Constable: Why you've forgotten the last All-Star Game held at Wrigley Field
By Burt Constable
The Chicago White Sox are battling to reach the .500 mark, and the first-place Chicago Cubs are struggling to avoid falling to the .500 mark. But both are well-represented in tonight's MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and shortstop Javier Baez will start for the National League, with teammate Kris Bryant on the bench. The Sox are sending pitcher Lucas Giolito, catcher James McCann and first baseman Jose Abreu.
The Sox, hosts of four All-Star Games, including the inaugural in 1933 at Comiskey Park, last hosted an All-Star Game in 2003.
Wrigley Field hasn't hosted since it gave us the worst All-Star Game ever in 1990.
The game had been awarded as a thank-you to the Cubs for adding lights in 1988. A 16-mph wind blowing in from Lake Michigan, drizzle and rain made it seem colder than the game-time temperature of 68. The box-score described the field condition as "soaked."
Fans, many shivering under cheap plastic rain gear, sat through two rain delays, the second coming after a monsoon halted play in the top of the 7th inning with the score still 0-0 and AL runners on first and third. The grounds crew rolled out the tarp. The CBS television crew filled the time by showing Babe Ruth's homer in the 1933 All-Star Game and conducting clubhouse interviews. At one point, CBS showed the reality series "Rescue 911," hosted by William Shatner.
When game action returned, the Rangers' Julio Franco hit an 0-2 pitch for a line drive that rolled through the soggy grass to the ivy-covered outfield wall. Both runners scored after Mets right fielder Darryl Strawberry missed the cutoff man on his throw home.
The NL stars, playing as if they would rather be home on a comfy couch with a blanket while watching "Rescue 911," managed only a 1st-inning single by the Giants' Will Clark and a 9th-inning single by the Phillies' Lenny Dykstra.
"All-Star Game tedium leaves fans in the cold" was the headline above my column about my Wrigley experience. Franco, who got 1.1 percent of the vote in his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, is a solid player who won one batting title. But he is best-known for starting his MLB career in 1982 at age 23 and finishing it during the next millennium when he was granted free agency by the Atlanta Braves a couple of months after his 49th birthday.
"Walking out of an All-Star Game where the hero is Julio Franco is the equivalent of leaving Woodstock raving about Sha-Na-Na," I wrote about that 1990 All-Star Game in which he was the Most Valuable Player.
Midsummer Classics on the South Side, however, include moments of greatness.
Aside from the 1933 game in which Ruth hit a 2-run homer to propel the American League to victory, the 50th anniversary game in 1983 at Comiskey Park was one of the most entertaining in history and snapped an 11-game losing streak for the American League. The game featured 23 hits, 16 runs, 5 errors and plenty of fireworks. The Angels' Fred Lynn, playing in his ninth and final All-Star Game, hit the only grand slam in the game's history to lead the AL to a 13-3 victory. San Francisco pitcher Atlee Hammaker, playing in his first and only All-Star Game, gave up that homer and finished his All-Star career with an ERA of 94.5.
The 2003 game at U.S. Cellular Field saw the AL stars score 4 runs in their final at-bat to win 7-6.
The 2002 All-Star Game at Miller Park in Milwaukee was an aggravating affair that ended in a 7-7 tie after both teams ran out of pitchers in the 11th inning. But at least there was some action.
Every other NL team has been named as host for an All-Star Game since the Cubs endured the 1990 debacle. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven't hosted since 1980, will host next year's game. The 2021 game will be played in Atlanta's new SunTrust Park. And the 2026 game will be played in Philadelphia, because it's the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and Philly has dibs on that patriotic stuff.
Tampa Bay, which joined the American League in 1998, has never hosted, and Oakland last hosted in 1987.
The Cubs reportedly are in the mix for the 2022 All-Star Game. For a team that went 108 years between World Series championships, a 32-year All-Star drought doesn't seem so bad.