YOU KNOW Cal Ripken couldn't play. Shouldn't have gone to Atlanta and didn't, knowing he had to rest an ominously painful back. You know it hurt him not to be there.
But some of the other players who called in sick should have been there to show allegiance to the fans who pay their guaranteed salaries.
Fans tend to see professional athletes as selfish and arrogant. Many wonder if they weren't malingering. That skepticism undermines the commitment that any professional team or league needs to keep them engaged and paying the high ticket prices.
So, what if this high-caliber injured list had come to the game and answered the public address introduction in street clothes?
Suppose they'd lined up along the baselines with the players who agreed to play -- what a PR coup that would have been. They would have acknowledged their debt to the game, supported the players who were on the field and given themselves a leg up on next year's All-Star voting.
Suppose Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and the others had been there to sign autographs.
Maybe they feel they do enough of that in their home ballparks. You could understand that, maybe. But pictures and autographs are part of the game. Cal set a standard there, too.
Consolation may be found in the kid-like enthusiasm of Mike Bordick, the gritty Orioles shortstop who made the American League squad when Seattle's Alex Rodriguez suffered a concussion. Mr. Bordick has always had all-star energy and determination. He has pushed himself to become almost as good a hitter as fielder.
No one was surprised to see him gobbling up the moment, going after it the way he gets the ball from short to first: all out, focused and happy for the opportunity.