My favorite sport has always been baseball. My kind of game had the Philadelphia Phillies winning a closely contested game which ended in a 1-0 or 2-1 score, with the Phillies’ pitcher striking out 10 or more of his opponents. Of course it would help if there were a couple of dazzling defensive plays when an outfielder threw out a man at home plate or an infielder tumbled into the first row of the stands to catch a foul ball. To add a bit more excitement, you could add a Phillies’ home run (especially an inside the park homer).
Of course the showcase of talent in this year’s baseball All-Star game, played in the Washington Nationals’ stadium on July 17, had little of the above, with the American League winning 8-6. There were a record-breaking 10 home runs in the game. However, I wish to congratulate Major League Baseball for one of its most wonderful productions. The pre-game announced about 30 Medal of Honor recipients for serving in the United States military, each of whom was individually introduced and saluted or waved to the crowd. After the National Anthem was sung, each of the Metal of Honor recipients was greeted by the All-Star Players.
The next portion of pre-game showed each of the nonstarters from the American and National Leagues selected for the game, who lined up on the foul lines and were individually introduced along with the team they represented. This part followed the standard of previous years. However, the next portion was different from previous years. Each of the starters in the game was introduced and the player, along with a young girl from a softball team, ran out to the foul line from the dugout and either high-fived or fist bumped every one of the players standing on the foul line. Can you imagine being a young kid and being able to do this? Heck, when I was in ninth grade, attending a Phillies’ game in 1960, the adult that was with me leaned over a box seat railing near third base and caught a ground foul ball hit by Phillies catcher Jim Coker. I still have the ball even though Coker, in his nine year career stroked only 16 home runs and had a meager batting average of .231.
Please keep reading. I’m building to a crescendo and the game hasn’t even started! The next portion just thrilled me. It was the singing of the National Anthem. You can tell I’m part of the older generation because I’m a purist. Although I don’t appreciate opera much, my favorite singer of the National Anthem is the late opera singer, Robert Merrill, who took about 1 minute 31 seconds to sing it. Of course, more recently, whether the performer draws the song out at sporting or other events because of the exposure he gets or because of his style of singing (country, western, etc.) it can take much longer. Las Vegas betting even takes odds on how long it will take to sing the anthem. At the 2018 Super Bowl it took Pink 1 minute 53 seconds to sing it. Las Vegas had the over/under odds at two minutes for the All- Star game. Four of the five previous Super Bowls took over two minutes. At this year’s All-Star game, combined choirs from the D.C. area, dressed in red, white and blue choir robes, formed a large flag on the field.
When the anthem was completed, I turned to my wife, Barb, and asked, “What was different about that presentation?” The answer was obvious to me. Yes, they did a wonderful job. But, the most important thing to me was there was not one or a very few people singing where the television cameras could concentrate on their faces, fancy wardrobe, make-up or jewelry, but a large group of people not there for themselves but interested in honoring our country! (This is not to infer that each individual or small group singing the anthem is doing so to promote themselves).
There were some other changes during the game that were highly impressionable to me. A human side of these many times ridiculously overpaid athletes, who may be making tens of millions of dollars (or in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars over the length of their multiyear contracts), was shown. Four of the fielders wore mikes for half an inning while in the field and discussed the game with the announcers. I even got to like one of them, whom before, I thought was totally egotistical. In a few cases, players had their cell phones with them and were taking selfies with other players.
I’m sure, if you watched the game, you could add your own favorite moments of the pre-game and game, but these are the special moments. Even though the National League team that I was routing for did not win, I considered the game a home run!
Jeff Hall, Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.