Monday, July 11, 2011
The 2011 MLB All-Star game is set to be played tonight in Phoenix. . . . So let's take a look back at Jim Murray's take on the All-Star Game from 1985.
It was a time when baseball was just a few years past a season-stopping strike (1981) that resulted in the cancellation of 713 games. That season, the All-Star Game was played on Aug. 9, the day before regular-season play resumed.
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 1985, SPORTS
Copyright 1985/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
An All-Star Blunder Is What It Would Be
I don't know what the definition of consummate arrogance is, but I think I've got an example.
Try this on for major league disdain. This is a line that could only be delivered by Basil Rathbone in his heyday. You can't say it, you have to sneer it:
"There is no contractual obligation ever for a player to play in an All-Star game. You could refuse to play in that game without engaging in a strike. There is nothing in a player's contract or in the Basic Agreement that requires players to play in an All-Star game."
Could Marie Antoinette have delivered those lines any better? Louis XIV? Any Czar? Does this make "Let 'em eat cake" sound like a concerned participant?
The lines were delivered in their virginal hauteur by Marvin Miller, who, the last time I looked, was the retired director of the players' association in baseball. He was commenting on the advisability of boycotting the annual All-Star baseball game in Minneapolis this summer.
I hope these guys do boycott. I'd be curious just to see how far the public tolerance goes with these dunderheads of baseball, management and player reps.
Now, about the All-Star game. It's my recollection that this extravaganza was brought into being originally by the late Arch Ward, a sports editor in Chicago, in 1933, for two reasons.
• Baseball was in trouble that Depression year. Attendance was down, the Yankees were dominating, and prospects looked gloomy.
• He thought it would be a good way to build up a pension fund for the players, who had none in those days.
The game caught on. Baseball was more uniquely suited to the All-Star format than any other sport, precisely because it is not a team game but a kaleidoscope of solo performances by the artists on the order of Heifetz on the violin.
It was such a nice idea, that they started to play two of them a year. That was not such a nice idea, but my recollection is that the two games were scheduled at the urging of the players themselves. More money for the pensions.
All this, of course, was before players got millions of dollars a year for mediocre pitching, indifferent hitting and questionable lifestyles.
There's a syllogism in modern sports philosophy that goes something like this: (a) all ballplayers are in it for the money; (b) all owners are in it for the money; (c) therefore, all sport is in it for the money.
Well, the major premise (a) may be so. The minor premise (b) is not so. All owners are not in it for the money. I don't believe George Steinbrenner is. Other motivations drive him. I know the late Phil Wrigley was not. I know the late Tom Yawkey was not. I know Gene Autry is not.
Players are in baseball because that is what they do well. Marvin Miller is in labor negotiations because that is what he does well. The only owner I can think of who is in baseball because that is what he does well is Peter O'Malley. The Chicago Tribune owns the Cubs, but baseball is not really the Tribune's bag. Ted Turner owns the Atlanta Braves, but baseball is not his bag, either. It's not Bob Laurie's, John Galbreath's, nor Nelson Doubleday's.
I just don't see this as a labor dispute between the Colorado miners and John D. Rockefeller. It's not the UAW vs. the stockholders of General Motors. As I said, ballplayers are not the girls in the Triangle shirtwaist fire.
But, regardless, the All-Star game is hardly the proper vehicle for aggressive unioneering. It's kind of like dynamiting baby carriages.
The All-Star game is a kind of harmless little sideshow drummed up to call attention to the main event. It's the circus parade that used to move through town the morning they put up the big top.
I don't see it as a proper hostage at all in this warfare between owners and players. I mean, what do you do for an encore — burn bubblegum cards?
Labor negotiations are studies in brinkmanship. But why dangle the All-Star game over the precipice? It's as if the player reps were interested in showing their seriousness, like kidnapers mailing fingers to the family if the ransom isn't forthcoming.
If it's a show of force, we baseball fans don't need it. We remember the strike of 1981 all too well. If these guys are going to keep this game in thrall every few seasons, one of these years the little old fan is going to get fed up and tell them, "Keep it."
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times.
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247