All-Star Rewind 9: “Under the Dome” with a Happy Ending for Somebody

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  Hi all.  This is episode 9 of the All-Star Rewind series.  The theme is the 1979 All-Star game.  It was the second one played in a dome, but it wasn’t the snorefest the fans got in 1968 in Houston.  The National League scored in both the 8th and 9th to win, 7–6.

The 1979 All-Star game was played at the Kingdome in Seattle.  The Pacific Northwest first saw baseball in 1969 in the form of the Seattle Pilots.  The team wouldn’t be known by anybody today if pitcher Jim Bouton hadn’t chronicled most of their disastrous 1969 season in “Ball Four,” still the funniest baseball book ever written.  They played in Sicks’ Stadium which at best held 25,000 people.  Even in such a small park, attendance was poor, (less than 700,000, 20th in a 24-team race) and the team moved to Milwaukee the next season.  MLB, showing their gift for putting bad teams in bad locations created the Mariners.  The city, county and state threatened to sue MLB for pulling the Pilots, but the suit was dropped when MLB granted the new team to the city.   Over 4 years the Kingdome was built.  Radio broadcasters considered it baseball’s ugliest venue until Tropicana Field took that dubious prize.  To its credit, the stadium was named for King County where it is located, rather than for some corporate giant.  Also on the positive side, it had a roof which Sicks’ Stadium lacked.  Considering the incessant rain in the Pacific Northwest, a roof is a necessity for baseball.  It opened a year earlier for the football Seahawks and the NASL soccer team, the Seattle Sounders.  The 1979 All-Star game was the only such game played at the Kingdome.  To their credit, almost 59,000 fans crammed the place close to its capacity of 59,100. 

  The problems the Kingdome had can be spelled out.  Foul territory was huge, the dimensions were small and the “nosebleed seats” were over 600 feet away in some cases.  It had been built as a football stadium which could convert, and the way things were in London earlier this month, the world saw once again how that sort of conversion doesn’t always work.  The crowd for the All-Star game wouldn’t be duplicated until the Mariners started to win after the 1994 strike. 

  NBC still had the TV rights, meaning the game’s best would be on the telecast.  They were Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek and Tom Seaver.  Not to be outdone, CBS radio which had gotten broadcast rights starting in 1976 employed Vin Scully and Jerry Coleman, voices of the Dodgers and Padres respectively.  I’m no fan of TV baseball, (big shock there if you know me) and I have a criticism of NBC’s coverage of this game.  The famous Morganna, the Kissing Bandit invaded the field of play and kissed George Brett, NBC just said she was on the field and didn’t name her victim.  Showing a very unusual lack of a sense of humor, Joe Garagiola basically snarled about her appearance and made it clear he wanted the cops to get her out quickly.  That sure wasn’t my opinion on the two occasions I met and was kissed by that charming lady.  Our second meeting, with no cameras around, I got a double play–both a hug and kiss.  She joked that she was trying to ruin my romance with my girlfriend. 

  As for the game itself, the managers had been foes during the last World Series.  Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers manager opposed Bob Lemon who had managed the Yankees beginning in the middle of the 1978 season.  Continuing a lengthy trend, the NL had slightly fewer future Hall of Famers to offer than the junior circuit.  In the starting lineup, the Phillies’ Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt along with the Padres’ Dave Winfield would one day be inducted.  Along with Cooperstown, Winfield is also a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame because of his play at University of Minnesota. The Padres’ Gaylord Perry and the Cubs’ Bruce Sutter (pronounced Suitor) both made it to Cooperstown.  Backup catchers Johnny Bench and Gary Carter were both future Hall of Famers while Bob Boone, who isn’t considered in their league, got the start in this game.  Joe Morgan and Lou Brock were also bound for the HOF though they were reserve All-Stars.  Other All-Stars included pitchers Joaquin Andujar, Mike LaCoss, Joe Niekro, Steve Rogers and Joe Sambito.  Other NL All-Star position players were Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Larry Bowa, George Foster, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, John Stearns, Keith Hernandez, Pete Rose, Ron Cey, Larry Parrish, Dave Concepcion, Craig Reynolds, Gary Templeton, Jack Clark, Dave Kingman, Gary Matthews and Lee Mazilli.  He would make his mark in his only All-Star appearance.  in all, 9 National Leaguers were future Hall of Famers while Joe Morgan, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez would later become television baseball broadcasters.  Carter spent 4 seasons covering the Marlins from their inception in 1993 through 1996.  When I met him, my Seeing Eye dog Gizmo went rogue and chomped on his pencil.  Hernandez broadcasts to this day for the Mets while Morgan had a lengthy career on ESPN. 

  In the other dugout, Bob Lemon’s lineup was a lot more formidable than his 1979 Yankees who went nowhere fast during that season after winning the last World Series.  Lemon had Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett and Jim Rice who would later be enshrined.  Not one of his bull pen pitchers would see Cooperstown without buying a ticket.  On the bench he had Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson making a total of 6 future Hall of Famers.  Lemon’s other All-Star starters  included Darrell Porter, Frank White, Roy Smalley, Don Baylor and Fred Lynn.  From the bull pen Lemon could call on his own Ron Guidry and Tommy John, Mark Clear, Jim Kern, Dave Lemanczyk, Sid Monge, Don Stanhouse and Bob Stanley.  On his bench, Lemon had Brian Downing, Jeff Newman, Bruce Bochte, Cecil Cooper, Bobby Grich, Graig Nettles, Rick Burleson, Steve Kemp (who would later have his name used for a smalltime villain in Stephen King’s book “Cujo,) Chet Lemon and Ken Singleton.  Singleton by the way is also broadcasting Yankee games on TV. 

  Both teams hit the ground running, and after 3 innings the American League had a 5–4 lead.  Nolan Ryan struck out the first two men he saw, then walked Steve Garvey.  Mike Schmidt crushed a triple bringing Garvey home, after which Foster doubled Schmidt across. Steve Carlton also got off to a slow start.  With one out, he walked George Brett who scored on a Don Baylor double.  The next hitter, Fred Lynn unleashed the AL’s only home run of the night, making it 3–2.  The NL used small ball for its next two runs.  In the second, Parker hit a scoring fly ball with the bases full.  An inning later, Dave Winfield drove home a run on a ground ball out to make it 4–3 NL. The Al regained the lead in their half.  Carl Yastrzemski singled a run home and another scored when Mike Schmidt made an error at third. In the NL half of the 6th facing the Angels’ Mark Clear, Dave Winfield doubled and Gary Carter singled him home. In their half of the 6th the AL reclaimed the lead.  Facing a fading Gaylord Perry, Yastrzemski singled, Porter doubled and Bochte singled home the lumbering Yaz. The game’s hero began to emerge in the 7th inning.  Jim Rice led off the inning with a double to right, then commited one of baseball’s mortal sins.  He made the first out of the inning at third base, getting thrown out by Dave Parker. The Pirates’ right fielder would be heard from again. In the NL 8th, Lee Mazilli hit a home run to level the game at 6-6. In 45 years of All-Star play, no pinch-hitter had hit a 4-bagger until Mazilli did. Parker came to the fore again in the 8th.  Bruce Sutter allowed a single to Brian Downing and walked Reggie Jackson following a sacrifice.  He struck out Bobby Grich for the second out, then gave up a bloop single to Graig Nettles.  Today, a catcher wouldn’t dare to try to score from second on a bloop single.  Downing tested Dave Parker’s throwing arm for the second time in 2 innings, and again Parker prevailed. In the 9th, 4 walks led to the run that would win the game for the NL.  Lee Mazilli walked with the bases full to break the tie. Sutter got the AL 1-2-3 with 2 strikeouts to end the game. 

  The NL had won its 8th straight since the AL’s win in Detroit in 1971.  It would take another 5 years for the AL to break their losing streak.  Seattle wouldn’t get another All-Star game until 2005, and part 10 of our series took place 3 years after that, in 2008 at the House that Ruth Built.               

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