Nobody does ritual better than baseball.
Tuesday night’s pre-game All-Star celebration gathered together the largest assemblage of Hall of Famers and All Star players in history. There were the Willies McCovey and Mays, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Rollie Fingers….and on and on and on. These stately gentlemen stood on the field at their former positions, dressed in snappy blue suits and baseball caps, as the camera panned out and above for stunningly dramatic views. Now that he’s not yelling at people anymore, George Steinbrenner even garnered some appreciation; he came riding out on a golf cart, the preferred transit mode of the aging, to present four baseballs, one each to Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage and Yogi Berra, who then threw first pitches to Derek Jeter, Joe Girardi, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera. Talk about drama. Steinbrenner wasn’t the only one crying.
The only sour note was when Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox closer, told the world that he, rather than Mariano Rivera, ought to close out the game. Everyone knew that Terry Francona, Red Sox and this year’s All-Star Manager, planned to use Rivera; this was right and fitting at the last ASG to be played in his home, Yankee Stadium, and he deserved the respect as well as the opportunity for an ovation from the fans. The Daily News headlined the story “Papelbum!” which stirred New Yorkers into a froth and, according to Papelbon, incited threats to him and his pregnant wife. Some say his words were distorted, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if they were true. Many bloggers, trashing Papelbon, made a point of noting that Terry Francona and the rest of the Red Sox were duly respectful of the Yankees and the stadium, and the rival teams made lots of nicey-nice throughout the festivities.
The pre-game ritual may have been grand, but the game was a tedious affair, lasting 15 innings and five-and-a-half freaking hours. I was asleep by the time the American League won 4-3 for the 12th year in a row. All in all the night was a baseball pig-out—and from what I’ve read, that’s what the whole week was like in New York. If ever I wished I was back East, this was the week.
Then again, the ASG was held in San Francisco last year, and I didn’t go to the Fan Fest at Moscone Center, didn’t crawl the pubs at night in search of players, didn’t even stand on the Embarcadero to gawk at the red-carpet parade. Tickets to the game? Are you kidding? Who can afford them?
Besides, it’s much more comfortable, and with a better view, at home in front of my television. And when the game runs 15 innings, a bed comes in mighty handy.