By 1990, Wrigley Field had last hosted an All-Star Game in 1962 — and that only because from 1959-62, MLB had two All-Star Games per year, with the extra proceeds going to help the MLB players pension fund.
So everyone in Chicago was excited about the first Midsummer Classic in Wrigley in 28 years, and the first in the city since the 1983 ASG at the old Comiskey Park.
The awful Home Run Derby the previous day should have been a clue of the bad evening players and fans would have at the actual game.
Once again, Chicago’s fickle weather was a factor. The Home Run Derby had been conducted with September-like temperatures, but a warm front pushed north toward Chicago with a forecast chance of thunderstorms as the day wore on. Uh-oh.
The day had begun cloudy, warm and humid, but by game time temperatures had dropped. It was only 68 degrees when the first pitch was thrown — after a 17-minute rain delay — with a strong wind blowing off Lake Michigan. One could have been forgiven for thinking all these people had gathered on the North Side of Chicago in October instead of July.
The highlight of the game for Cubs fans — heck, maybe for any fans — were the huge ovations Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson got during player introductions (pardon the poor video quality here):
Both teams had a hit in the first inning, but then no further hits happened until an infield single by Sandy Alomar of the A.L. leading off the fifth. The A.L. loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks in the sixth, but could not score.
So at this point, with six innings completed, there were four total hits and no runs scored. A handful of walks provided the only other baserunners. I was at this game and I can tell you there was no lack of boredom among those of us in the stands. The wind had been blowing in most of the night; Wade Boggs of the Red Sox said after he left the game in the sixth inning, “Someone will have to hit the ball 800 feet to get it out of here tonight.” Clearly, no one did that.
Two more singles by A.L. hitters began the top of the seventh.
The only other time I can remember it raining that hard at Wrigley Field up to that time was the night of the first scheduled night game, August 8, 1988, forcing the postponement of that game. It rained so hard during the All-Star Game that the first row of the left-field bleachers turned into a lake.
The game was official at the time of the delay, but still scoreless. Had it been stopped at that time, it would have gone into the books as a tie, because there was no provision for suspending the game and completing it later. One of the reasons: There had been a lockout before the 1990 season and play was delayed a week, though all the missed games were rescheduled. Four of those games were scheduled the next day, and thus MLB had a strong incentive to wait out the delay, which per the Retrosheet boxscore was one hour, eight minutes. For those of us at Wrigley sitting through the drenching, it felt much longer.
When play finally resumed, Julio Franco, then a member of the Texas Rangers, smacked a double to right field. That scored both runners, which was overkill, since the N.L. managed just one more hit, a leadoff single by Lenny Dykstra in the ninth inning. Those of us who waited out the delay and stayed till the end were underwhelmed. The two hits were — and still are — the fewest by any All-Star squad and the two total runs scored also the fewest in any ASG, equalling a 1-1 tie in 1961 that was also a washout. The game finally slogged to its finish just before midnight.
Even the viewers of the game on TV didn’t get much of a show, as reported by Rick Kogan in the Tribune:
The most prominent members of the CBS team, broadcasters Jack Buck and Tim McCarver, struggled to manufacture enthusiasm during the first long innings.
The normally unflappable Buck remarked, as early as the third inning, “Gee, I wish the wind had blown out.” The generally incisive McCarver was reduced to little more than reciting facts, stats and falling into such obvious analysis as, “I think Tony [La Russa, A.L. manager] would like Jose [Canseco] to hit one out.” Really?
It should be noted here that at the time, 1990, McCarver was in fact viewed as a breath of fresh air on national TV broadcasts, before he became a caricature of himself 20+ years later, the McCarver you probably remember.
The 1990 All-Star Game won’t be remembered by many except for the thunderstorm, the wind blowing in, and the lack of scoring. It all happened 30 years ago today, and let’s hope the next time Wrigley Field hosts MLB All-Stars — and we surely hope there is a next time — the play and result will be a little more exciting.