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star struck

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i have been to one all-star game -- on july 10, 1984 in candlestick park. it was notable primarily for a run of six consecutive strikeouts by national-league pitchers: three by fernando valenzuela in the top of the fourth, and three more by rookie sensation dwight gooden in the top of the fifth. the skein surpassed carl hubbell's run of five consecutive k's in the 1934 all-star game, only the second ever played. all five of hubbell's victims were hall-of-famers: ruth gehrig foxx simmons and cronin; so too were valenzuela's three punchouts in th 4th: dave winfield, reggie jackson, and george brett. (for the record, gooden's strikeouts came against lance parrish, chet lemon, and alvin davis.)

gooden and valenzuela were 1-2 on the strikeout leaderboard at that point in the season -- notwithstanding which, fernando had no business being on the all-star roster. his line at midseason 1984: 8-9 with a 2.97 era. how he got selected over his teammate alejandro pena -- 10-4 with a 2.40 era at the break -- i will never know. nor was there any apparent reason to deny dwight evans an invitation to the game: he led the majors in runs scored (68) and ranked 6th in the al in obp (.399) and 10th in slugging (.522) while playing a gold-glove right field; his primary line (.296, 16 hr, 52 rbi) looked plenty all-starrish for that era. for some reason joe altobelli took harold baines (.290, 14 hr, 53 rbi, .341 obp/.492 slg) instead. oakland's dave kingman, who led the majors in homers (23) and was 2d in slugging (.554) and rbi (71), also got snubbed; he was hitting a respectable .270 at the time. on the nl side, philadelphia manager paul owens assembled a roster with four catchers -- jody davis, gary carter, tony pena, and hometown favorite bob brenly -- yet still managed to screw one out of a deserved roster spot: his own starter, ozzie virgil, who ranked fourth in the nl with 14 hr (my, it was a diff't era . . . .) and 5th in slugging (.515) while hitting .285. i dunno, maybe ozzie was injured; maybe he and owens didn't get along.

random anomaly: two of the four division leaders at the 1984 all-star break -- the mets and the white sox -- had given up more runs than they had scored. indeed, the mets' spread was slightly worse than that of the last-place team in their division, the pirates, who trailed by 16.5 games:

w l gb runs opp runs
mets 47 34 -- 301 312
pirates 32 52 16.5 300 308

what i most remember about the game is that it was the first time i ever saw reggie jackson and george brett and rod carew play in person. back in those days before interleague play, the all-star game was a real showcase, maybe a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see great players from the other league. reggie, who started the 1984 game in right field, was then in his 18th major league season; it was his last all-star appearance. he had won ev'y award and ev'y ring, was twice the star then that derek jeter is today. yet throughout his long career, he had played only 19 games in national league ballparks -- and 12 of those had come at dodger stadium.

for brett, then in his 11th year, candlestick was just the 5th nl balkpark he'd appeared in; for rice, also an 11-year veteran, it was just the fourth. nbc still held mlb's broadcast rights in those days and televised a sat.-afternoon "game of the week"; aside from that, you just didn't get to see players from the other league -- not even on espn, which was only five years old and still dismissed as a refuge for geeks. (whereas today it is celebrated as such . . . . ) so it was something of a thrill at batting practice just to see the uniforms -- there's a detroit tiger, a baltimore oriole, a yankee -- i'd never seen live before.

the al starting lineup featured three 3,000-hit men (carew winfield and brett) and two other hall-of-famers (reggie and ripken); the nl starting nine had five famers as well (gwynn sandberg schmidt gary carter and ozzie smith). the national league won 3-1, its 20th victory in the past 22 all-star games; carter hit a dinger and took the mvp award.

none of which i recall with nearly as much clarity as i do the sheer spectacle of it --- the sight of all those players in their own uniforms dappling the turf during the pregame drills. the whole baseball universe on one field: stars, indeed.

Update [2005-7-12 11:18:46 by lboros]: i forgot to thank retrosheet and david pinto's day-by-day database for keeping tabs and making possible posts like this one.