Chicago White Sox outfielder Albert Belle worked so hard to stay out of the spotlight at the 68th All-Star Game, he ended up being the focus of the pregame workouts.
Belle was a reluctant All-Star to begin with. He told American League Manager Joe Torre on Sunday that he would prefer not to be in the starting lineup, and apparently made it clear that he would rather have stayed home.
“I’ve talked to him,” Torre said before the introduction of teams, where Belle raised both arms in mock thanks for the vociferous boos that greeted him. “If somebody got hurt and I have a problem, I’ll use him, but it’s not all that comfortable for him being here.”
Belle didn’t play in the American League’s 3-1 victory.
No one expected Belle to get a lot of playing time. Not after Indians fans showered him with play money and a variety of hard objects when he returned to Jacobs Field as a member of the White Sox earlier this season.
They could not have been happy, however, when Belle stiffed the A.L. team picture and left everyone wondering why the American League wasted a roster spot that some other player would have appreciated.
Who’s number one?
It wouldn’t be an All-Star Game without more attempts to ignite the controversy over who is baseball’s best player, Seattle’s Ken Griffey or San Francisco’s Barry Bonds.
Neither player would allow himself to be lured into it, though Bonds came the closest.
“If you want to look at the realism of it, you turn one (baseball) card around and you turn the other card around and you look at the stats. Then you evaluate. It speaks for itself.
“He’s very good. He also has a great team around him, too. And he has a great ballpark to hit in, too.”
Johnson enjoys young pitchers
A.L. starter Randy Johnson composed an interesting list of pitchers he most prefers watching: California’s Jason Dickson, Detroit’s Justin Thompson and Kansas City’s Jose Rosado. Each one an All-Star, none a household name yet.
“They’re all young pitchers and that’s where I was four or five years ago, learning the game. They’re probably even further along than where I was. They have command of all their pitches and they’re very mature young kids. It’s exciting watching those guys.”
What about hitters? “I don’t like hitters, so I don’t really care to comment on that,” he said jokingly. “Griffey’s on my team so I really enjoy watching him. I enjoy when he comes to the plate and hits a home run for me. He’s the one hitter I love.”
Alomars honor grandmother
Roberto and Sandy Alomar honored the memory of their grandmother who died last week and wore thin black ribbons on their jersey sleeves during the game.
Tonee Valazquez, who was 96, was buried in Salinas, Puerto Rico, on Monday as two of her grandsons planned to play on the same All-Star team for the fourth time.
“Like an angel, she’ll be watching out for us,” Roberto Alomar said. “The important thing is she’s not suffering anymore. She’s found peace.”
Sandy Alomar’s two-run homer in the seventh inning put the A.L. ahead 3-1 and the Indians catcher was named the game’s MVP.
“All I know is I dedicated this to my grandmother who passed away,” said Sandy Alomar.
Players looking forward to next year
Before the All-Stars even left Jacobs Field on Tuesday night, they were looking forward to next year’s All-Star Game - at Denver’s Coors Field.
“They are going to have to set aside a little more time for the home-run contest,” Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell said. “I can’t wait to see Big Mac (Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire) take aim over there.”
Neither can McGwire, who will make his first visit to Coors Field when the A’s come to town Aug. 30-31 for two interleague games.
“There will probably be more tickets sold for the home-run-hitting contest than the game itself,” McGwire said. “It’s something we’re all looking forward to. You hear so much about Coors Field in the American League. It’s going to be fun to go there.”
Tobacco ban gets mixed reviews
The All Stars appeared to be doing their best to avoid using tobacco during Tuesday night’s game, though it wasn’t easy.
Though it wasn’t mandatory, most dippers said they would comply. “I think they went about it the right way,” Atlanta’s Chipper Jones said. “You really shouldn’t be doing it in front of the fans.”
Ah, there’s the catch.
“I’m not going to dip on the field,” said Milwaukee’s Jeff Cirillo as he sat in the A.L. clubhouse. “I’m going to dip now.”
Jones describes himself as kind of a closet dipper.
“I’m trying to cut back a little bit,” he said. “I’m not one of these guys who puts a dip in first thing in the morning.
“If you’re going to start with tobacco, then you’ve got to ban beer in the clubhouse and in the stands,” Cirillo said. “They’re selling hot dogs and they’re not good for you.”
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