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Today in Cubs All-Star history: The Cubs host the 1990 Midsummer Classic

... but haven’t had one since.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs hosted All-Star Games in 1947 and 1962, and then went through a long fallow period without one, largely because beginning in 1971 the ASG was moved to a night-game slot for TV purposes and Wrigley Field did not have lights.

With the installation of lights in 1988, the Cubs were granted hosting privileges at Wrigley Field for 1990. 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.

It turned out to be a clunker of a contest, unfortunately. The awful Home Run Derby the previous day should have been a clue about the wet evening players and fans would have at the actual game.

As it so often is during the baseball season, Chicago’s fickle weather was a factor. The Home Run Derby had been conducted in 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:

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.

At that point, with six innings completed, there were four total hits and no runs scored. A handful of walks provided the only other baserunners. I attended 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. After he left the game in the sixth inning, Wade Boggs of the Red Sox said, “Someone will have to hit the ball 800 feet to get it out of here tonight.” Clearly, no one was going to do that.

Two more singles by A.L. hitters began the top of the seventh.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

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. That’s where I was sitting for the game. Here’s my ticket.

Bleacher section 150 in 1990 is now section 506. $40 in July 1990 is roughly equivalent to about $93 today, but an All-Star bleacher ticket like this in 2023 would likely cost over $200. Remember, though, that a 1990 regular season Cubs bleacher ticket cost $5.

Anyway, 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 lasted 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 after 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.

Here’s the full 1990 All-Star Game:

This All-Star Game won’t be remembered by many except for the thunderstorm, the wind blowing in, and the lack of scoring. Let’s hope the next time Wrigley Field hosts MLB All-Stars the play and result will be a little more exciting — and drier. It’s still possible that the Cubs could host the Midsummer Classic in 2025.

The 1990 All-Star Game happened 33 years ago today, Tuesday, July 10, 1990.