Cito, fans both lower themselves in front of nation 1993 ALL-STAR GAME July 13 Baltimore


There was this momentous baseball gala, a grand gathering for what was literally a glorified exhibition, surpassing in splendor anything in the 60-year history of what is known as the All-Star Game or in civic celebrations held since the time of Lord and Lady Baltimore. Even better than the "Fair of the Iron Horse," which drew 1,300,000 in 1927 to celebrate the centennial of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

The city covered itself in glory -- up to a point. Then it took itself too seriously, provincially speaking. The crowd, acting the part of rude bush leaguers instead of gracious hosts, booed the representatives of the Toronto Blue Jays upon their introductions. There was no reason for such behavior.

The spectators were obviously annoyed over what they construed as blatant bias in the predominance of seven Toronto players picked for the squad. It was embarrassing. Baltimore, after attaining so much favorable notice for the way it created a record temperature in All-Star fervor and fever, booed itself out of its own ballpark.

Then the manager, Cito Gaston, "out-bushed" them all, as if to say "I'll show them who's boss." Instead of being cavalier about the outburst, and charging it off as a lot of unnecessary noise, he took umbrage.

Such adolescent behavior, first by the fans and then compounded by Gaston, upstaged the runaway American League victory. Baltimore sounded like a junior-Philadelphia, where even booing Santa Claus is a playful way of life.

The actions of Gaston, reacting to the crowd, was unbecoming of an All-Star major-league manager. He should have been above any display of vindictiveness. But he made himself look the part of a bush incompetent. There was no way to determine if his brain had temporarily failed but he provided evidence it doesn't take much inside a baseball cap to be a manager.

Managers, of course, are a necessary evil. They often can be lucky in the place where they work, considering Gaston is able to take advantage of an ownership that spends top dollar and a general manager in Pat Gillick who borders on genius. None of the other 27 managers have such an advantage.

To protect Gaston and others managers in the future from their own stupidity (stacking a lineup with their team's players), baseball must institute a maximum rule on the number of players picked from one team for All-Star participation. There's a minimum, at least one per club, so they are going to have to address the matter at the upper end.

Joe McCarthy was once criticized for stacking the All-Stars with New York Yankees and became so furious over the criticism he let all six of his players, plus Charley Keller, who was injured, sit on the bench for the entire All-Star Game of 1943. McCarthy, though, proved his point. He did, indeed, win with other managers' players.

Gaston put himself in position of where many in the assemblage of 48,147 started a non-stop chant of "We Want Mike," meaning Mussina, the pride of the Orioles' pitching staff. It got to the point of a crescendo. He could have put the quietus on the sound by "giving them Mussina" but compounded the situation by flatly denying this near-unanimous request.

Mussina was throwing in the bullpen in the ninth inning, which only aggravated the problem when he didn't get the final pitching call and a Blue Jay, Duane Ward, came front and center to catch the heat.

If Mussina was intending to "show up" Gaston he succeeded. If so, there's no defense for that. Maybe he merely wanted to get in a personal workout if Gaston wasn't going to use him.

Gaston's claim that he wanted to keep Mussina in reserve, in case the six-run lead got away, didn't play. The way the National League was swinging they couldn't have hit Molly Putts with a tennis racket.

At the outset, fans in Toronto couldn't comprehend why Baltimore, in a gleeful mood all week, and getting favorable acclaim for the way it responded to the festivities, jeered the Blue Jays. At first it seemed to be nothing more than a good-natured rib but the intensity increased and never let up.

Gaston didn't appear on the field when the game was over for the "Harry High School" high-five ritual that is so much baloney. Maybe he was in a hurry to get to the news conference so he could charm the media delegation.

Everything leading up to the opening pitch was perfectly orchestrated. The decision to use James Earl Jones, backed up by the Morgan State University choir, for a recitation of the national anthem, was a powerful introduction. And the decision to have Al Kaline, born less than two miles from the park; Leon Day of the Baltimore Elite Giants; and Brooks Robinson of the Orioles to simultaneously make the ceremonial toss, all three together, was another excellent touch.

What would have given the game even more of a Baltimore

identity was if the National League had assigned umpire Harry Wendelstedt, a native son, to one of the officiating positions. He has put in more than 25 years of service with the NL and deserved to be here. The American League was able to salute Eddie Rommel by having him call the 1958 All-Star Game in his hometown. Wendelstedt rated similar treatment.

The Orioles, not major-league baseball, brought back Billy O'Dell, hero of the '58 event, for an introduction, in what was an extraordinary example of good judgment. As for the reception for Cal Ripken Jr., he received such a long and loud ovation at the mere mention of his name it threatened to delay the start of the game.

The Blue Jays were stunned to walk into the kind of hostility the same crowd heaped upon them. Gaston could have quickly defused the animosity by using Mussina rather than issuing a lame explanation that he was saving him for extra innings. Why not his senior prom?

Baltimore and Gaston have created a situation that could lead to further ugliness when the Blue Jays and Orioles head into the stretch in the battle of supremacy of the Eastern Division. This shouldn't be. Just because Toronto has a state-of-the-art park, with a retractable roof, one that Baltimore wishes it had, is no reason to blast the Blue Jays.

Overall, the city looked good and made a highly favorable impression until the booing fans made Baltimore and themselves look strictly Bushville. This was unfortunate, considering how impressive Baltimore was doing until it showed a lack of understanding in the repulsive way it conducted itself when the Blue Jays arrived, the ball was put in play and the reason for being there, to see the game's most talented players, was forgotten.

Gaston, though, had a bad time of it. The record book will show him as the winning manager of the 1993 midsummer night's dream game that turned into a ninth-inning nightmare.

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