there to get the big hit." Say Rey: Bobby Abreu indeed got the royal treatment from his native Venezuelan press after his 41-homer display to win Monday night's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby. Caracas' El Universal declared him "Rey del cuadrangular" (king of the quadrangular, obviously a Latin colloquialism for home run). The tall headline in another Caracas newspaper, El Nacional, saluted him as "Super Bob." Kent can: Moises Alou has gotten most of the travelogue attention for becoming only the second player to be an All-Star in five different uniforms (Gary Sheffield last season became the first), but Jeff Kent isn't far behind. The Dodgers' NL starter at second is representing his third team in five years. He made it with the Astros last season, and in 2001 had his last of three straight selections with the Giants. "It's been a good career," said the hard-nosed 37-year-old. "Some bumps along the way, but I'm still plugging away." Andruw's search over: If Andruw Jones has been looking for a nickname, he may have found it in Monday night's Derby. Just call him Dutch Jones, after the Braves outfielder went to bat for The Netherlands. He was born in Curacao, a part of the Netherlands Antilles.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.