Midsummer game is classic as it is don't try to fix it

July 12, 1993|By Rob Parker | Rob Parker,Knight-Ridder News Service

As we know, baseball needs to make changes in bringing the national pastime into the 1990s.

Better marketing. A sane TV package. Quicker games. Death to the designated hitter.

But one thing it shouldn't mess with is the All-Star Game. There's no sense fixing something that isn't broken.

With the midsummer classic, baseball truly has something to be proud of. All anyone would have to do is come to Baltimore and check out the festivities surrounding tomorrow's 64th All-Star Game at Oriole Park. For a sports fan, it doesn't get much better than this.

There are more than 300,000 square feet of fan attractions throughout the Convention Center and Festival Hall. Some fans waited in lines for nearly an hour yesterday to spend two minutes in the video batting cages trying to hit five "Roger Clemens" fastballs.

These activities, along with the game itself, clearly make this the best All-Star showcase going in pro sports. And don't cry foul, you NBA-heads.

Yes, the NBA throws a nice All-Star weekend, especially its parties. But the slam-dunk and three-point contests have lost ......TC lot of luster since the big stars -- namely, Michael Jordan -- quit competing.

And the game? It's an absolute bore -- unless you like to see unchallenged scoring.

The NFL's Pro Bowl is the worst. The best thing about this game is that it's played in Hawaii, or else the players wouldn't go.

Even the NHL's midseason, star-filled exhibition doesn't stand up. We know they don't check in the NHL All-Star Game the way they do during the regular season.

But in baseball, the game doesn't change just because it's more or less an exhibition. Pitchers don't go soft, as tacklers sometimes do. The infielders don't stop diving for balls.

One of the best things this game has to offer is seeing players from different leagues do battle: Barry Bonds vs. Randy Johnson. Ken Griffey against Tom Glavine. Cecil Fielder against John Smoltz.

Because the players in the two leagues don't face each other, it gives fans something extra. That's not the case in those other All-Star games.

And give me charisma, not stats.

For years, I argued that I'd rather see Reggie Jackson strike out three times than see Jim Rice hit three homers. Rice was productive, but boring. And though some don't like the fans' results in voting, they've done a pretty good job through the years.

"It's impossible to get it right," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "You could pick 50 guys on each squad, and people would say five more are deserving and they'd be right.

"You can't fix it."

There's no need to.

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