ALL-STAR ROUND TABLE Palmer, Frank and Brooks Robinson saw lots of history and made some, too STAR - STUDDED TALK

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The third baseman was an immovable object in the American League lineup. He played in his first All-Star Game in 1960, his last in 1974 and was a member of every All-Star team in between.

The outfielder was named to 12 All-Star teams and was the first player to hit All-Star home runs for both the National and American leagues.

The pitcher was picked to six All-Star squads, appeared in five games and was the American League starter in four of those years.

Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer won't be in either lineup when the 64th All-Star Game comes to Baltimore on Tuesday night. But memories of the great Orioles will be very much alive.

At the invitation of The Sun, the three perennial Orioles All-Stars met recently at the B&O; warehouse to ask and answer questions about past All-Star Games and to look ahead to this year's edition at Camden Yards.

For roughly an hour, the distinguished panel sat around a small circular table, trading memories and barbs. They met with Sun reporter Mark Hyman.

The Sun: The three of you have played in All-Star Games in almost every city except Lancaster, Pa., and Baltimore. Any thoughts about what it would be like to play in one before the hometown faithful?

Jim Palmer: It'd be terrific, the best.

Frank Robinson: Exciting.

Brooks Robinson: It would be like the World Series. I envy Cal [Ripken], having a chance to play this year. You always thought about -- at least I did -- the All-Star Game coming to Baltimore.

JP: It would be an incentive to have a big first half, especially if I'm a veteran player and know how special the All-Star Game is. You'd want to be in it here, in a new ballpark, with the great fans. It is going to be a fabulous week.

The Sun: What's in store for the city, and what will the national exposure bring?

FR: It's a chance to show off this city, and show off this ballpark.

JP: I think it's great for the city. It's Baltimore's chance to showcase itself. I was in San Diego giving a speech during the All-Star Game last year. It was a big deal for them, and they don't even like baseball in San Diego. They love baseball here. It's a chance for people in Baltimore to show the world just how much they love baseball.

The Sun: What are your memories of your first All-Star Games?

FR: My first was 1956, in Washington. All I recall is that I was having a pretty good year and that I was excited to be there. I wanted to show everybody my newspaper clipping and say, "Hey, I belong in this game."

BR: It was 1960. The thing I remember most is being on an airplane, going to the game, with Ted Williams. Must have been his last year. Anyway, I was 23, I guess, and Ted was talking about hitting, about how the slider breaks 56.6 inches or something, and how Nellie Fox could be a better hitter if he stood off the plate a little. It was a great plane trip.

JP: 1970, and I was 24. I was just happy to be there and I didn't want to mess up and keep the team from winning. [Note: Palmer, the AL starting pitcher, threw three scoreless innings, striking out three]. I think what I remember most is the sight of Frank Howard, as big as he is, standing in the clubhouse in his underwear.

The Sun: You've all played in some memorable All-Star Games. In 1970, Pete Rose put the big hurt on Ray Fosse.

JP: Cheap shot. Had no reason to do it. Didn't have to. People have rationalized that hit, saying that's the style Pete played. But he didn't have to hit Fosse like he did.

FR: That's my feeling, too. It was unnecessary. He didn't have to do it that way. If I'd done that, they'd have been calling for me to be lynched. But because it was Pete, they brushed it off. He didn't have to zero in on Ray Fosse. Ended his career.

BR: I don't feel the way they do. To me, that's baseball. Rose was there, Fosse was there, and he got him. That's all.

The Sun: In 1971, Reggie Jackson launched a very long home run or a very short space shot.

FR: Now that was a fun game.

JP: Frank hit a home run off Dock Ellis in that game. Aaron hit one. Killebrew hit one. Clemente hit one off his front foot into the upper deck. Did Bench hit one?

FR: Yes he did, right-center.

JP: All monster shots. . . . Then Reggie's home run.

FR: Oh, my gosh.

The Sun: "Oh, my gosh" what?

FR: Awesome, awesome. He hit it so hard and so far, and the ball was going up when it hit the transformer. You heard the fans go "Awww," and the ball was back on the field.

JP: I was warming up to come into the game. I'd thrown a pitch, and I heard the bat and looked around -- there was silence. Everyone was watching the ball. You just don't see balls hit like that.

FR: I'd have loved to have seen that ball miss that transformer. Just to see how far that ball would go, because it was going up.

The Sun: The player who hit the shortest home run of that game was the MVP -- Frank Robinson.

FR: Hit it over the little right-field fence, about 340 feet.

JP: A cheap shot.

FR: It happened to pull us ahead, so I was MVP. It was strictly timing.

JP: But that's what baseball's about -- clutch hitting.

The Sun: Speaking of All-Star MVPs, Brooks was the main man in 1966, with three hits, including a triple off Sandy Koufax.

FR: Triple?

JP: Who misplayed that?

BR: It was the first time a player on the losing team had won the

MVP. I made a couple, two or three good plays in the field. I got the three hits, and we lost in extra innings.

The Sun: A 20-point tossup question: Who holds the record for All-Star triples?

BR: Probably me. Right?

The Sun: Three each: Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson.

JP: So, you ran faster in All-Star Games?

FR: Pride of playing in the All-Star Game.

JP: Pride and adrenalin. Made those little fat, chubby legs move faster.

The Sun: The triples didn't help much. Brooks played in 18 All-Star Games, and the American League won two. Just a bad two decades?

BR: I've thought about that. And I just think it goes back to the National League being the first to sign many of the black players. You're talking Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Stargell. No doubt in my mind they were better then than we were, and they deserved to win.

FR: The talent in the National League was deeper and better. And the whole attitude was different. There, it was very competitive. When I came over to the American League, it wasn't the same. Players took it more or less as a game. The National League players came to win.

The Sun: Maybe so. But through the years, some also have come to complain. Occasionally, players have said, all things considered, they'd rather skip the All-Star Game and take a three-day vacation. That includes one member of our esteemed panel -- in 1972, Jim was quoted saying he'd rather vacation in Ocean City than be the All-Star pitcher.

JP: Hey, that was a flippant thing. I know I said it defensively, like, "Well, if I don't get picked, I'll go to Ocean City." I've been to Ocean City one time in my life. . . .

The Sun: Let's assume All-Stars of your era truly enjoyed the game. What of today's players?

FR: Honestly? I think they look at it a little differently nowadays. You hear it more often: "I can use the three days off."

JP: It is different. When we played, they gave you a gift -- a radio clock or silverware -- worth about $300 and an All-Star ring. Nowadays, you've got guys with All-Star clauses [in contracts]. What does Roger Clemens get [for being selected to the team], something like a quarter of a million dollars?

The Sun: Sounds like you're saying that players of your era took more pride in playing in the game.

JP: I don't want to go that far. . . .

FR: Well, I really don't think there is that pride. A lot of players look at it strictly as a popularity contest, an exhibition game. If they don't start, they prefer not to be there.

JP: You can't indict everybody, because there are guys who want to go.

BR: The game has more glitz and glitter now than ever. It's like a circus. Some players probably get upset, I think, because it boils down to a popularity contest. Guys who are doing the greatest, they don't always get the most votes, so it's natural for them to feel, "Hey, I'm the best player at this position, and this yo-yo over there is going to win the vote."

JP: Give you a perfect example, and I'd say this if Cal [Ripken] were here -- well, maybe not. Travis Fryman may be the best all-around shortstop in the American League now. How many votes is he going to get?

The Sun: Somebody has to pick the All-Stars. Should it be the fans or the players?

BR: I think the fans should vote. Fans always feel like they're getting the short end of it, with the players making all this money and with ticket prices going up. They're always complaining about certain things. Which is fine. At least the All-Star voting is a plus on their side. They have a chance to pick the All-Star team, and their vote might really count. There's not one thing wrong with it.

JP: I agree wholeheartedly. The starters may not be the best team in the American League, but with the managers picking the secondary players, you'll probably have the best team to win a baseball game over the last six innings.

BR: That's right. The manager is going to pick the players having the best year, the ones who are really deserving.

FR: People seem to think it was the perfect scenario when the players voted for the All-Stars -- it wasn't. They didn't always vote for the best players either. In those days, they'd be sitting around the clubhouse, and voting. They'd look around and talk to each other -- "Well, who's having the best year at shortstop?" The answer: So and so. "I'm not going to vote for him, because if we vote for him, our guy won't make it at shortstop, so let's vote for Joe Doe, give him our vote hoping our guy will get in." That's the way the players looked at it. A lot like some of the fans do.

The Sun: Ever angry about not making the team?

BR: A couple of times, I probably was embarrassed I made it. There were a couple of times you could have picked two or three guys ahead of Brooks Robinson.

JP: How about winning three Cy Young Awards and not going to the All-Star Game two out of those three years?

FR: I was real upset in 1959. I was having a good year -- 18 home runs, hitting .330, 70-something RBI, and couldn't make the team. They played two games in those days, and they wanted to take me for the second game. I told them, no. You pick me, I'm not going.

The Sun: End of the story?

FR: I played the second game.

BR: And took Early Wynn deep into the left-field bleachers!

FR: I was being foolish. I wanted to be there. I went and had my best All-Star Game.

The Sun: Do you fill out All-Star ballots now?

FR: Nope. Just don't think my vote is going to make any difference.

JP: I will, if it'll make me look better in this story.

FR: If everyone were only allowed to vote one time, I'd vote,

because then it could make a difference. But you can vote every day until the All-Star Game or whatever, so my vote doesn't make a difference.

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