National League Overcomes A.L. and Covid-19
The AYL All-Star Game was played in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where they are under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 Virus. Fans showed up, but only about 200 were permitted into the stadium as they had to remain 6 feet apart at all times.
M.V.P. Bill Dickey capped off a huge comeback for the N.L. with a Grand Slam in the 9th.
There were some new rules due to the "social distancing" requirement. Catchers had to squat 6 feet behind the plate, umpires had to stand 6 feet away from all players, and runners were allowed to miss the bases in order to keep away from the fielders. There were some crazy moments on the field due to the new rules, but it actually all worked out pretty well, and it still looked like baseball, pretty much.
To a chorus of boos, Justin Bieber and Drake trotted out onto the field, 6 feet apart, and sang not only the two national anthems, but also an interesting medley of their own creation which included "Don't Stand So Close to Me", "You Give Me Fever", and "Can't Touch This". The boos turned to cheers and laughter even though they really didn't sound very good as a duo.
Turning to the actual game. Spud Chandler of the Twins started off the game by getting out of a 1st inning jam. With two outs, the A.L. starter gave up a single to Gary Sheffield, followed by a double to Giancarlo Stanton. Sheffield might have scored on the play, but he had to take extra time to run way around 2nd base so as to avoid coming close to the A.L. middle infielders. Sheffield complained that 2nd baseman Chuck Knoblauch actually took a few threatening steps toward him, forcing him even further out onto the outfield grass (what a knob). The second base umpire just shrugged from a safe distance away. The inning ended with John Mayberry striking out on three pitches.
David Cone started for the National League, and he had little trouble in the 1st frame, giving up just a walk to Carlos Beltran, and striking out Danny Tartabull to end the First.
Both teams scored runs in the Second Inning. The N.L. got to Chandler again but made it count this time. After a Johnny Blanchard strikeout, Morgan Ensberg of the Astros tripled into the right field corner. This time it was the A.L.'s turn to complain about the new rules, as the ball ended up hitting off the base of the right field wall and rolling into foul territory under the ball-girl's chair. Right-fielder Beltran had to wait until the ball-girl retreated a full six feet before he could retrieve the ball. Ensberg was already standing on 3rd by this time. Tony Lazzeri then flew out to centerfield to score Ensberg on a sac fly.
In the bottom of the Second, the A.L. got that run back and then took the lead. With two out and two on (after back to back singles by Chili Davis and Ivan Rodriguez), Toby Harrah singled in Davis, and Knoblauch singled in Rodriguez. Beltran popped out to shortstop Pete Kozma to end the inning.
The N.L. got two singles in the 3rd from Lance Berkman and Sheffield but failed to score. The A.L. added to their lead in their half of the 3rd going up 3-1 as Chris Parmelee singled home Babe Ruth with one out. The Bambino made such a wide turn around 3rd base that he nearly fell into the dugout before regaining his balance and finally crossing home plate. Center-fielder John Vander Wal would have easily thrown the Babe out at the plate had he not had to waste time dancing around Giancarlo Stanton who came a little too close to Vander Wal in his attempt to also track down the ball. Stanton and Vander Wal glared at each other as they slowly walked back to their positions, while Padres' pitcher Dennis Rasmussen glared at both of them from the pitchers' mound. The inning resumed, and Rasmussen got the next two batters to retire the side.
Things were quiet until the bottom of the 5th, when the A.L. struck again, this time against the Bombers' Whitey Ford. Ruth started the inning off with another single. Tartabull singled to right, moving Ruth to 3rd, and then, after a Parmelee strikeout, Chile Davis drove in the Bambino to give the A.L. a 4-1 lead.
The 6th and 7th innings belonged to the A.L too. They scored one in the 6th when Beltran drove in Toby Harrah with a single to left. Then they tacked on two more in the 7th when Kevin Maas homered over the centerfield wall. Two batters later, Alex Rodriguez tripled and Roy Smalley drove him in with a seeing-eye single up the middle. The A.L. looked well on their way to a home-town victory before a very polite Canadian crowd with a 7-1 lead.
But weird things seem to happen in the AYL. After a scoreless 8th inning, the A.L. were down to their last pitcher, Brandon McCarthy of Oakland. The traditional strategy in the AYL All-Star Games has been to use up every single player and keep a starting pitcher to pitch the 9th. The theory had worked in practice, up until this particular game, when the American Leaguers wished they would have had kept a reliever to bail out McCarthy who was just not up to par. Oakland may want to watch his symptoms over the next few weeks to see if he perhaps has contracted the virus. The A.L. can't come up with any other explanation.
Here's how the top of the 9th unfolded for the N.L. McCarthy actually got the first hitter out, a Bill Dickey ground out to second baseman Brian Roberts. Then the wheels fell off. Ensberg doubled to left, Joe Gordon singled, Derek Jeter singled, driving in Ensberg (7-2), Roger Maris singled to load the bases, Luke Voit drew a walk to drive in Gordon (7-3), Mike Easler beat out a dribbler down the 1st base line to score Jeter (7-4), David Justice drove the ball into the dirt in front of home plate, but the ball kicked crazily down the 3rd base line and everyone was safe on the play, including Maris scoring the 5th run (7-5). McCarthy was more the victim of bad luck on most of the hits, and was still leading by 2 with one out. He rose to the occasion for a moment, striking out Red Rolfe on 4 pitches, before Bill Dickey came to the plate for his second appearance of the game (and of the inning!)
Dickey was ready for an exhausted McCarthy's first pitch fastball and drilled it over the center field wall for a grand slam and a 9-7 lead for the N.L. McCarthy mercifully got the next batter to end a miserable 9th inning.
Dwight Gooden came on for the N.L. in the bottom of the 9th, and although he did give up a one-out single to ARod, he got the next two batters, including striking out Roy Smalley to seal the victory.
Dickey was named All-Star Game MVP, although Dickey thought the award should be given to McCarthy, saying, with a wink "we couldn't have done it without him!"
Good job socially isolating throughout the game, fellas! Good role modeling for all the rest of us who are just trying to stay safe and sane until we can all get back to normal. Thanks for tuning in, everyone!
With the victory, the N.L. now leads the all-time AYL All-Star series 5 games to 2. Next year's All-Star game will be hosted by San Francisco.
For more info about this game, please contact your friendly neighborhood Commish anytime.
And have a great 2nd half of the season everyone!