Sports

Living in the “Ghost Season”

1983 MAJOR League All-Star Game (Author’s Collection).

The baseball season has reached the point of what would be, in a non-Pandemic season, the All Star break. The Midsummer Classic has always been a glittering exhibition of the game’s finest talents. The game was much more competitive during its first two decades than it is today and efforts to make it more competitive have largely failed. This year the All Star Game was scheduled to be held at Dodger Stadium. This would have been the first time in 40 years it would be held there and has been rescheduled for 2022

Baseball is very much a game that highlights individual efforts and in many ways the All Star Game format is well-suited for the game. Since the first contest in 1933 there have been legendary moments from the greatest players that really shine out. The first was when screwball pitcher Carl Hubbell struck out five of the greatest hitters of the era in a row, with Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig and Jimmy Foxx among them. In 1947, the color line was broken and five Black players made their All Star debuts. During the 1990s Randy Johnson’s dominating fastball produced a couple of comically resigned at bats from John Kruk and Larry Walker.

In 1983 I went with my brother to the last All Star Game played at Chavez Ravine. I’d been following the Angels, who were having a weak season, but Fred Lynn was a favorite of mine and I was looking forward to seeing his fluid, graceful swing in this national context. My brother had somehow haggled and traded our upper deck tickets, situated far down the left field line, for tickets still upstairs but behind home plate under the press box. When we sat down I discovered that we were in the overflow section for the press covering the game. I sat next to a reporter from Bakersfield and we talked about the season and the game. Between innings they handed out stats and notes that gave records set or broken and other statistics of interest to the sportswriters. The crowd was buzzing and the atmosphere was electric. The stadium seemed to glow with excitement.

The game was a low-scoring affair characterized by sterling pitching performances.  The Nationals mustered two runs and Lynn’s two run home run provided the winning difference in the game, which the Americans won, 4-2.

Thankfully, during this abbreviated season of empty stadiums, ghost runnners, and the extended spring training approach of lower echelon teams like the Angels, MLB has wisely decided that this year’s mid-Summer classic would be cancelled. Imagining a stadium filled with the silent stiffs who have attended games thus far is a dispiriting exercise. For the second time since 1933 (the other instance was in 1945), fans will be denied the showcase of baseball’s finest talent. It is another disappointment in a season that may have been better off cancelled.

Yet, for Dodger fans, this year still provides an opportunity for the team to gain the World Championship they felt was rightfully theirs. A possible World Series rematch between them and the Astros could make for some real drama. The Astros got a pass this year from running the gauntlet of jeering fans and the Dodgers and their fans are anxious to win the championship that they think they were cheated out of.  They very likely were, and would welcome the opportunity to play Houston on a level playing field. And if some of the joy and prestige of the championship may be tarnished by the circumstances of this Ghost Season, there’s always next year!

Jerry Howard’s “Baseball Notes” is posted each Friday.

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