Last night was the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Pardon me if I didn't care.
Now, there was a time when the MLB All-Star Game meant everything to me. I can sense sentimentality taking over me right now. Here goes: "When I was a kid..."
I remember hearing those words so many times when I was growing up, hearing my beloved father, my much older brother or whomever wanted to tell me a story would always preface their saga with "When I was a kid."
When they were kids, the world was peaceful, the streets were clean, newspapers and ice cream cost a nickel, pop songs were about love and puppies and sunshine and lollipops and everything was wonderful.
When my brother was a kid, there were three baseball teams in New York and each team had an All-Star sure-fire Hall of Famer in center field. The Giants had Mays, the Yankees had Mantle and 'dem Bums of Brooklyn had Duke Snider. Must have been a tremendous time to grow up as a baseball fan.
So now, as a 54-year-old middle-aged man, I now get to utter the same words. "When I was a kid..." Sounds a little silly to me, but it's true.
Because when I was a kid, the All-Star Game truly meant something. It was indeed the Mid-Summer Classic, because all of the participants were indeed classic.
We're talking 1969, in the nation's capital, the 100th anniversary of baseball. On the National League roster, there were people like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Pitchers like Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, also all Hall of Famers. Pete Rose was also on the National League roster
On the American League side, there were Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Unfortunately for the AL, there were no Hall of Fame pitchers on the staff, maybe the reason why the National League won the game that year, 9-3.
I remember the game was initially rained out the night before and played the following afternoon. I was so excited that the game was played during the day, so I could watch every last pitch. When I was a kid...
That is some array of all-time talent. There were 18 Hall of Famers in that game. Mind you, with only the chance to watch the Yankees and the Mets on local television and the Game of the Week on NBC on Saturday afternoons, this was the only chance I got to see a lot of those all-time greats in action. So truly, it was an exciting event.
Now, turn the clock to 2015. There was an All-Star game in Cincinnati, but how many of these players are truly worthy of the status that comes with being an All-Star?
On the National League side alone, there were 15 players making their first All-Star appearance. There were names like Nolan Arenado, J.J. Pollock (sounds like some obscure actor), Joe Panik (sounds like an attack in a subway), Yasmani Grandal (what the hell is that?), DJ LeMahieu (say what?) and Mark Melancon (maybe he's a rock star with Cougar as his fake moniker, like Mark Cougar Melancon).
Yes, those are actual members of the National League All-Star team.
On the NL roster, there were three players who are borderline potential Hall of Famers in Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutcheon and Bryce Harper. That's about it.
It doesn't get any better on the AL side. There were 15 first-time All-Stars, names like Kelvin Herrera, Dallas Keuchel, Darren O'Day (isn't he the guy who sang the 70s song "Undercover Angel?"), Brad Boxberger (say what what?), Hector Santiago (can't make fun of him too much, because he's from nearby Newark), Brock Holt (tell me that's not a porn name), Brian Dozier (who?), Stephen Vogt (who who?), Jose Iglesias (who who who?), Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain (Adam raised a Cain, for you Springsteen fanatics). OK, enough already.
And as sure-fire Hall of Famers, there were Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and King Felix Hernandez, as well as the best player in the game, Mike Trout, who won the game's MVP.
Now, where's the array of Hall of Famers that I saw _ hate to say it _ when I was a kid? The answer: They weren't in Cincinnati.
Sure, I might be a tad old school and I might be getting old, but I was led to believe that the All-Star Game was set aside for the All-Stars. And in my opinion, Alex Rodriguez and Big Papi David Ortiz are All-Stars every single time they step foot on a field. It was a disgrace that those two were not on the AL roster.
And to have 30 players making their All-Star Game debut tells me one thing: Either we're putting too many young players on the All-Star rosters on purpose or there's a changing of the guard.
I'd much rather watch highlights of the 1969 All-Star Game then watch the current game. How can there be an All-Star Game with so many players I've never heard of? All-Stars? Hardly.
So Dez Bryant played hardball with Jerry Jones and won, getting a five-year contract for $70 million right under the deadline for signing long-term agreements. After losing Demarco Murray to free agency earlier this year, Jones couldn't afford to let his other big-time headache walk into free agency as well, so Bryant's threat of sitting out games this season worked to his advantage.
Bad news with that is that other big-time NFL malcontents like Bryant are going to pull the same crap in the future to secure gigantic contracts. And that's just wrong.
You can read more of my stuff at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com and www.dailyrecord.com. This Sunday will be an interesting feature in the Hudson Reporter about the Washington Park Little League team of Jersey City, which just won the District 7 Little League crown for the first time since 1969. Yes, the same year as the aforementioned All-Star Game.