Bucky Dent's case and other angles on baseball's All-Star game; obscure feats

Until recently, discussions about next Tuesday's All-Star Baseball Game in Montreal, the first with English subtitles, centered around L'Affaire Bucky Dent.

Dent was very nearly voted the American League's starting shortstop in the latest, and most blatant travesty of ballot-box justice. Only a last-minute surge allowed Milwaukee's Robin Yount to overtake the Yankee infielder in the fan balloting that determines the starting lineups.

Even Dent felt uncomfortable about his lead in the balloting, and at one point indicated he wouldn't play if selected. A legitimate all-star the last two years, he knew his credentials weren't in order this time. Having his worst major league season, Dent has batted a miserable .143 and lost his spot in the Yankee lineup to Roy Smalley.

Late last week, Bucky changed his mind and announced that, if elected, he would serve. The decision stemmed partly from a conversation he had with Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto and from his own revised outlook on the balloting.

''They say it's a popularity contest,'' he told the New York Times, ''but I've seen some pretty good people in those All-Star Games. People say there have been times when I should've made it, and I didn't. ... It's not my fault, what's happened to me this year. I really don't have anything to be ashamed of.''

Dent missed the tail-end of the 1981 season with a finger injury and obviously hasn't returned to top form.

Some probably figure Bucky ran first in the balloting as long as he did because he plays for the highly visible Yankees. But none of his teammates, including Dave Winfield, garnered as many votes as he did, and most all of them are having better seasons.

So why did Dent do so well? Probably because he's one of the few players associated with the Yankees and their winning tradition, having been the club's World Series hero in 1978. Most every other Yankee just seems to be passing through these days.

It's academic now, though, since with his low batting average and current substitute status, Dent certainly won't get picked as one of the All-Star reserves even though he did wind up second to Yount in the final vote tally.

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