It took a little over 49 years but the Midsummer Classic, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game returned to Queens.
Unlike 1964, when Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison hit a dramatic three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game for the National League, the All-Star Game is literally more than just a game.
The All-Star Game has become a five-day celebration of baseball as the host city gets to have a Fan Fest for all of the days while the stadium of the home team is utilized for three days. On Sunday, there is a doubleheader. Kicking things off is the SiriusXM Futures Game as the best minor leaguers gather with American players taking on those who live outside of the USA. That is followed by the Taco Bell Celebrity Softball Game that is comprised of notable former baseball players and current entertainers. Monday is the Chevrolet Home Run Derby and Tuesday is the actual All-Star Game. The overall economic effect is obviously quite huge for the host city.
The All-Star Game is also a boon for local communities as Major League Baseball has a proven track record of helping nonprofit organizations. Last Friday MLB and Mets officials made a visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens where they donated $250,000 to help with the construction of a 3,000 square-foot teen center and café.
Mets CEO Fred Wilpon has been very active in helping veterans in a multitude of ways, and last Monday he, along with Mayor Bloomberg and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, visited the St. Albans Community Living Center for Veterans to unveil renovations to the facility.
General Motors’ Chevrolet division is the title sponsor of the Home Run Derby and as part of their contract with MLB is to award lucrative grants to eight (the number of players competing in the slugfest) local sandlot baseball programs. For some reason Chevy overlooked the various Little League programs in our borough.
The All-Star Game and its related activities were an opportunity for the Mets, who have not had a lot to cheer for in recent years, to celebrate their past and even a touch of the present.
Ed Charles and Art Shamsky, who were both of the 1969 Miracle Mets, signed autographs for attendees at the All-Star Game Fan Fest held at the Javits Center.
Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets’ third baseman on the Mets’ National League pennant-winning team in 2000 that lost to the Yankees in the World Series, as well as being a current Bayside resident, was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum & Hall of Fame at a ceremony during the Fan Fest last Saturday.
The Mets, as is their wont, found themselves in a bit of controversy, the week leading up to the All-Star Game when manager Terry Collins announced that his ace pitcher, Matt Harvey, would skip his scheduled start against the Pittsburgh Pirates because of a nagging blister on his pitching hand.
There was understandable skepticism and debate among both fans and sports pundits about the importance of a regular season game versus a glorified exhibition game which the All-Star Game is.
National League All-Star manager Bruce Bochy admitted at a press conference this past Monday that he consulted with Terry Collins about Harvey’s workload because he wanted him to start the game on his home field. An hour later at a press availability session with players and coaches (Collins was named a coach by Bochy), Terry basically admitted that he was resting Harvey so that he could have this honor. “This is a huge moment for our organization,” Collins said.
The Mets announced Sunday that Mike Piazza, who was at Citi Field to take part in the celebrity softball game, would be inducted into their Hall of Fame on September 29. The Mets are hoping that the ceremony will serve as an endorsement for his candidacy to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America decide who gets the privilege. Candidates need to be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast.
Dwight “Doc” Gooden was another former Mets star who was taking part in the softball game. He recently wrote a memoir titled “Doc” that described what the effects of alcohol dependency and drug addiction did to him and those he loved and it is a harrowing read to say the least. “I want others to avoid the mistakes that I made,” he said.
Entertainers who took part in the celebrity game were comedy actor Kevin James, Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade, actress/clothing entrepreneur Alyssa Milano, and singer Ashanti, who all handled throngs of reporters.
Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who played in the 1964 All-Star Game, surveyed the chaotic scene in the Citi Field press room. Robinson, renowned for being a no-nonsense type, was asked whether there was this kind of glitz and pageantry when he played in All-Star games. “No, thank goodness!” he said shaking his head.