SAN DIEGO -- Last year belonged to Cal Ripken. This year belongs to Mark McGwire.
The home run derby that highlights the All-Star workout day has become a barometer of baseball batsmanship, at least over the past couple of years.
Ripken set a record when he hit 12 home runs at SkyDome during last year's All-Star workout. McGwire tied it yesterday with 12 homers to highlight the American League's 27-13 victory over the National League in the home run contest held at Jack Murphy Stadium.
McGwire had a chance to break Ripken's mark with his last swing, but his long fly ball fell on the warning track -- a couple of feet short of the fence.
Ripken was the first to hit in this year's derby, and he drove four balls into the seats. No National League batter hit more than four, but two AL sluggers did. Ken Griffey followed Ripken to the plate and hit seven. Joe Carter matched Ripken's four. Then McGwire hit eight straight and seemed certain to eclipse Ripken's record.
McGwire had eight with just one out. The contest allows each participant 10 outs. Any swing that doesn't result in a home run is considered an out.
The NL participants were Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds (two), San Diego Padres third baseman Gary Sheffield (four), Montreal outfielder Larry Walker (four) and Padres first baseman Fred McGriff (three).
Vincent cool under fire
The afternoon heat in Jack Murphy Stadium left his shirt soaked with sweat, but if Commissioner Fay Vincent was feeling the heat from owners displeased by what they perceive to be an excessive use of authority, he wasn't showing it.
"How can I be embattled when there's nothing they can do?" Vincent said.
"Judge Landis [baseball's first commissioner] set it up that the owners can't fire the commissioner.
"The commissioner can't be fired, can't change his authority and can't diminish his authority during his term of office."
He could resign, of course, and he might be asked to, but that's an offer he would refuse, Vincent said.
"The easiest thing I could do would be to resign," he said. "I don't need the job. I don't need the money. I could go to Europe. I haven't been to London in three years.
"But that would be the wrong thing to do for baseball. It would set a bad precedent. I'm not going to be pushed out."
Although Vincent is alleged to have irked a majority of the owners, it isn't clear how many of the 28 are behind a possible push.
"I've been getting calls from a lot of owners asking me not to resign.
"I mean, I wonder if there is a majority," he said of the alleged opposition. "If there is, it would probably change two days from now. Baseball is not a coalition that stays in shape very long."
Hands off Cal
The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a feature on Ripken that erroneously quoted The Washington Post as reporting that the Los Angeles Dodgers had offered Ripken a five-year contract worth $8 million per season.
Orioles president Larry Lucchino has not had a lot to laugh about during the contract negotiations with Ripken, but even he got a chuckle out of the report.
"All I can say is, they better not have," Lucchino said.
Baseball rules prohibit other teams from having any contact with potential free agents before they file for free agency. The penalties for tampering are severe. The writer of the story apparently misread speculation that a rich team such as the Dodgers might be willing to pay that much.
Cal on Cal
Ripken was quoted this week in USA Today as leaving open the possibility that he might leave Baltimore at the end of the year. He has said similar things before, but his comments brought the issue into the All-Star interview room.
"Ideally, you want to play with the same team the whole time," Ripken said. "That's what Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer did, and they were my heroes growing up. Realistically, you see players moving all around, and sometimes it's out of your control. To me, I know it will all work out."
Bush to attend
President Bush will be at the game, or at least a few innings of it. This is, after all, an election year, and the game will be viewed by millions of registered voters, so attendance by the chief executive would appear to be compulsory.
Harvey announces retirement
Longtime NL umpire Doug Harvey, who will be behind the plate for tonight's game, announced his retirement yesterday, effective at the end of the season.
"I had hoped to work 5,000 games," Harvey said. "I started the season at 4,775, so it looks like I'm not going to make it."
Harvey, who recently underwent knee surgery, has umpired for 31 years.
"I want you to know that I'm one of the more fortunate people in the world," he said. "There aren't too many people that somebody selects and says that you ought to be an umpire and then it happens. I've had two love affairs in my life -- my wife Joy of 32 years and the great game of baseball. Those two affairs have run concurrently and happily."