Back Then, The All-Star Game Meant Something

Ronald MichieContributor IJuly 7, 2009

7 Jun 1997:  Willie Mays (l) speaks with Hank Aaron during a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California.  The Braves won the game 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport

As we approach the 80th edition of our mid-summer classic, with all the complaining about who made it and who didn't, I can't help but think about simpler times.

Back then, if we didn't have a baseball and bat, no problem—a tennis ball and broomstick worked just fine.

Back then my father's '52 Chevy was a perfect first base, an old tire made a grand second base and the porch railing of Mrs. Gentry's walk-up was fine for third (just had to leap the curb when running to or from third base). Sure made scoring plays from second base interesting.

Back then, the All-Star game "meant something."

Back then, the pride of winning that game for your league meant more than some silly home field advantage for the World Series.

Back then, fans didn't complain as much if "their" player didn't make the team or didn't start. Of course, back then, more fans looked at the "big picture" and were thankful for the opportunity to see Willie, or Hank or The Mick play a game against each other.

Back then, kids all over America, dreamed about one day being on that "hallowed stage."

Back then, players didn't come up with mysterious ailments or injuries just prior to the game. In fact, if they truly were hurt, they still showed up. Sometimes limping or on crutches.

Back then, Lou Gherig, even though facing death, proclaimed himself the luckiest man on earth.

Back then, players had the Ernie Banks' attitude: "Hey, let's play two!" In fact, from '59 through '62, they did play two.

Back then, managers didn't care if every player got into the game, they just wanted to win. And if a player did not play, he understood it was for the good of the TEAM.

Back then, Willie Mays ran all out to catch Vic Wertz fly ball and Pete Rose barreled into the catcher to score. Both without fear of hurting themselves, just wanting to win.

Back then, the only ties allowed were due to weather, not running out of players, or the game going too late.

Back then, the starting pitcher pitched 3-4 innings and a reliever only came in if truly needed to win the game.

Back then, Casey Stengel and Walter Alston argued calls just as vehemently as they would in a regular game.

Back then, the game was played in the sun, not under lights or a dome.

Yes, back then the game really did mean something.