No major sports event is worth its admission price without a good argument about it. Fans can have their choice on the eve of the 64th All-Star Game. One is exemplified by the fact it is called just the All-Star Game. Not the Baseball All-Star Game. That goes without saying. There may be an all-star game played by guys in shorts and tank tops creeping up in the television ratings. Or one played on skates. Or one played in somnolent Hawaii after all but the most rabid fans have tired of the season. It's The All-Star Game, and it will be played in Oriole Park at Camden Yards tomorrow evening.
The other argument is whether it's the major league All-Star Game or the Toronto All-Star Game. Toronto is the world champion, so its Cito Gaston manages the American League club. He has added so many of his own players to the roster that fans at Camden Yards may check the skyline to make sure what city they're in. The controversy over his selections -- more to the point, his omissions of such stars as Mickey Tettleton and Gregg Olson -- are part of a running argument that goes back some four decades.
Who should pick the players, the fans who keep the game alive or the professionals who presumably know their business? These days it's a combination of the two, and that's good for an argument just about every year. Should Cal Ripken Jr. be the fourth highest vote-getter this season? Should Cecil Fielder have been passed over last year? Do the fans really know enough to pick the best team from each league? Do the managers?
Tomorrow evening the arguments will all be forgotten. For the only time this year, virtually all of the best ballplayers in the nation will face each other on the same field. Not even the World Series can boast of such an accumulation of baseball talent. For true-blue, or gray, or orange, baseball fans there is no greater thrill than to watch the prime players of the season all at once. (Many of the players will admit there's no greater thrill for them, either.)
This will be the first All-Star Game in Baltimore since 1958, when Memorial Stadium was still fairly new. Mounting an All-Star festival, for that is what it is these days, is a major undertaking. The Orioles organization, cooperating with Major League Baseball, whose show it really is, has done its customary classy job. So has much of the Baltimore community, welcoming thousands of baseball fans from across the country with a six-day festival indoors and out.
There's been a lot of hoopla surrounding the game this past long weekend. It's been fun, but any fan knows the game's the thing. Play ball!