For the millions of viewers on television and those also in attendance, the pre-game ceremonies should have left an indelible mark on how grand a sport that baseball still is. The sport that has endured countless self-destructive moments since it’s beginning, just keeps on ticking.
America’s pastime survives each new catastrophe by returning to the simple formula of connecting today with yesterday. Aligning the present along with the grace and glory represented by players from decades back, is a sight that evokes memories, stirs emotion, kindles a curiosity among others.
It was Mays, Aaron, Feller, and Gibson last night.
Legends of the game. Elder statesman. Baseball royalty. Dignity. Trust.
They never got caught with corked bats, using sand paper, taking steroids, or causing a brawl on the field. Mays and Feller gave up prime parts of their careers for military service, Mays for two years after his rookie year, and Feller for most of World War ll.
Aaron quietly went about his business hitting home runs for the Braves and Gibson acted as a leader and an enforcer on the mound while pitching for the Cardinals. As their careers wound down, each player simply walked away.
As Yankee Stadium provided the memorable scene last night hosting it’s final All Star game, the event appeared to stampede over the miserable news and actions dominating the game for years. There was no talk of steroids, lying to Congress, team retraction, or Barry Bonds.
In fact, there was no Bonds at all. Nor McGwire, or Sosa, or Palmeiro, or even Roger Clemens. Their names were not even mentioned. Not once. Imagine, arguably the greatest hitter and baseball’s best pitcher over the last 40 years and maybe ever, were ignored.
Their career achievements speak for themselves, but so does their absence. But enough of that.
Grady Sizemore stood with Willie Mays. Evan Longoria with Brooks Robinson. Justin Morneau with McCovey. Derek Jeter with Banks. And on, and on. Clearly a new path has been taken. Their future is bright, and each player gives baseball a look of innocence, which has been missing for a long time.
Removing the stain of the last era of what now appears to be invisible names will take time to distance itself from the past and consistency from future all stars.
Baseball identified last night as it’s official “time to move forward” theme. Subtle, but effective. Just how many stayed up and watched the whole game because it was the last classic to be held at Yankee Stadium? Some, no doubt did, but most were enthralled at the drama of scoreless inning after scoreless inning.
Some of the new All Star heroes were named Holliday, Longoria, McLouth, Drew, and Kazmir.
The game is slowly returning to it’s roots, and has an abundance of youth developing as the core of future legends such as sluggers Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols. Dozens of others will fight for supremacy over the coming years too, as did Gibson and Koufax, Mays and Aaron, or Mantle and Snider.
The elegance of the evening’s beginning was demonstrated time and time again on the field in it’s simplest form. Just play ball.
Let’s hope that this only continues forward as baseball once again has proven to be ageless to all.