All-Star memories still special

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is set to unfold in Cincinnati on Tuesday night, but, not surprisingly, most of America will tune into something else.

It wasn’t always that way.

As a youngster, I recall unsuccessfully begging my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the event. Video games, iPods and other new-fangled technologies have changed the entertainment landscape. As a result, many children don’t even know that this once-proud game is even on the horizon.

Beyond that, various scandals, most notably steroid abuse, have diminished the credibility of numerous former all-stars, making it harder for even adults to consider tuning in.

Pete Rose’s pathetic plunge into the abyss of gambling foolishness makes this year’s contest in Cincinnati particularly sad. Many, including me, had hoped that Rose and Major League Baseball might figure out a way to reconcile things.

However, Rose’s arrogant inability to be honest and show contrition sealed his fate as a perpetual baseball outsider despite being part of All-Star Game lore for many years.

Although the sports world has always had its share of corruption, as a kid, I was oblivious to that. With ESPN, the Internet, speculative journalism, and an unyielding 24/7 news cycle, a similar innocence can’t be recaptured by today’s youth.

Major League Baseball has tried to bring greater relevance to the game by linking the winner to home-field advantage for the World Series. That has generated mocking derision, and deservedly so, on radio shows and elsewhere.

Despite losing much of its luster, this game still holds a warm place in my heart for many reasons.

First, it brings back memories of my youth, a time when baseball, believe it or not, was on somewhat equal footing with football, and the general public was enthralled by the event. Also, while a teen, a family relative, Jon Matlack, played in several games, even winning MVP honors in 1975.

Years later, I was able to work on a number of All-Star Game broadcasts, too, with particularly fond memories of the 1994 contest at Three Rivers Stadium.

During that game, I roamed the interior of the ballpark with CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Hunter, lining up interviews with players. After signing off, we celebrated in the now defunct Allegheny Club with producer Norman Baer and a broadcast crew that featured Jerry Coleman, John Rooney and Jeff Torborg.

From a local perspective, it was a brief moment of community pride, as Pittsburgh did an outstanding job and put on a wonderful show. However, the event was bittersweet and had several sad subthemes. Locally, the Pirates were in their second straight losing season, and they would not post a winning record until 2013.

Additionally, while covering the game, many of us knew that baseball was in the midst of a brutal labor battle, one that would cause eventual cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

Baseball could not be stopped by two World Wars or the Great Depression, so when greed shut down the sport, a justifiably angry public withdrew its support. Unfortunately, baseball lost a chunk of its fan base, some of it permanent, and that contributed to the All-Star Game’s further decline.

Despite the All-Star Game’s precarious status today, at least for me, All-Star Game memories will always remain special.

Bob Trumpbour worked at the CBS Radio Network in New York before moving to the region. He’s an associate professor of communications at Penn State Altoona and lives in Duncansville.