Incident between Kruk, Johnson helps CBS get back on the bean 1993 ALL-STAR GAME July 13, Baltimore

Phil Jackman

July 14, 1993|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,Staff Writer

Considering the efforts of some of the local stations and ESPN the night before, CBS had a formidable task trying to sustain the madcap interest that has surrounded the All-Star Game for days.

Somewhat hindered by the usual schedule of pre-game ceremonies, the network did a neat and efficient if not particularly memorable job on the 64th showcase of baseball's best.

Things didn't get off to an inviting start, the 8 p.m. opening consisting of a mishmash of rock-country-rap music, a blatant attempt to interest youth. If not a waste, it chewed up way too much time as pre-game features and banter were limited to little more than 15 minutes.

Host Pat O'Brien, whose sometimes cornball efforts take some getting used to, kept things moving swiftly, a talk with Cal Ripken (who else?) and highlights of Monday's old-timers' game and home run-hitting contest carrying the load.

Easily the feature of the early going of the game arrived in the third inning when the network was all over an incident involving Seattle pitcher Randy Johnson and Philadelphia hitter John Kruk.

The 6-foot-10 left-hander unloaded a fastball about six feet over Kruk's head at supersonic speed, and big, bad John wanted no more of this guy.

Cameras caught American League bench men guffawing, as if to say, "Take that, fella. We see that every day over in our league."

Another isolated shot showed the National League bench and manager Bobby Cox and his coaches shouting in unison, "He did that on purpose."

Whatever, the intimidation had its effect. Kruk refused to come within 10 feet of the plate as he waved at strikes Nos. 2 and 3. Johnson accommodated by dropping down sidearm, thus delivering the ball from somewhere over near first base.

As if admitting it was all a setup, Johnson strode off the mound with a huge smile on his face as he crossed paths with Kruk at the conclusion of the inning.

After days of high excitement in the downtown area, the start of the game seemed calm by comparison, but it didn't take long for things to heat up when Gary Sheffield took AL starter Mark

Langston deep with a man aboard.

In the pre-game introductions, which took nearly an hour, AL manager Cito Gaston caught all sorts of what-for for naming a hundred Toronto Blue Jays to the team. Actually, the fans should have saved some of the wrath for his selection of Langston to start the game.

The California Angels left-hander looked the part of the perfect batting practice pitcher as he laid slow-breaking curves on the bats of the Nationals.

The powerful AL was soon back in it, however, when Kirby Puckett homered in the second inning and Roberto Alomar did likewise an inning later to tie it.

Meanwhile, announcers Sean McDonough and Tim McCarver, who are as smooth as any team in the business despite working together just once a week, were at the top of their game offering interesting tidbits.

McDonough told the story of Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg doing rehab work in Florida up into May and the perennial All-Star asking his Single-A teammates about the postgame spread in the clubhouse. One of his mates mentioned that at that level of play, the concessionaire might drop off a few hot dogs from time to time.

With each batter, star or relative unknown, one of the Macs had an interesting side story, a welcome relief from those endless dissertations on pitcher-batter and base-running strategies, which have a tendency to induce coma.

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