Fun Stuff

Revisiting the 1996 MLB All-Star Game in Philadelphia

1996asgOn Tuesday night, Major League Baseball’s All-Stars will gather in San Diego, California to showcase the sport with the annual All-Star Game. This 2016 version also marks twenty years since the game was hosted in Philadelphia. There is a major leaguer (Julio Urias, Dodgers) that have made his debut this season that were not yet born when the Phillies last played host.  With the 20 year anniversary upon us, it seems like the proper time to revisit that Tuesday night in July 1996.

With Veterans Stadium providing the backdrop, the stars of Major League Baseball put on a show. Well, the National League team put on a show. Featuring future Hall of Famers such as Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Tony Gwynn and Ozzie Smith on the offensive side of the ball, the National League pummeled the American League club 6-0.

To put the game in some perspective, both in terms of time passed as well as statistics, this game marked Alex Rodriguez’s first All-Star appearance, while playing for the Seattle Mariners. Beating out Rodriguez for the starting American League shortstop was Cal Ripken, Jr. in his 14th appearance. Chipper Jones also made his first of eight All-Star teams while Ozzie Smith was making his 15th and final All-Star game. As the reigning World Series champions, the Braves were well represented across the board. Their three headed monster of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, along with reliever Mark Wohlers, represented the strength of Atlanta’s pitching.

piazzaasgThe American League hitters, featuring the likes of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, Roberto Alomar and Ken Griffey Jr., were held in check by the ferocious NL pitching. The National League hitters were led by game Most Valuable Player and Phoenixville, PA’s own Mike Piazza, who went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI.

The Phillies’ lone representative on the NL team, Ricky Bottalico, recorded a hitless inning striking out Ivan Rodriguez and retiring Cal Ripken, Jr. as well as Jay Buhner. Bottalico was joined in the dugout by Phillies pitching coach Galen Cisco. Coached by Cisco, Bottalico was in the midst of a 1996 campaign in which he recorded 34 saves in 38 opportunities with a 3.19 ERA. While the Phillies would finish last in the NL East at 67-95, with Bottalico in the closing role, a lead in the ninth was almost always safe.

Much has changed in the baseball landscape over the last 20 years, including how the All-Star festivities are handled. Obviously, the game itself now determines the league that receives home-field advantage in the World Series and the Home Run Derby format has been altered a handful of times.

There is a slightly more minute change that could have been forgotten in recent years. The Home Run Derby, now aired live on ESPN, was actually filmed during the day and aired on tape-delay in the evening. While tape-delay is reserved for the celebrity softball game that follows the derby, the Derby now provides live, primetime entertainment on one of the emptiest dates on the sports calendar.

While it would be awesome to see Philadelphia get another chance to host the battle of the best Major Leaguers, their next best chance at hosting the All-Star Game is probably in 10 years, in 2026. It seems almost a no-brainer, both for Philadelphia and Major League Baseball, as the country would be in the midst of celebrating the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With the game being played only a week after July 4th, America’s Independence Day, it would mark the perfect occasion for such an event.

In the meantime, be sure to tune in Tuesday night to catch Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera as he tries to help the National League secure a win for the first time since 2012, which would be their fourth since the win in 1996.

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