Exactly 78 years ago today, on July 6, 1933, the first-ever Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
Nearly eight decades later, the tradition of the Midsummer Classic continues, but not without controversy.
Bruce Bochy, manager of the National League squad this season, has been taking a lot of heat over both his All-Star picks and his omissions from the All-Star roster.
The skipper for the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants chose Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson for the National League All-Star team, which he will lead into battle against the stars from the American League on July 12 in Arizona.
Surprisingly, a big bulk of the criticism that Bochy has been receiving is from fellow National League managers, some of whom he has known personally for decades.
Jon Miller, the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster for the Giants, brought up a very important point about the origins of the Midsummer Classic, which indicates the original intent behind the game.
Miller, speaking to Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barbieri on KNBR's "The Razor and Mr. T" afternoon show, was asked about what he felt regarding Bruce Bochy's now controversial picks for the All-Star team, including Tim Lincecum, who is now 6-7, with a 3.14 ERA for the season.
Miller pointed to the man who first had the idea of a Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1933, Arch Ward, sports editor with the Chicago Tribune.
Ward's idea was to promote a game between the stars of both MLB leagues, allowing fans to vote on the roster. It was a promotion that he was sure would be a hit among baseball fans in the midst of the Great Depression.
The event was dubbed "The Game of the Century," and was wildly popular, turning what was originally intended to be a one-time game into an annual affair.
The idea was originally conceived as a way to get fans who were disillusioned by the Great Depression (thereby reducing the attendance and popularity of professional baseball) interested again.
From the beginning, the All-Star Game has been about the fans.
Jack McKeon, the newly hired manager of the Florida Marlins and veteran of the game as a player and manager for over half a century, has publicly criticized Bruce Bochy for picking Tim Lincecum over Florida's Anibal Sanchez.
Since the game is for the fans to delight in the drama and excitement generated by the greatest talents and personalities in the game, let's ask ourselves a simple question: Who would the fans rather see pitching to the best sluggers in the American League: Tim Lincecum or Anibal Sanchez?
The answer should be pretty clear.
Tim Lincecum is a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, three-time N.L. strikeout king and the winner of the clinching Game 5 of last season's World Series.
Nicknamed "the Franchise" and "the Freak," Lincecum has dazzled baseball fans everywhere with his fragile frame, shoulder-length hair and 96 mph fastball.
Lincecum's flair for doing the improbable, or seemingly impossible, is the very embodiment of what fans want to see at the All-Star Game.
Sorry, Jack. Sorry Anibal. This is about the fans, and this is about the popularity of the American pastime.
As Jon Miller pointed out on the radio yesterday, that's why Derek Jeter is the starting shortstop for the American League team. Jeter's numbers are less than All-Star caliber: .257 BA, 2 HR, 22 RBI.
But the fans want "The Captain," and that's who they'll get to see in Phoenix on July 12.
Since the fans don't get to vote on pitchers, it's up to the player vote and managers to make those calls. And yes, while it's true that Bruce Bochy happens to be Tim Lincecum's manager, he's also doing what is good for the game and what the fans would want.
After what Tim Lincecum has done in his brilliant, albeit very short, career thus far, an All-Star Game without him would be a travesty.