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History!

That describes my experience at last night's dramatic 7-6 American League win in the All-Star Game, in so many ways.

The obvious one is the one you already know, that when Hank Blalock is watching the World Series on TV this fall (because his team has no chance of making it), he can take satisfaction in the fact that his two-run homer in the eighth inning gave the Mariners their home-field advantage. Incidentally, despite the fact that the ESPN.com link above says it was the AL's sixth straight win, it was actually their seventh; the last AL loss was in Philadelphia, 6-0 in 1996.

The other way is this -- on July 10, 1984, nineteen years ago, my dad got me tickets for the ASG in San Francisco, that one won by the NL 3-1. So this year I returned the favor and he came into Chicago and went with me and my son Mark. This is what baseball is all about, I think -- connecting the generations. My dad talks about seeing Billy Herman and Stan Hack and all the Cubs of the '30s, the years when they won pennants every three years, and now my son is growing up watching Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, when we have hope that they may win something soon, and thus we continue. That is one thing that all of us can appreciate about living in this country -- that we have created traditions like this one, that we can pass down from father to son.

OK, sappy stuff over, let's talk about the experience, since you all probably know about the game itself.

Though security was supposed to be "tight", I didn't notice any real difference from any other game at the Ballmall -- I usually don't drag my backpack down there, and last night I simply went with a camera bag. Lines to get in were very short. They handed out envelopes with photos of past All-Stars, some of which were supposedly autographed. We didn't get one of those -- and what are the odds of this? We got three identical photos, all of Andre Dawson. I traded one to Brian for the Don Mattingly photo that he got.

Brian also got a "Rally Cap Face Mask" that they were handing out free outside the ballpark and gave it to Mark, which was awfully nice of him. He sat with us, and his brother Jake stopped by. Jake didn't have a ticket but wound up getting one outside. I won't tell you how much he spent, but he's lucky he didn't get a counterfeit ticket, because there were apparently dozens of them outside the park. I also said hi to their dad, Dave, who was in his regular season seats. Meanwhile, their brother Kevin, who plays for the Rockford Riverhawks of the independent Frontier League, spent the day hanging with his buddy Jody Gerut, Cleveland Indians outfielder, and some of the Cleveland all-star contingent including pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

I'm a sucker for pre-game hoopla at events like this and there was just enough to be nice, without overdoing it. It was pretty windy for the huge flag that they unveiled in the outfield and at times the sailors holding it had trouble keeping it from blowing away. The largest ovation for any non-Chicago player was for Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins, who didn't even get into the game (neither did 11 others, as the managers did play more to win, but more on this later). A bit of a razzberry to Sox fans, who booed every player from the AL Central. I mean, come on, people -- this is a game celebrating the best players in the sport; if you don't want to cheer for them, at least give them polite applause. As you might expect, there were boos for both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, but there were a fair number of cheers for them too from the Cub contingent, which was pretty visible (OK, I wore my Wood jersey last night too). Jerry Manuel was roundly booed; ex-Sox manager Tony LaRussa got a much warmer welcome.

The Blue Angels flyover was extremely cool; too fast to take a picture of it, unfortunately, but they couldn't have been more than a couple of hundred feet above the ballpark. And last night, there were no lame singers, as both Vanessa Carlton (geez, someone else I've never heard of. My pop culture credentials are gonna start being questioned!), who sang the national anthem, and Amy Grant (and yes, I have heard of her), who sang "God Bless America" in the 7th, sang beautifully.

About the two managers -- Dusty Baker seemed to manage this much more like an exhibition, replacing everyone by the sixth inning and never coming to get a pitcher in trouble during an inning, not even Eric Gagne, who had about the worst appearance of his career, culminated by the Blalock HR (only the 2nd he's allowed all season). Mike Scioscia, on the other hand, was really managing this like a game -- making three double-switches, taking Shigetoshi Hasegawa out during his bad inning that gave the NL an early 5-1 lead which made the game feel like a blowout for a while, and sticking with his own players, Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson, for nearly the whole game, then making the key move in the 8th when he pinch-hit Blalock. Baker clearly got outmanaged last night. I was really surprised he didn't use Mark Prior in the 8th; Prior's in front of at least some hometown fans; he hadn't pitched since Friday and won't till at least Saturday (depending on how they rejigger the Cubs rotation), so it would have been well-timed for him to throw an inning. And for Sox fans, the bitter irony of their ex-closer, Oakland's Keith Foulke, coming in to save the win for the AL

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of the homers land in the seats except for Andruw Jones' to left because of the obstruction from the seats we had in section 164. The Sox did this inadvertently when they built the CF patio and only found out about it when some ticketholders complained the first day they sat there. The Sox could fix this and probably should. I won't complain since I knew about the seats before I agreed to take them. You also can't see the JumboTron from there, which on most days isn't a big deal, but at a game like this I'd have liked to see some of the video tributes that were on the board. I have only one complaint to address to the White Sox -- at the end of the game they closed off gate 6, which deposits you at 35th & Wentworth, and forced everyone from the LF and 3B side to exit via gate 5, which really slowed things down getting out.

This was my sixth All-Star Game: 1975 in Milwaukee; 1983 at old Comiskey; the aforementioned 1984 in San Francisco; 1990 at Wrigley Field, and 1991 in Toronto. The AL has now won four of the six games I've attended; and in two of those seasons -- 1983 and 1984 -- a Chicago team made the playoffs. Well, I can dream, can't I?

Rumor heard: That the White Sox might replace Jerry Manuel with Jim Fregosi as early as today. We shall see.

The entire All-Star experience was terrific, even though it's such a corporate marketing thing these days; back in '75 you could walk around County Stadium pretty much unhindered, and I ran into A's owner Charlie Finley holding court among a group of fans in his green jacket and cowboy hat, and you can't really do that any more. But the weather was great; the events were enjoyable, and the game itself was terrific, with that dramatic Blalock home run, well played and exciting, and the players seemed really into it, hanging on the dugout rail throughout.