The National League beat the American League in the 2010 All-Star game tonight 3-1, snapping a losing streak dating back to 1996 for the NL.
It was also the day that the Baseball Gods chose to take one of the most iconic and controversial figures the game has ever known. George Steinbrenner passed away today at the age of 80 years old with his reigning World Series champs the New York Yankees in first place in the AL East with the best record in baseball. The loss of Steinbrenner casted a pale over the sunny California setting as this game went underway.
The story of the early innings tonight was all about pitching for both sides, with neither team able to break through till the fifth inning, when Robinson Cano drove in the first run of the game for the AL with a sacrifice fly.
It looked as if the American League would continue its dominance of the midsummer classic, until the NL loaded the bases in the seventh inning bringing up catcher Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves. McCann is not only a good defensive catcher, but also that most precious of all commodities (i.e. a catcher than can hit).
McCann lashed a double down the right field line with two outs, to clear the bases and put the NL up for good. McCann was named the MVP of the game, and the win could very well give his team, who currently sits in first place of the NL East, home field advantage in the World Series.
Ichiro, the lone representative of the Mariners, did make a nice running catch in the first inning, but went hitless tonight. Former Mariner pitcher Cliff Lee pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning for the AL, but was only one of a number of great pitchers who got a chance to shine tonight.
This game was a low-scoring affair, as anticipated, but seeing all of the best players in the game on one field was a treat for fans everywhere, and a needed break for Mariners fans, who have suffered through a tough first half.
As big as today’s game was, the big story in baseball was the passing of George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner and his Yankees represent everything that the Seattle Mariners are not, and his passing will probably not be mourned deeply in this part of the country.
Yet Steinbrenner was a larger than life type of guy who had a huge impact on baseball since purchasing the Yankees in 1973. Steinbrenner, originally from Cleveland, wanted to purchase the Indians with the family money amassed in the shipyard business. Spurned in Cleveland, Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees for less than $8 million and built them into a franchise worth over $1 billion today. Steinbrenner was never the richest owner, but unlike many owners, including our much wealthier owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, he was never afraid to spend whatever it took to win.
And win he did. The Yankees won seven World Series Championships under the watchful eye of “The Boss”.
Steinbrenner was an incredible character who once said that in life, “Breathing is first, winning is second.” He was perhaps best known and hated in some circles for his pursuit of free agents including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Winfield, and Randy Johnson, which had the effect of driving wages up beyond the means of most teams.
Many people including some of his players and managers did not care for his style, and he actually hired and fired manager Billy Martin five times! Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella both played and managed for Steinbrenner and said today, that The Boss was “Like a father figure to him.”
The stories about this man could fill my next week’s worth of posts, but my favorite goes back to the thrilling 1995 Mariners season against the Yankees where I was lucky enough to attend all three home games. My memories of that series are fading, but I clearly recall looking up at the screen at the Kingdome after Griffey had just scored the winning run to see George Steinbrenner going crazy in his booth.
Then, as I wandered outside with the rest of the crazed mob, I happened to be 20 feet away from a black limo that King George jumped into right in front of my eyes, storming off in a visible rage. George Steinbrenner always had a flair for the dramatic, much like his hero General George Patton, and that night in '95 was no different.
But now love him or hate him, he is gone, making his final exit on the day of the All-Star game.
George Steinbrenner has impacted the game of baseball and all those involved in it in ways we may not fully ever comprehend. As much as he represents many of the traits such as arrogance, impatience, controlling, and vengeful that represent the worst aspects of the human condition, he also wanted to win at all costs…and he did.
Personally, I wonder what the state of the current Mariners franchise would be like if we had an owner with one half the amount of passion, daring, and desire to win as George Steinbrenner gave to his team and fans. Sadly, I doubt we will ever know. Goodbye George you were one of a kind.