Baseball's 50th annual All-Star Game is coming up July 6 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, site of the original 1933 Classic, a 4-2 victory by the Americans in which Vernon (Lefty) Gomez of the New York Yankees was the winning pitcher. However, for the past two decades, this has been an almost exclusive National League show, the senior circuit having won 19 of 20 games, including the last 11 in a row.
The main reason for the National's domination is that it has invariably gotten better pitching. In fact, in its last five defeats the American League has averaged only a little more than three runs per game. Even during the regular season, that kind of production won't get a team into the first division.
Although baseball is often criticized for letting its fans select both All-Star rosters, since they almost always vote with their hearts instead of their heads, what's wrong with letting the people who pay the freight have fun?
The managers still pick the pitchers (this year it's the Brewers' Harvey Kuenn for the American League and the Cardinals' Whitey Herzog for the National) , and they don't make many mistakes.
From a practical standpoint it makes no sense, but with Boston's Carl Yastrzemski and Cincinnati's Johnny Bench retiring at the end of this season, I want to see them on the All-Star rosters. And I don't mean just sitting in the dugout, but getting a chance to swing against present-day stars like Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stieb.
I know it sounds a little unbelievable now, considering the National League's domination since 1963, but the Americans actually won 12 of the first 16 All-Star games.
One of baseball's most unusual classics was played in 1934 at the Polo Grounds in New York. That was the game in which the Giants' Carl Hubbell struck out five of the American League's greatest hitters in succession, getting Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx to end the first inning, then adding Al Simmons and Joe Cronin to open the second. Bill Dickey then broke the streak with a single. That was also the game in which Billy Herman, batting for Hubbell in the third inning, was allowed to return to the game four innings later as a replacement for Frankie Frisch at second base. Lachemann may latch on elsewhere
When Owner George Argyros fired Rene Lachemann last week as manager of the last-place Seattle Mariners, he didn't do himself any favors. But he may have done one for Lachemann. Rene, whose success with developing young players is an accepted fact around the league, is almost certain to get another opportunity to manage before next season, undoubtedly with a more talented team. The Mariners, who lost their best pitcher (free agent Floyd Bannister) to the Chicago White Sox during the winter, plus good-hitting outfielder Bruce Bochte to retirement, never figured to do much this year anyway.
The problem was that all Argyros could remember was the 76-86 record Lachemann produced with Seattle in 1982, after the Mariners went 44-65 in baseball's strike-abbreviated 1981 season. In the past 12 months, it wasn't Lachemann's ability to run a ball game that deteriorated, but his personnel.
Del Crandall, Seattle's new manager, is coming off a long list of minor league successes as a skipper in the Dodger farm system. Crandall, who started the year as field boss at Albuquerque, also has a reputation for getting the most out of young players. However, he had problems with some of his veterans when he managed the Milwaukee Brewers for two full seasons and parts of two others in the mid-1970s.
As a group, Seattle's hitters are last in the league, and the pitching staff has struggled to finish what it's started, giving Lachemann just six complete games this year. Hayes heating up
When the Philadelphia Phillies traded five players to the Cleveland Indians last winter for outfielder Von Hayes, it seemed like a high price for a player with only one year of major league experience. Things looked even worse when Hayes missed most of spring training, plus the first two weeks of the regular season, with injuries, then failed to hit when he did get into the lineup. But the real Von Hayes finally showed up during the third week in June, when he hit .414; collected two doubles, three triples, and one home run; drove in five runs and scored eight himself.