Baseball has the only all-star game that actually “counts.”
After the debacle in 2002, when the game was called a tie after 11 innings, baseball decided to make the game relevant again. The incentive of home-field advantage in the World Series for the winning league has restored its prominence.
Beginning in 2003, Commissioner Bud Selig decided the winner of the midsummer classic would have home-field advantage during the World Series. Since its inception, the American League has defeated the National League and captured two of the last three championships.
What separates baseball from any other sport in America is the tradition behind the game.
Back in 1933, Comiskey Park hosted the first All-Star Game, and it was supposed to be a one-time event that coincided with the World’s Fair. The event proved to be so popular it became an annual tradition and the venue shifted from year to year.
By creating the All-Star Game, baseball became the first sport to officially recognize athletes for their performance during the year. Of the 18 starters of the 1934 All-Star Game, only one was not elected to the Hall of Fame.
The only season the event wasn’t held was in 1945, and that was because many players were fighting in World War II.
Before the creation of interleague play in 1997, the only time players from both leagues could square off was the All-Star Game. But the game lost its importance because American League vs. National League wasn’t special anymore due to interleague play.
In 2003, the first year the game counted for home-field advantage, Hank Blalock of the Texas Rangers hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. Not only did he win the game for the AL, Blalock also gave the New York Yankees an advantage in the World Series.
In 2004, Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros pitched in front of his home crowd, but quickly gave up six runs as the NL fell 9-4. The loss for Clemens helped his former team, the Boston Red Sox, during their sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The venue for this year’s game is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The stadium opened in 2001 and is among the most scenic in baseball. The Pirates are hosting their fifth All-Star Game and the first since 1994.
The Pirates currently have the worst record in baseball (30-60) and trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 19 games in the NL Central. After Tuesday’s contest, Pirates fans have nothing to look forward to, so they might as well enjoy the game.
With no clear-cut favorite for the World Series, players from both leagues will treat this game as importantly as any regular-season contest.
If they don’t, there could be an unnecessary uphill battle come October.