Why the All-Star Game Should Go Back to Being an Exhibition
Although Bud Selig successfully presided as commissioner over Major League Baseball for more than two decades, it was his shrugged-shoulder look at the end of the 2002 All-Star Game that fans remember him most for.
It was because of that 2002 exhibition, which ended somewhat anticlimactically in a 7–7 tie after 11 innings—amid a seas of boos—as both teams ran out of pitchers, that Selig decided to make it a more serious affair.
Selig, who introduced successful innovations like the wild card playoff system as well as interleague play, decided to award home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star Game. (Previous to that the leagues alternated home-field advantage.)
Of course, the game was originally supposed to be a not-so-serious affair for the fans and this year’s game in Cincinnati—at the Great American Ballpark—should be a reminder of why that is.
The year was 1970 and Cincinnati’s then-Riverfront Stadium played host to a memorable All-Star Game finish.
With the score tied at four in the bottom of the 12th and the National League at-bat, Pete Rose—also known as Charlie Hustle—hit a two-out single and advanced to second on a single by Billy Grabarkewitz. Then Jim Hickman hit a single to centerfield and an all-out Rose rounded third and beat the throw to the plate, lowering his shoulder and barreling right through defenseless catcher Ray Fosse. Fosse, a promising young catcher who had hit 16 home runs by the All-Star break, rolled over in pain with a separated shoulder as Rose and the NL celebrated the win.
Although Fosse hung around until the late 70s he never had as good of a half-season as he did in 1970—right before Rose ran over him.
Unintentional injuries happen everyday in baseball. Players can pull all kinds of muscles while running, sliding, or even swinging. Those are understood.
But if the game is for keeps, players won’t hesitate to slide past second base to take out the double-play, pitch hard inside, or even take out the catcher on a play at the plate—legal or otherwise.
Should a player get hurt in one of these serious All-Star Games via a dirty play like the one Rose put on Fosse 45 years ago, the league will surely reverse course and change the rule.
But there’s no need to wait for that. It already happened.