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I love the Midsummer Classic

July 13, 2009

by Matt Kane

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

I don’t know what it is that sets baseball’s Midsummer Classic apart from the all-star games the other three major sports leagues put on, but it is absolutely the best.

Actually, I do know what sets the MLB game apart — the players participating actually try. And on both sides of the ball.

Even before home-field advantage in the World Series was on the line, the baseball all-star game was always played at full speed. All one has to do to remember this is turn on ESPN around this time and wait for the highlights of games past.

One of those highlights will surly be Pete Rose, of the National League, barreling into American League catcher Ray Fosse in the bottom of the 12th inning of the 1970 all-star game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.

Don’t tell Rose the all-star game is just an exhibition. Rose’s hard-nosed play gave the National League a 5-4 win.

Highlights, like the one of Rose taking out Fosse, are nowhere to be found in footage of past NBA, NFL and NHL all-star games.

I do remember seeing Boston’s Ray Bourque dish out a few body checks in the NHL game, but Bourque’s play was one-of-a-kind. You would think some of those hockey goalies would compensate a few of their defensemen so they would actually play some defense in front of the goal.

In the NBA, NFL and NHL, it’s all about offense, with any thoughts of playing defense having been drowned at the pre-game party the night before. The NFL even changes its rules, outlawing blitzes and rushing the kicker, to make the snoozer in Honolulu more offensive. The lack of defense is definitely offensive to football diehards.

In saying I respect what Peter Rose did in the 1970 game, I don’t want to see a guy like Albert Pujols make a Ray Fosse out of Joe Mauer. Hopefully, Mauer will be out of the game before any national-leaguer gets desperate enough to take out the catcher in an attempt to win the game.

The other thing I like about the MLB All-Star Game is that the players wear the same uniforms they do all season. When the players line up for introductions, there is a rainbow of colors up and down the baselines. The only thing I miss from that rainbow is the colorful uniform of the Montreal Expos. The red, white and blue of the Washington Nationals just isn’t the same as that red, white and blue pinwheel hats of the Expos. There was nothing better than seeing the black afro of Andre Dawson overflowing out of that colorful helmet.

Now that I think of it, the Houston Astros’ 1970s and ‘80s jerseys, with the yellow and orange stripes around the torso, were pretty sweet when standing next to the brown Padres jerseys of the same era.

It was even kind of cool seeing all the different colored uniforms line up together for the National Anthem July 2 at the North Star League All-Star game in Dassel. The red of Brandon Scanlon’s Loretto Larks’ jersey complemented well the green of Mark Petersen’s Delano A’s jersey.

As for my prediction in the MLB All-Star Game, I believe the National League will successfully defend its home turf — Busch Stadium in St. Louis — and Florida Marlins stud shortstop Hanley Ramirez will be named the MVP.