Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs, Will Clark and Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants and Roberto Alomar of the San Diego Padres look on during batting practice prior to the 1990 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Steve Goldstein/Getty Images)
The 1990 All-Star Game was the third, and to date, the latest, All-Star Game played at Wrigley Field. The game was awarded to the Cubs after lights were installed at Wrigley Field in 1988; since the early 1970s all All-Star Games had been played at night.
The Home Run Derby is one of the most-anticipated events surrounding an All-Star Game today. 1990 at Wrigley Field was the very first such event, and both the players involved and the fans (especially Wrigley ballhawks) were quite excited about the possibilities of dozens of baseballs flying onto Waveland and Sheffield. Unlike the prime-time spectacle of today, the first HR Derby was held during the afternoon.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, a cold front had blown through Chicago the previous evening and the day of July 9, 1990 dawned sunny and pleasant -- but with a strong wind blowing straight in at Wrigley Field. Some of the top home run hitters of the era: Cecil Fielder, Ken Griffey Jr., Bobby Bonilla and Darryl Strawberry -- failed to hit a single ball out of Wrigley.
Matt Williams and Jose Canseco hit one each.
And the event was won by the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg, who hit three. He told the Houston Chronicle (no link available) how he did it:
"The key in Wrigley Field is not to hit the ball too high," he said. "I think the other guys were trying to upper-cut it, and they were getting it up in the wind and it was blowing in. It took a legitimate line-drive home run today because of the breeze. The thing about Wrigley is, the fences aren't that far back, so if you hit a line drive it goes out."
A lesson that could be learned, perhaps, by today's power hitters. Sandberg had his best power season in 1990, slugging .559 and leading the NL in HR (40), total bases (334) and runs (116).
The game itself was almost as much a dud as the HR derby. Weather forecasters had warned that the sunny and cool weather of July 9 would not hold the next day and that the game was likely to be interrupted by rain.
That turned out to be true; the game was scoreless with two AL runners on base in the top of the seventh when a large thunderstorm blew its way through the North Side and the game was delayed an hour and eight minutes. When it resumed, the Reds' Rob Dibble entered the game for the NL and promptly gave up a double to Julio Franco (then with the Rangers) that scored both runners. Franco was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Canseco fly to right.
And that was it. The NL had two singles -- one by Lenny Dykstra, the other by Will Clark; that's the fewest hits by a team in All-Star history. Barry Bonds and Tony Gwynn drew walks to provide the only other NL baserunners. Barry Larkin, running for Gwynn, stole second and was the only NL runner who made it past first base. It was likely the dullest game in the history of the series. The only thing that was accomplished of note was that, with the game ending a couple of minutes after midnight, it was the latest ending to a game at Wrigley Field; that mark stood until July 26, 2005; that game was delayed two and a half hours by rain and went 11 innings, ending about 1:25 a.m.
The Cubs would like to have another All-Star Game at Wrigley, possibly coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the team's first season playing there, which will happen in 2016. If Wrigley Field renovations can be completed by then, perhaps it'll happen.