MINNEAPOLIS — Dear Joaquin Andujar: You will be delighted to know that everything worked out perfectly for everyone concerned. You missed nothing whatsoever by missing the 56th All-Star game. You were better off staying home in St. Louis and sucking back a couple of Augie Busch's cold brews. As for your friends and acquaintances from the National League, well, they did not miss you, either.
Business competitors of yours such as Mr. Dewey LaMarr Hoyt, Mr. Lynn Nolan Ryan, Mr. Fernando Anguamea Valenzuela, Mr. Jeffrey James Reardon and Mr. Richard Michael Gossage were kind enough to show up at the Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome for the midsummer (cough) classic, and they proved completely capable of succeeding without you. They did not seem to mind that you jilted the game, you little Cardinal sinner, you.
These nuclear-armed gentlemen threw strikes past the American League's primo hitters Tuesday night, giving up only five lousy singles in an indoor playground that was supposed to yield tons of home runs. A couple of the Americans were lucky to have escaped with their lives, Nolan Ryan having buzzed fastballs near their heads that could have produced instant frontal lobotomies.
As LaMarr Hoyt, the starter and winner, said when the work was finished: "Our pitchers were pumped up to the max about pitching in this game."
Even if you weren't, Joaquin.
Nobody could really blame you for not coming. Anybody with half a brain could have known in advance how it was going to turn out. The poor old Americans were going to get snuffed for the 21st time in 23 tries, and those big batting boomers of theirs--wow, look at those murderers in a row: Brett, Murray, Ripken, Winfield, Rice--were going to walk away mumbling about National League pitching. Dwight Gooden wasn't even needed, Joaquin. He just sat on the bench all night, intimidating hitters from afar.
Pete Rose watched Ryan send Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield flyin' with those smoke-enders of his, and said later: "Ryan's just intimidating, man. I can't believe the stuff he has. His philosophy is that 'the inside of the plate is mine.' First he intimidates you and then he exterminates you."
A reporter turned to the next locker in the clubhouse and told Ryan: "Pete says you're intimidating."
"I didn't realize I was," Ryan replied.
Right. And Dirty Harry doesn't realize that he can outshoot cheap crooks. Ryan has struck out more than 4,000 guys in his day. That's why he (along with Rose) was allowed to throw out the first ball before Tuesday's game. Someday, maybe you can be the one who does that, Joaquin, assuming you ever show up for one of these things.
The folks who did come to the dome expected some excitement for their money, but as usual, the All-Star extravaganza was about as exciting as a Texas-Cleveland game. "Nobody should expect it to be a classic game," third baseman Graig Nettles of the winners said. "This is a thrown-together thing for fun, and nobody should expect it to be exciting. If they want to see good games, tell them to come out to the park every day."
Had they come to this park this particular night, they would have seen such nail-biting, nerve-racking developments as: Nolan Ryan batting!
("Didn't have a batting glove. Didn't have a bat," said Ryan, who struck out. "Didn't matter.")
Deep fly balls!
("I think a lot of people expected a boom-boom type of game," said losing pitcher Jack Morris, "but there were no home runs. I don't think we even got any extra-base hits.")
("Would I have had a homer?" Willie McGee said, repeating a question. His drive to center-field in the ninth inning could have been a crowd-pleasing, crowd-awakening, inside-the-park grand slam, but instead it hopped on the Metrodome's magic bouncing carpet and over the fence. "Well, it would have been interesting to see me try.")
Sure would have, Joaquin. You've seen Willie whoosh around those St. Louis bases for inside-the-parkers, but a lot of us haven't. A lot of us would have killed to see him do it, just to break up the monotony.
George Brett had warned us not to expect much. He made it sound as though indoor baseball was about as much fun as outdoor bowling. "I don't like playing indoors," Brett had said before the game. "It reminds me of being a kid. Being punished. Being told to stay inside." If the Good Lord had wanted baseball to be played indoors, Brett seemed to be saying, he would have inspired some guy to write a song called, "Take Me in to the Ballgame."
Well, some people did have some fun, Joaquin. Dick Williams got to manage a winning team in an All-Star game--for a change. Ozzie Virgil Jr. got to look down for a sign from third-base coach Ozzie Virgil Sr. and then smack a two-run single. Good guys like Ernie Whitt, Glenn Wilson, Rich Gedman and Jimmy Key got to play in one of these things, which doesn't figure to happen very often.
And guess what? The National League starting pitcher was named Most Valuable Player, Joaquin! He left the game in the third inning and he still got to be MVP! It coulda been you, big fella!
Oh, well. Maybe next year. We'll be playing indoors again--in Houston. Come on down, if you're not busy.