Friday, September 01, 2006

1981 All Star Game

I don't know if the Indians had off, or their game was over or rained out, but last night, when I got home after the Seawolves game at like 10 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio was showing the 1981 MLB All-Star game. I found the action riveting.

The game took place at Cleveland's old Municipal Stadium and was "almost a sellout." I'm kind of disspointed I wasn't there, as I was like 14... I barely remember the game, but for some reason, when Gary Carter came up in like the fifth inning, I knew in advance he was going to hit a home run. He actually hit another one later and was the MVP.

1981 was the year of the strike that split the season, and this was the first game following the strike, so it was a bit controversial, and nobody knew how the players would look or the fans would react. Players looked great. There was some solid hitting by the likes of Ken Singleton, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, Mike Easler, Dave Parker, etc. And the fans seemed fairly happy, but then again with was at the old stadium and it was hard not to have a good time there.

It did strike me how much the game has changed in some 25 years. To me it seems like this was almost yesterday, but on screen it looked like ancient history. Just the italics used in the graphics, for instance. Or, how un-buff, and skinny the players were. Clearly no juice in these days. Also, you had things like Bucky Dent being pinch hit for. I don't think any manager would dare insult a player in today's day and age by pinch hitting for him in an All-Star game for any other reason than a scheduled substitution. Dent was clearly replaced in an attempt to upgrade the offense with a couple men on base. And then Jim Frey, the Royals manager who was at the helm of the A.L., had Carlton Fisk try and lay down a bunt with runners on first and second and no one out. A sacrifice in an All-Star game by an accomplished hitter like Fisk?

Another curiousity was the fact that at one point Fisk, Rick Burleson, Dewey Evans, and Fred Lynn were all in the game at once, but only Evans was in a Bosox uniform. They had all been Red Sox teammates just a couple years earlier. Why exactly were the Red Sox at that time losing players to everyone else? Didn't they have money back then?

The uniforms, of course, were great. The Pirates guys had bright yellow pants and shirts. Vida Blue, with his great high leg kick, had on a black-and-orange Giants' get up. Bo Diaz was the Indians' only All Star. The fans raggedly dressed as a whole, typical I guess of Indians fans in the early 1980s. The field was atrocious, as a "football game had been played there the night before." The strike clearly brought that into play, but as the game took place in early August, couldn't we have moved what was obviously a preseason football game?

Also, Joe Garriagiola and Tony Kubek were announcing the game. One of them said they were talking to Gabe Paul, who must have been in his second stint as Cleveland's GM at the time, and Paul had described the city of Cleveland as "a sleeping giant" when it comes to baseball. Meaning that if they built a winner, the fans would turn out in droves. They then extolled the virtue of the '81 team, which was playing .500 ball (but I'm assuming eventually crashed and burned). Paul, however, did prove a bit of a visionary, because when Cleveland did finally get a winner in 1990s- and build a new park, I should add,they sold out like 900 consecutive games.

One comment that did not prove visionary, was Garrigiola's comparing the Dodgers youngster, Pedro Guerrero, (or maybe it was Kubek who did this) to a young Willie Mays... If it was Kubek, he did redeem himself a bit with his praise for the "unknown" Ozzie Smith, who came in late in the game in a Padres uniform to play shortstop. True to form, Ozzie made a slick play on a charateristically bad throw from the great Steve Garvey, in a attempt to turn a double play. Slick fielding Manny Trillo and Buddy Bell also had "Web gems."

Oh yes, Mike Schmidt, who was playing late into the game despite starting - that's how the N.L. won 19 out of 20 games when I was kid - hit the game-winning home run in the 8th off the handlebar-mustachioed Rollie Fingers. I've heard Schmidt's Phillies teammate at the time, Pete Rose, given credit as the leader of those N.L. teams, and he was there, deep batting crouch. LA Times sportwriter Jim Murray was given credit for saying Rose would not die of old age, but "prolonged boyhood." This was one of those comments that seems like a compliment at the time, but proves to be a bit tragically prophetic. Poor Pete Rose, Jr. was shown working as an honorary batboy. He, of course, later spent time with the Erie Orioles, and after a long and undistinguished minor league career left baseball in a steroid dealing scandal.

Other great '70s-'80s crouches were on display from batting champs George Brett and Rod Carew. For some reason, Ricky Henderson doesn't seem to have been in the game, bypassed in favor of teammate Tony Armas. Well, I guess not everything is perfect...

3 comments:

DocTorDee said...

Nice entry, Ralph. That's back when I used to watch (and truly care about) baseball...back when I was a huge Pirates fan.

I probably watched that game on TV. At the time, I was working at Loblaws on Buffalo Road and getting ready to head out to Clarion State College.

Can it be 25 years already? Wow. Incredible.

Lizard Rose said...

Rastu,

Nice....

Rickey Henderson came up in September of '79, and therefore a rookie in '80. With only a half-season played in '81 prior to the All-Star Game, it is probably reasonable to assume that he had not yet established himself as the undisputed greatest leadoff hitter of all-time.
As far as the Red Sox were concerned, they lost Lynn and Burleson to California because the Angels started throwing money around like drunken sailors.
Fisk had also left as a free agent, mainly because of a sticky relationship with Red Sox management. Remember why he wore 72? He wanted to turn it around and reverse what had happened in Beantown.
By the way, the Indians were off Thursday.

Lizard Rose

ralphsplace said...

Lizard:

"The Man of Steal" was actually second in the league in MVP voting in 1981, behind A.L. losing pitcher Rollie Fingers. (This is all from baseball-reference.com), and he was an All Star every year from 1980 through 88 - with the exception of 1981- which was the year he finished the highest in the MVP voting until he won the award in 1990. Why he was left on the team is a mystery. Maybe he didn't want to play on that sod...

Cheers.