MILWAUKEE – No winner, no loser.
Not even a player to receive the Most Valuable Player Award, newly named after Ted Williams.
Just baseball commissioner Bud Selig throwing up his hands as his own hometown fans cursed at him.
The All-Star game that Selig hoped would turn into a spectacular in the new ballpark of his family’s Milwaukee Brewers instead turned into a spectacular mess.
“I feel very badly about it,” a drained-looking Selig said after Tuesday night’s 7-7, 11-inning tie. “Frankly, I couldn’t feel worse.”
What usually is one of baseball’s best moments ended like a spring-training game filled with players wearing No. 80 and No. 90 – called because the teams didn’t have enough pitchers.
As soon as the public-address announcer said with one out in the bottom of the 11th that the game would be called if it didn’t produce a winner that inning, fans who had paid up to $175 a ticket became incensed.
“Bud must go!” and “Let them play!” were among the non-profane chants.
Five times in baseball history, All-Star games had gone more innings to a finish, most recently in 1987, when the National League won 2-0 in 13 innings.
Fans knew something was up in the middle of the 11th, when Chuck Torres of the commissioner’s office brought AL manager Joe Torre across the field to Selig’s box. Selig huddled for about 5 minutes with Torre, NL manager Bob Brenly, baseball executive vice president Sandy Alderson and Fox Sports president Ed Goren.
“They treated it like it was a meaningless game,” said David Cuscuna, a fan from Fort Lauderdale. “They’re telling the fans this game doesn’t matter. Not to mention the $175 face value for tickets. It sends a lot of bad messages.”
Baseball’s only previous All-Star tie was in 1961, at Boston’s Fenway Park, when the game was stopped by rain after nine innings with the score 1-1.
But this game was played in a ballpark with a retractable roof, open under a crystal-clear sky.
“Obviously, in your wildest dreams, you would not have conceived that this game would end in a tie,” Selig said. “As much as I hated to do it, and with all of the reluctance in the world, given the people here in the stadium and the people watching on television, I really, really had no choice at the end but to end the game at the end of the 11th inning.”
While the NFL, the NBA and the NHL manage to pull off All-Star games, baseball is unique, because players cannot re-enter the game and pitchers can’t warm up again once they’ve left a game.
And the managers didn’t want to extend the final two pitchers, Seattle’s Freddy Garcia and Philadelphia’s Vicente Padilla, who each went two innings.
“The last thing I want to do is get a pitcher hurt and send Freddy Garcia back to Lou Piniella saying he can’t pitch,” Torre said, referring to the Seattle manager. “That, to me, is the mortal sin of the whole thing.”
No one really knew what to say after the game ended on such a sour note.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Brenly said. “I think it’s highly improper to try to place a blame on anybody for this thing. But it happened.”
As they left the stadium, some chanting profanely, many fans did seem ready to place blame.
“I don’t think the sport’s hurting at all or we’re jinxed,” Houston’s Lance Berkman said. “Baseball is a business and in any business, there are going to be hiccups along the way. I don’t think it’s going to have a long-term impact on the integrity of the sport.”