Forty years ago today, I covered the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego. I know I was there. It’s right here in my scorebook.
But I don’t remember a thing about the game. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember much about any of the games I covered – except the last one, the Sox-Yanks playoff – during my one year as a newspaper baseball writer.
Still, there are thousands of words in my memoir about baseball and baseball players.
I recount in great detail covering Jackie Robinson’s funeral in New York in 1972 and an awkward interview with another of my boyhood Brooklyn Dodger heroes, Duke Snider, in Montreal in 1975.
I write a lot about life on the baseball beat and relationships with those who resided within that world. About drinking and talking with Billy Martin and Joe Torre, Tony Kubek and Early Wynn; about friendships and clashes with the 1978 Blue Jays I saw nearly every day from spring to fall as a reporter for the Toronto Sun.
I was thirty-one years old that season. By then, as a journalist, I’d already gone through the holy-shit-I’m-standing-next-to-Willie-Mays phase – at Jackie Robinson’s funeral.
And, as a fan and a man, I’d survived the awakening that I was older than many of my favorite players, like Fisk and Lynn and Rice on the Red Sox, who had replaced the carpetbagger Dodgers as my team.
So, when I showed up at that all-star game in San Diego, it was just another day at the office.
Yet, through the lens of history, it looks a lot more interesting than it was at the time. From the distance of decades, I have a greater appreciation of some of the players on the field that day.
The best of the best were the hitmen: Rod Carew, perhaps the most talented batsman I ever saw; George Brett, who evoked memories of Ted Williams at the plate; Pete Rose, brimming with menace and fury.
The starting pitcher for the American League was Jim Palmer, the brilliant right-hander and budding underwear model.
Palmer, Carew and Brett were among seventeen future Hall of Famers on the rosters. (We’ll leave the question of Rose’s absence from Cooperstown for another time.)
The featured attraction, if you watched the game on ABC with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Drysdale in the broadcast booth, was Ted Giannoulas, the pride of London, Ontario, making his U.S. national television debut as the San Diego Chicken.
But, like I said, I don’t remember much about that day.
Not Captain & Tennille singing The Star Spangled Banner. (Or if anyone performed O Canada in recognition of the teams from north of the border, the Blue Jays and Expos.)
Not Ray Kroc, the hamburger man who owned the hometown Padres, throwing out the first pitch.
Not Dave Winfield, the young Padres outfielder, getting the loudest ovation when the players were introduced.
Not Carew’s two triples. Not Steve Garvey’s leadoff triple – three triples in one game! – in the bottom of the eighth. Or Garvey’s dash home on a wild pitch by Goose Gossage to score the go-ahead run.
What I now most recall about Garvey, of the Dodgers, is that he was nicknamed Mr. Clean and had a Hollywood marriage with TV personality Cyndy Garvey …
… until he was caught as a big league philanderer.
Meanwhile, the National League won, 7-3, its seventh all-star game victory in a row. It would win four more to run the streak to 11. (From 1959 to 1982, the American League won only twice.)
The game was played in two hours and thirty-two minutes – the modern equivalent of about four innings of a Yanks-Sox game at Fenway Park.
Ten runs were scored and no home runs were hit – the modern equivalent of a total eclipse of the sun.
I’m getting all this – the stats, not the equivalencies – from my scorebook and online sources.
I don’t have a copy of my story from the next day’s Sun, but I bet it included a line on the only Blue Jay in the game, Roy Howell, batting against Steve Rogers of the Expos, grounding out to first.
Now that I think of it, I do remember the hotel bar, outside, on a marina, and having lunch on an aircraft carrier the day before the game.
Thirteen years later, I covered another all-star game, at the SkyDome in Toronto in 1991, as a feature writer for Canadian Press.
I don’t remember a thing about it.