Everybody outside the smell of Kansas City barbecue criticized the way Royals fans pushed MLB’s All-Star voting e-mail inbox to capacity. They tried, and succeeded, in making the All-Star game a Royal Holiday. Four Royals will be in the American League’s starting lineup.
So shouldn’t the Cincinnati Reds and their fans be criticized for the campaign to get Todd Frazier into the starting lineup, a campaign that succeeded hugely? Yes, perhaps they should.
But to use one of the favorite phrases used by Reds manager Bryan Price, “That being said,”. . .Todd Frazier deerves it, nobody can argue that. So, what is good for Kansas City is good for Cincinnati.
With Frazier in the starting lineup, it avoids what happened in 1988, the last time the All-Star game stopped in Cincinnati, in old Riverfront Stadium and I never could adjust to calling it Cinergy Field.
The home fans had nobody to watch in the starting lineup. Three Reds were on the team but if anybody blinked they missed them.
Shortstop Barry Larkin came into the game late and went 0 for 2 with a strikeout. Third baseman Chris Sabo was a pinch-runner. Pitcher Danny Jackson, a 23-game winner that year, didn’t get into the game.
And what a weird game. The American League won, 2-1, and both AL runs were driven in by some guy named Terry Steinbach, a catcher for the Oakland A’s. He made his major league devbut by hitting a home run in his first at-bat.
And the ’88 All-Star game was his first All-Star appearance. In the third inning, batting against Doc Gooden, Steinbach hit a sky-scraping fly ball. Daryl Strawberry drifted to the wall. He leaped and snagged the ball. But while trying to bring it back from over the wall, the ball popped out of his glove and dropped over the fence for a home run.
To this day Steinbach is the only player in major league history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat and hit a home run in his first All-Star at bat.
And he nearly made history in his next at-bat. With the bases loaded in the fourth inning, he hit another high fly ball, this one down the left field line. It traveled 320 feet, 10 feet short of being only the second grand slam home run in All-Star history. It was a sacrifice fly, the winning run. And Steinbach was the All-Star MVP in a most forgettable game full of non-events.
What most people remember about the 1988 All-Star festivities was that Reds owner Marge Schott held the All-Star Gala at the Cincinnati Zoo among the odor of elephants, monkeys and giraffes. And for those who desired to be Hannibal, they could ride the elephants.
Now Frazier gets his chance to make the 2015 All-Star game memorable for Cincinnati Fans, maybe in the Home Run Derby and maybe in the game.
The Home Run Derby should be memorable because of the tiny confines of Great American Ball Park. They may run ou of baseballs. There may be more baseballs floating in the Ohio River than when they put all those toy rubber ducks in the drink for the Rubber Duck Regatta.
If anybody has the flare, it is The Toddfather. When he was 12 he hit a home run and pitched the Toms River, N.J. team to the Little League World Series championship. He once snagged 27 rebounds in a high school basketball game. And don’t even think about trying to beat him in a game of table tennis or Texas Hold ‘Em.
Frazier also is a French fry connoisseur. During spring training they blindfolded him and had him taste French fries from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and the French fries made by the clubhouse chef. He correctly identified all four.
If they held camel races at the Cincinnati Zoo this year, my money would be on Frazier.
Since it is no longer permissible to run into the catcher, the 2015 All-Star game won’t be remembered the way the 1970 game in Riverfront Stadium is remembered — Pete Rose running over catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run.
But as former Reds manager Dave Bristol once said of Tony Perez, “If there is a way to win a ball game, Tony Perez will find it,” if there is a way to make the 2015 game memorable, Todd Frazier will find it.