Baseball's All-Star Game has outlived its usefulness, callers were telling Stan Charles on his WCAO talk show the other night. The game means nothing, they said. It interrupts pennant races. The balloting is no more than a popularity contest. And in the television age it's not as if tonight's game in Toronto is the only chance we have to see the stars of both leagues.
"The game is an anachronism," said Dr. Arnold Davidov, a Roland Park pharmacist. "If the Orioles had a regular league game instead, I'd like it better than an All-Star Game."
These are valid concerns, but it seems to me the All-Star break is still a good idea. Notice I said "break." Does it really matter whether the American League or the National League wins the game? Of course not.
But in a grueling, 162-game baseball season -- and no matter how much money the players earn, it is grueling -- a three-day hiatus at the midway point is good for everybody, fans included. Also-ran clubs like the Orioles get a chance to regroup. And if there's going to be a break, certainly there should be a game.
The worst was when there were two All-Star Games every summer, which we had from 1959-1962. The second was to raise funds for the players' pension fund. Two-a-year cheapened the All-Star experience.
Not all major-league cities are like ours, but here the fans know and care little about the NL. You could stump a lot of so-called baseball fans in Baltimore simply by asking which club the NL's starting pitcher tonight, Tom Glavine, plays for. It's Atlanta. Many would tell you the AL starter, Jack Morris, pitches for Detroit. He went to the Twins this year.
Orioles outfielder Dwight Evans learned the hard way a decadago that the All-Star balloting is a popularity contest. That summer Evans was batting .341 for the Red Sox at the break. He was beaten out for a starting spot by a .199 hitter -- Reggie Jackson, then in his last year with the Yankees.
* Insiders involved in the construction of the beautiful new baseball park at Camden Yards feel the best thing that happened to the project was getting Bruce H. Hoffman on board. Says one about Hoffman, who is executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority: "Before Bruce came on, the people in charge were letting the Orioles shove them around."
By the way, Hoffman says that in his opinion the two leading contenders among the many names suggested for the park are Camden Yards and Oriole Park. My guess is it'll be Camden Yards because of the historic connotation.
* Say this for the Blast fans: they're a loyal bunch, and they care deeply about the players. So many of them called the Blast office to express their sorrow over the death last week of 27-year-old Mike Reynolds, whom they describe as "a super kid," that a public memorial service will be held tonight at 6 at the Du Burns Arena in Canton. Monsignor Martin Schwallenberg, Baltimore's unofficial sports chaplain, will preside.
* One thing I like about The Evening Sun's High School Athlete of the Year awards luncheon, which we've held each May for 25 years, is getting to meet Athletes of the Week I may have missed during the year. One of those this year was 17-year-old golfer Justin Klein, a terrific young man who'll be a senior at Gilman in the fall.
That gave me a rooting interest in Klein as he won the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play championship last weekend at Mount Pleasant. Justin told me he wants to go to Duke. That'll be good news to the Duke golf coach.
* The dumbest football owner of the year has to be Bruce McNall, of the Toronto Argonauts. He signed Rocket Ismail for $26 million and the sensational but small Notre Damer is hurt and uncertain for tonight's Canadian Football League opener with Ottawa. Ismail has missed three exhibitions and three weeks of practice and McNall is telling the rookie he doesn't like his attitude. NFL owners must be chortling.