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Midsummer memories

ESPN recently published a piece entitled “Midsummer Memories,” prompting their writers and analysts (including former players Barry Larkin, Rick Sutcliffe, and John Kruk) to recall their favorite moments in the All-Star Game. Even fans have their favorite memories.

The first All-Star Game I remember watching was the 1987 affair in Oakland. I had to get special permission to stay at my neighbor Dan’s house to watch the whole game. Eric Davis started in left field; the Reds were also represented by catcher Bo Diaz and relief pitcher John Franco. Ozzie Virgil of the Braves was also named to the team; he was dating one of my sister’s friends at the time and had signed a few cards for me (in ballpoint pen! The horror!). The game itself was an extra-inning pitching contest, finally ending after thirteen innings. Tim Raines drove in Virgil and shortstop Hubie Brooks in the top of the 13th, and the Mets’ Sid Fernandez was awarded the save when he held the AL scoreless in the bottom half.

The next year, the All-Star Game was held in Cincinnati, and the Reds sent Larkin, rookie third baseman Chris Sabo, and pitcher Danny Jackson. I attended the work-out day and Home Run Derby, and let me tell you, it would have been awesome if it actually happened. That was the only time the day-berfore festivities were cancelled due to rain. I was extremely disappointed. I can’t remember who was supposed to appear in the HRD that year; I’m sure Davis was among the sluggers scheduled to participate, along with Darryl Strawberry and Jose Canseco, and maybe Mark McGwire. Our seats were in the top section of Riverfront Stadium, but with the weather, the crowd had thinned out and we were able to sneak down to the field level. We worked our way up to the edge of the field, but I hadn’t brought anything with me for autographs, so I had to settle for a handshake from Astros’ pitcher Bob Knepper, who did not play in the game the next day. Even though the Home Run Derby was rained out, I still enjoyed being in the park and seeing all the players from so many different teams.

What memories will be made tonight? Will Devin Mesoraco hit a home run? Will Todd Frazier make a spectacular dive along the third base line and rob a future Hall of Famer of a sure double?

What are some of your favorite All-Star Game memories?

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My 2014 MLB All-Star Ballot

2014 ballot

In the American League, I vote with my head for the most part. Who is having the best year at each position? There are a few exceptions to this:

  • Derek Jeter will always get my vote at shortstop. Especially this year, his last. He has been a classy individual during his entire career, and deserves to be honored at the All-Star Game just as Cal Ripken was in 2001 and Mike Schmidt was in 1989.
  • Mike Trout will likewise always get my vote in the outfield. He is hands-down my favorite non-Reds player.
  • I despise designated hitters, so I chose the one with the worst stats. Logan Morrison for the win!

In the National League, I’m Reds almost-all-the-way. I do not like Ryan Ludwick. Not even a little. So he will not ever get my support for the All-Star Game. Giancarlo Stanton is my third outfielder behind Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton.

How many of these guys do I expect to actually get selected? On the American League side, I believe they all deserve it (except Morrison). On the National League side, not so much. As I mentioned yesterday, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco are having career years so far. I would love to see them get the call. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips might actually get voted in by the fans, and while they wouldn’t be the worst selections ever, there are others having better years.

Is Hamilton fever alive outside of Cincinnati? I have no idea. But it’s pretty hard to compete with Stanton, Justin Upton, and a handful of other outfielders that are drilling baseballs like Black & Decker are paying them. In all honesty, Hamilton’s stats don’t warrant an All-Star appearance this year, but he is a lot of fun to watch running around the bases when he can get on.

At shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki is having his best year ever, but will he be able to defeat the name recognition of Hanley Ramirez?

Who do you have on your ballot?

Fun Cards: 1980s Topps Glossy All-Star Tom Seaver

Tom Terrific first pitch

Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch last night prior to the All-Star Game, Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

2013 TWJ Cards: Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball

2013 Strawberry

I love the All-Star Game for many reasons. One of which is the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball game, bringing past stars of the diamond such as Darryl Strawberry back into the spotlight for a short time. For the past couple of years I have created cards to commemorate the exhibition and posted them here on the blog. This year, I’m moving them to the TWJ Cards tumblr. Every hour today until 11:00 eastern tonight, you will see a new “Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball” card pop up on the tumblr, from Dwight Gooden to Fred Lynn to Jennie Finch to Mallory Hagan to Frank Thomas, etc. There are 22 cards in all. Check them out each hour on the hour at TWJ Cards on tumblr.

Happy birthday, Riverfront Stadium!

Riverfront Stadium

On June 30, 1970, Riverfront Stadium opened in Cincinnati. It was the first major league stadium I ever visited, and I visited many times over the years.

I have three very fond memories of Riverfront Stadium. The first is from either 1987, when the team allowed fans to come onto the field before the game and greet players. I never got close enough to the rope line to shake hands with anyone, but I knew that it was a privilege to be able to walk on the Astroturf.

The second special memory was the All-Star game in 1988…or more specifically, the workout the day before. My brother-in-law secured tickets and took me to the park, but it started raining and the players did not get to participate in the Home Run Derby or other activities they had planned. We sneaked passed the security guards to the “blue seats,” and got to go down near the dugouts. I didn’t have a pen with me or anything to get signed, but I did get to shake Astros pitcher Bob Knepper‘s hand.

My final special memory of Riverfront Stadium also occurred in 1988. I had spoken to rookie Chris Sabo on the telephone for a sixth grade project (that’s a whole ‘nother story!), and he was such a down-to-earth guy. He told me that he still drove his Ford Escort and his favorite team growing up was the Detroit Tigers. He especially liked watching Al Kaline play. And then he offered me tickets to a game as his guest. So for one game in 1988, I got to sit with the players’ wives in the blue seats…no sneaking past security guards!

So happy birthday, Riverfront Stadium. You provided some pretty fantastic memories for me as a young Reds fan in the 1980s. Great American Ballpark is pretty fantastic, but I really miss old Riverfront.

All-Star ballots are live!

But isn’t it a bit early still? Not even 25 games into the season…

All Star Ballots

If you are so inclined to vote now, you can do so. But if you would rather wait and see how the stats stack up once the season progresses more, the ballots will remain online through July 4.

I wonder if Derek Jeter will be picked as the starting shortstop for the American League?

Fun Cards: 2012 “MLB All-Star” Aroldis Chapman

The most impressive performance from a Reds player last night was delivered by the fireballer Aroldis Chapman. After walking Mike Trout, Chapman struck out Mark Trumbo to end the eighth inning. Hopefully this is the first of many strikeouts for Chapman in All-Star action.

Cuban Missile

Photo credit: Getty Images

Fun Cards: 2012 “MLB All-Star” Jay Bruce

In 2011, Jay Bruce struck out in his only All-Star plate appearance. This year, he put the ball in play, but was still unable to safely reach first base. In two at-bats, Bruce flied out to center field and grounded out to second base.

Bruuuuuuuuuuce

Photo credit: Getty Images

Fun Cards: 2012 “MLB All-Star” Joey Votto

Making his third All-Star appearance and first start for the National League, Joey Votto has yet to collect a hit in the Midsummer Classic through 7 at-bats. Fortunately, his NL teammates hit plenty and rolled over the American Leaguers 8-0 last night, giving the Cincinnati Reds home-field advantage in this year’s World Series.

Vottomatic

Photo credit: Getty Images

In defense of Tony LaRussa

I can’t believe I just typed those words. The man is indefensible, and yet I am going to set out a defense for him in regards to Brandon Phillips‘ perceived snub from the All-Star Game.

I’ll admit that I was taken aback when I saw BP’s name missing from the roster. I am first disappointed in the fans for voting in Dan Uggla and his abysmal .235 batting average. Phillips is hitting .050 better than that, has more hits and RBI in fewer games and is practically even on home runs. In a decision between BP and Uggla, BP wins without a doubt.

Who should be the National League second baseman

But Phillips was also passed over for the reserves. Who got the nod at second base in the National League? Houston’s Jose Altuve. Many will point to the rule that every team must be represented (a rule that I wholeheartedly agree with, by the way). That must be the reason Altuve was selected over Phillips, right?

Wrong. Look at the stats. While BP has more homers and ribbies than Altuve, the young man in Houston is leading Cincinnati’s slick fielder in every other category: runs, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. Altuve deserves the nod over Phillips.

Truth be told, if any second baseman was truly snubbed, it was Arizona’s Aaron Hill, who leads the position in slugging and OPS and has a bit more pop than Altuve; however he does trail the Astros’ second sacker in hits and batting average.

So, for once, Tony LaRussa did the right thing. I hope I never have to say those words again.

As for the Johnny Cueto snub…that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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