Until the mid-1970s, baseball's All-Star Game was one of America's top four sporting events. All eyes were glued to the Midsummer Classic.
No way, you say?
The World Series was always No. 1, followed by the Rose Bowl, the All-Star Game, the Indy 500 and, beginning in the late '60s, the Super Bowl.
Somehow, life went on.
And then along came Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football and America's sporting landscape has never been the same. Today, the All-Star Game has no more appeal than a Thursday night college football game between Boise State and TCU. Maybe less.
How did this happen? The All-Star Game became the Some-Star Game. Last year, for example, Dodgers middle reliever Hong Chih Kuo played in the All-Star Game. Look it up.
Kuo is in his seventh year on the Dodgers staff - who knew? - and is 12-15 lifetime with 13 career saves and a 3.41 ERA. He played in the same Some-Star Game with Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, a .269 career hitter who has never hit more than six home runs in a year.
In four days, the All-Star Game to be played in downtown Phoenix, which, to some, has all the appeal of walking through a midsummer haboob. Here's what we think of it:
3 reasons we like the All-Star Game
1. Forty years ago, 1971, the All-Star Game was played in a tidy 2 hours 5 minutes. Only eight pitchers were used. It was baseball when the grass was real (Tiger Stadium).
It was an All-Star Game in which a mere 42 total players were deployed. Nobody needed an introduction.
The starting lineups included the titans of the industry - Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Luis Aparicio.
That's 10 Hall of Famers in the starting lineup. Incredibly, seven Hall of Famers weren't good enough to start. They began that night on the bench - Pete Rose, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline and Jim Palmer.
The star-power of baseball has diminished greatly.
2. The All-Star Game became and remained popular for 40 years because, except for the World Series, it was the one time all year you got to see National League legends like Mays, Aaron and Stan Musial on TV.
The only regular-season baseball televised nationally until the early '70s was the CBS Game of the Week, which almost always featured the Yankees. The average baseball fan in Wyoming, Arkansas and Iowa didn't get to see Clemente until the All-Star Game.
It was the most anticipated baseball game of the year.
3. In 1979, I acquired two treasured (upper deck) seats to the All-Star Game at the Seattle Kingdome. I drove from Oregon and my dad drove from Utah and we arrived at the ballpark five hours before the first pitch and walked around wonderful (and cool) downtown Seattle soaking in the baseball atmosphere.
Those first pitches that afternoon - it was a day game! - were thrown by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton in a game that featured 13 future Hall of Famers.
3 reasons we don't like the All-Star Game
1. It's in downtown Phoenix in July. Are you kidding? Wasn't Death Valley available? It's dark inside Chase Field, which is a warehouse with dugouts. It translates on TV with the charm of a political convention.
The All-Star Game has been played at Fenway Park once since 1961 and once at Wrigley Field since 1962.
Those are baseball shrines, outdoors and intimate, and if baseball used its head, it would rotate the All-Star Game between those two sites every other year.
2. The rosters are bloated with unrecognizable faces; too many players are utilized.
Last year, 82 players were named to the All-Star rosters because of injuries (real and manufactured) and upcoming pitching rotations. The game required 2 hours 59 minutes and 19 pitchers were used. The late-inning pitching changes required so much time, and so many TV commercials, that the game became unwatchable.
And last year wasn't the worst of it. In 2008, 63 players were used in the Some-Star Game.
3. Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton was selected to the game because rules require each team to be represented. Upton is typical of the Some-Star approach to the All-Star Game. He has struck out 515 times in 509 career games and has modest numbers: 15 homers and 46 RBIs, which don't project to a 30-100 season. Upton is not a real all-star.
In 1962, Harmon Killebrew did not make the All-Star team, even though he led the American League in homers (48) and RBIs (126) that year, and was coming off a '61 season in which he hit 46 homers.
Killebrew was a genuine all-star, but the game was so big that even he couldn't get in it all the time.
If you go
• What: 82nd All-Star Game
• When: 5 p.m. Tuesday (Ch. 11)
• Where: Chase Field
• At stake: Home-field advantage in the World Series
MLB all-star game events today in the Phoenix area
Jr. RBI Classic
• When: 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
• Where: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 7555 North Pima Road, Scottsdale (baseball) and Chaparral Park, 5401 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale (softball).
• What: Eight baseball and four softball youth teams, ages 11-12, will play in a friendly 40-game tournament. The teams are part of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities program.
• When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Where: Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St.
• What: Interactive exhibits and attractions, clinics and seminars, free autograph sessions and memorabilia. Cost is $30; $25 for college students, military personnel, adults 65 and older and children 3-12; free for children 2 and younger.
All-Star Challenger- Champions Game
• When: 3:30 p.m.
• Where: Chase Field.
• What: A game for children with physical and mental challenges.
Jr. RBI Classic Opening Ceremony, clinic
• When: 6 p.m.
• Where: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
• What: Jr. RBI Classic opening ceremony, followed by Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation clinic.