FOX’s introduction — a bunch of players talking over each other about how special the All Star game is — made me think of James Earl Jones’ monologue in Field of Dreams; it even had that treacly FoD/The Natural music in the background.
As much of a fan as I am, I found myself wondering, "who are these guys?" I could understand staying away from the Yankees and Mets, stepping back from an East Coast-centric adulation, but I didn’t recognize a single player. If you want to promote these deserving players from around the majors, some IDs at the bottom of the frame would have been helpful. And for all the Hispanic players on the rosters, there seemed to be an under-representation during the intro.
The pre-game locker room pep talks from Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland were interesting. Nice shot of Ichiro’s interpreter doing his job (more on that later).
You had to feel badly for that poor guy who tried to hit balls off a team in a Taco-Bell-sponsored contest. The pressure must have gotten to him (unless he just plain ******) as the crowd booed his dismal efforts to get the ball into their air to win beacoup dollars. His first attempt again reminded me of a scene in FoD in which Costner muffs his first attempt to hit a fungo to Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Since baseball is rooted so deeply in history, it was also nice to have Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. paying their respects to Willie Mays (Jeter respectfully referring to him as "Mr. Mays) in an interview.
Not to be too catty, but I find the pre-game team of Jeanne Zelasko, Kevin Kennedy, and Eric Karros most annoying. And what’s with Karros’ "Braniac" forehead/hair cut? I know it’s part of their job to shill for FOX, which is why I prefer games on ESPN or other sports channels because the viewer is safe from the inspipid promotion of other stations’ non-sports programs. The plugging of the upcoming Simpsons movie. Case in point: Zelasko’s "interview" with Homer (although the cartoon depictions of some of the players were cool; Maglio Ordonez = Sideshow Bob?).
At least FOX didn’t have reporters in the stands chatting up actors ("And here’s Keifer Sutherland, star of 24. Some, Keifer, which do you think Jack Bauer would more nerve-wracking? Fighting atomic terrorists or facing Billy Wagner?")
The player introductions were a bit unusual, queing up between third and second and second and first rather than the traditional first and third baselines. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy, serving as an NL coach, got a nice ovation and the first crowd shots by FOX. Of course, Bonds got the biggest hand of the players. "Here you go, San Francisco…," said the PA announcer.
The formation made it easy for the players to stroll to center field in a nice orderly fashion to greet Mays after an odd rendition of the National Anthem by Chris Issak, accompanied by one of his band members. (I wonder how much it costs — and who pays for it — to have those jets fly in formation over stadiums at sporting events?)
At least Mays was able to walk in under his own power, unlike Ted Williams, who needed a golf cart. I thought his "Say Hey" jacket was a bit undignified, but undoubtedly it will garner a nice bit of change somewhere down the line. He peeled that off, revealing a Giants’ jersey that seemed to be autographed (more money). Rather than throw the ceremonial first pitch from the mound, he threw it from center to Jose Reyes, for whom he also signed the ball, a nice gesture.
Mays then boarded a pink Cadillac in which there were a couple of boxes of balls. Being the cynical guy I am, I envisioned those also being peddled at some memorabilia show, but I was wrong. Mays tossed them to the crowd, gave one to a cop on the field, and another to umpire Bruce Froemming, who will retire at the end of the season.
The first pitch came at 8:54 EST. On the other hand, the festivities started at 5:00 local time, which must have seemed odd for those in attendance.
Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith were somewhat wooden as they read the starting lineups for the AL and NL teams respectively. Ozzie Smith? Seems that Tony Gwynn would have been a better pairing with Ripken, since they’re both being undicuted into the Hall of Fame in a few weeks. I’m sure FOX producers thought of that and Gwynn was just too busy to attend.
In the postgame show, with very few people remaining in the stands, Zelasko served as MC while Commissioner Seilg presented Ichiro with the MVP award. Some unidentified representative from Chevy made a very dramatic presentation by…drawing…out… each…phrase ("New …2008.. Chevy…Tahoe…Hybrid").
Ichiro certainly had a productive day, hitting the first inside-the-park home run in AS history hours after signing a multi, multi-million dollar extension to remain a Mariner.
The home run, courtesy of YouTube. (Have patience, it takes awhile while Brain Roberts works out a walk before Ichiro comes up).
Pardon me, but how long has Ichiro been playing in the U.S.? But there he was, with an interpreter, fielding Zalaskie’s questions, along the lines of "Did you know you had the first inside-the-park home run" etc. This dragged out the interview even longer. Since such queries are basically the same game after game, why not have Kevin Costner teach Ichiro how to work those cliches, like he did in Bull Durham?
"He loves you, San Francisco. He can hit home runs and he’s gonna be a free agent," Zelasko said at the end of the interview. Wince.
Who’s airing the game next year?