July 5th, 2012 by Nat Coombs
NAT COOMBS rolls out his Viewers’ Guide to this year’s All Star Game from Kansas.
Ever since Bud Selig made the All Star Game count for something – the winning league earns their World Series representative homefield advantage should the Fall Classic go to a seventh game – it has become one of the most compelling All-Pro watches out there.
Admittedly that’s not a high bar:
The NFL’s Pro Bowl little more than a bit of a (Jonny) jolly in Hawaii with players about as committed to winning as most of the 1919 Black Sox.
The NBA All Star Game is fun in so far as it features the big stars trying to outdo each other; in the same way that superstar divas try to outdo each other with outrageous riders. (Player most likely to request 1000 orange rose petals scattered on the floor of the locker room = Meta World Peace).
The NHL’s annual exhibition game also suffered from lacking any real purpose prompting the introduction of a fan-friendly fantasy draft rather than the traditional East v West.
So, when much of America – and MLB fans all around the world tune in next Tuesday (00:30 UK/01:30 CET) – it’ll be more than just an excuse to snaffle extra hot dogs and enjoy some of Auntie Maggie’s “special” punch.
Fans will be pulling for their representative league so that their team benefits if they makeit to the World Series. And, at this half way stage of the season, pretty much every team is still in contention. Astros and Cubs fans? You can sit and watch the Home Run Derby.
Whether this is your first experience of the Midsummer Classic or you’ve seen more of them than the combined ages of Bryce Harper, Starlin Castro and Mike Trout [pic right with Albert Pujols] check out my Bluffer’s Guide to the 2012 All Star Festivities.
And the ESPN America tecchies have popped this Top Ten column into a lab and scientifically proven you’ll enjoy it exactly 24% more once you’ve read it.
1. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings??
Play “Pitching Change Bingo” … whereby every time a pitching change is made you take a drink of your favorite beverage.
NB: Make sure you are within a 10 second sprint to a bathroom, as there are approximately 117* pitching changes in the average All Star Game (*may well not be too accurate)
2. Dickey Beau?
Revel in the masterful work of RA Dickey. The Mets’ knuckleballer [pic right after being 'pied' following a one-hitter] is having the season of his life and though it hasn’t been confirmed yet that he’ll be starting, he’ll definitely be seeing some action. Enjoy a fine player, stepping up as an All Star, in a landmark year.
3. Going Going, Going Going, GONE!
Will anyone snag two HR’s? The first All Star Home Run was hit in Comiskey Park, Chicago, in 1933 by a little know player called Babe Ruth.
Sure, everyone gets their fill of the Long Ball with the Home Run Derby, but will anyone have the first multiple HR All Star Game in 30 years? Only five players have ever done it, the last being the late, lamented Gary Carter, in 1981.
4. Bet Wisely.
Odds on NL manager Tony La Russa wearing shades for the entire game? 8-1
Odds on Tony La Russa starting a fight with Dusty Baker? Evens
(Baker suggested that La Russa had snubbed some Reds players because of an old beef going back to 2010. TLR denied it, but keep your eye out for a “Marty Mcfly on Biff Tannen in the Diner trip” from Back to The Future should La Russa get the chance!)
5. Make Your Vote Count!
Former American Idol contestant & country music star Kellie Pickler will be singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. I think next year the MLB should put it to the fan vote for the singing duties, as they do with the last roster spot available for both teams (won this year by Yu Darvish [pic right] for the AL & David Freese for the NL). I’d vote for Spinal Tap.
6. Man v Food
If you want the authentic Kansas City chowdown to accompany your All Star Game viewing pleasure at home then try and rustle up a “Z-Man,” which has been described as “Kansas City’s most notable sandwich.” The Z-Man, made at Oklahoma Joe’s restaurant in KC, has smoked provolone cheese with a pair of onion rings on top of smoked beef brisket, all served on a Kaiser roll. Just don’t offer one to Prince Fielder – he’s a vegetarian.
7. Roll Back the Years
The last time Kansas City hosted an All Star Game was 1973. You can commemorate this by re-creating an early ’70s vibe whilst you watch. I recommend bell bottoms at four times the width of your pant leg, an orange velour roll neck jumper, and Sly & The Family Stone playing in the background. Facial hair optional.
8. The Future is Now
Don’t forget to catch the Futures Game live this Sunday at 22:00 UK / 23:00 CET, or the Home Run Derby live on Monday at 01:00 UK / 02:00 CET, (check TV listings for several rebroadcasts). The former is where you’ll catch the next Canos, Fielders and Beltrans, whilst the latter is where you’ll catch the, er, current Canos, Fielders & Beltrans.
9. Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game
Think outside of the Bundchen! If you are currently behind on your US popular culture, catch up as some of the biggest names on TV, music and film take to the field with the likes of Glee, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, Modern Family, American Idol and Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel.
True baseball fans will be looking out for the Hall of Famers (Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Rickey Henderson), Kansas legends (George Brett and Bo Jackson) and other MLB greats including Mike Piazza strutting their stuff.
Shown as live on 12:30 UK / 13:30 CET on Tuesday 11th.
10. Scoreboard Watching
If you get a few minutes respite from all the great action throughout All Star Week, don’t forget to go and create your own MLB Scoreboard for a chance to win tickets to the World Series and a chance to make your own appearance at the MLB Fan Camp in Italy next year.
Click here to create your own MLB Scoreboard on the ESPN America Facebook page.
To read Nat’s previous blogs on the MLB (and NFL) including Red Sox Damnation and Bluffer’s Guide to the NFL Draft, click here.
NAT COOMBS is a writer, broadcaster and studio host on our partner channel ESPN. He covers both NFL and MLB on BBC Radio Five Live in the UK, and anchors the US Sports podcast Americarnage.
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