Reporting David Elfin
It’s great that four Nats were chosen for the National League team that takes on its American League counterpart in tonight’s All-Star Game in Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. Congratulations are in order to shortstop Ian Desmond (who won’t play because of a strained left oblique), rookie outfielder Bryce Harper and starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Impressively, all but Gonzalez are homegrown talents.
Four Nats representing the National League is four times their usual quota of one: relievers Tyler Clippard (2011) and Matt Capps (2010), third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (2009), shortstop Cristian Guzman (2008), first baseman Dmitri Young (2007) and outfielder Alfonso Soriano (2006) were all solo selections. Washington only had multiple All-Stars when starting pitcher Livan Hernandez and reliever Chad Cordero were both chosen during its return to the majors in 2005.
Now that the NL East-leading Nats have broken through on the field in a big way, Major League Baseball needs to bring the All-Star Game back to the nation’s capital.
With the New York Mets playing host to the midsummer classic next July, the only franchises that won’t have done so dating to 1987 would be the Los Angeles Dodgers (although the Angels have done so twice in suburban Anaheim since) and the Florida expansion babies of the 1990s, the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The only franchises that is, except for the Nats, whose only chance to play host to the All-Star Game was in 1982 when they were the Expos and called Montreal’s Olympic Stadium home.
Reportedly, the 2014 game is going to be played at Minnesota’s two-year-old Target Field or Chicago’s venerable Wrigley Field with five-year-old Nats Park and new Marlins Park the candidates for 2015.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who finally did the right thing by helping to shepherd baseball’s return to Washington in 2005, should repeat that success by giving the nation’s capital the 2015 All-Star Game. Minnesota can have 2014 and the Cubs should get 2016 for Wrigley’s 100th anniversary. Miami’s gaudy new park can wait its turn.
The Nats, who are having Washington’s first winning baseball season since 1969 and just its second in 60 years, have moved into the top half in the majors in attendance with an average crowd of 29,677. The Twins and Cubs are drawing more fans, but the Marlins are attracting fewer despite the stadium and the Rays are second-to-last at 20,582 per game. Baseball has just never really sold in Florida even though the Marlins have won two World Series during their 20 seasons and the Rays made the playoffs in three of the last four years, winning an American League pennant in the process.
When Washington played host to All-Star games at Griffith Stadium in 1937 (famous for Earl Averill’s smash hitting Dizzy Dean and effectively cutting short the Hall of Fame pitcher’s career), 1956 (immortal sluggers Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Ted Williams all homered), the hometown team was lousy.
That was also the case when the All-Stars returned to the nation’s capital during the second season in D.C. Stadium in 1962 (Maury Wills, the best player ever from the District, won MVP honors).
However, when the All-Star Game was held at the just re-named RFK Stadium in 1969 to celebrate professional baseball’s 100th anniversary, the expansion Senators were enjoying their only good season. Their star, Frank Howard, homered in the game that was postponed a day because of intense thunderstorms (funny that we didn’t lose power back then).
Since that game 33 summers ago, Washington has played host to an NHL All-Star Game (1982) and two NBA All-Star Games (1980 and 2001) with the first two at the late, lamented Capital Centre and the latter at MCI (now Verizon) Center.
Selig could give the 2015 All-Star Game to Miami with Washington in line for the 2019 midsummer classic on the 150th anniversary of professional baseball. But after waiting 33 years to get a team back, we shouldn’t have to wait any longer for an All-Star Game. Bring it here, Bud.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin.