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The All Star game is probably the best of the exhibition “all star”  games in professional sports. Maybe a case could be made for the NHL All Star game, but that game is an anomoly, with no defense. The Pro Bowl in football is a joke. No one really wants to play in it, no one really wants to watch it. The “defense” is vanilla, and the “offense” is boring. The NBA All Star game is another one. No defense, just guys basically running up and down the court throwing it down. It’s schoolyard jams.

Baseball All Star games? Even the contrived “meaningful” All Star game we have now is better than every single other professional All Star game. And oh, the memories. At least for me.

It all begins for me in 1974. It’s the first All Star game I remember watching. I was 5. There were 22 future Hall of Famers in that game (and one who probably should be, Pete Rose), and three total Mets reprisented. Yogi Berra was a coach. Jerry Grote was one of the catchers, and a star Mets pitcher also made the team. Not Tom Seaver, but Jon Matlack. National League won.

The next memorable game was in 1976, another NL win. I remember this one for two reasons: first, Mark Fidrych pitched. He was the sensation of that year. “The Bird”, all the crazy antics. Everyone was talking about him, and in those days (I sound like a geezer, but heck, it WAS 34 years ago, for crying out loud) you only had ONE game a week you could watch, the game of the week on NBC. You couldn’t see him anywhere but the highlights on the local news or read about him in the newspaper. A real newspaper. One that was delivered to your house. One you physically held in your hands. Secondly, Fred Lynn hit a homer for the only AL run. Although a Mets fan, Fred Lynn was my favorite player (we lived in New Hampshire at the time, so in order to watch baseball, that meant watching Red Sox games, they were the only team you could see.

1979’s game was the Dave Parker show. He opened my eyes to real defense in the outfield. What a cannon for an arm. The guy had three of the most beautiful throws that you could ever see, In the seventh inning, he threw out Jim Rice at third trying to stretch a double into a triple. That was a great throw, but he topped that one in the eighth. Here’s the situation:

First and second, one out. AL threatening in a tie gems, 6-6. The dangerous Greg Nettles up. Netles hits a bloop off the end of the bat to right, Brian Downing rounds third trying to score the go-ahead run. Parker comes in, catches the ball on a hop and in one fluid motion hurls an absolute perfect strike, no hop as I remember, to Gary Carter blocking the plate. Downing is dead meat. Most perfect throw to this day that I have ever seen. NL goes on to win in the ninth.

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