Wednesday July 12, 2023
All the Jerseys at the 2023 All-Star Game
The view from 300 during BP.
The team with the uglier uniforms won. So it goes.
Yesterday I attended my second in-person All-Star Game, at what is now called T-Mobile Park and used to be called Safeco Field, south of downtown Seattle, about 1.5 miles from where I live in the First Hill neighborhood. The last (the only other) ASG I attended was at Safeco, and as I was walking to the game, I ran through all the All-Star Games that played in Minneapolis (where I grew up) and Seattle during my lifetime, and why I hadn't been to more of them.
- 1965: Metropolitan Stadium
- 1985: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
- 2014: Target Field
- 1979: The Kingdome
- 2001: Safeco Field
- 2023: T-Mobile Park
I missed the first one in Minnesota because I was 2 years old, missed the second because I was in college, studying, and had lost track of baseball for a time. I remember feeling sad that I'd lost track of baseball. Like: What had I become? But look at that list again, there's some interesting history there. Our stadiums once had generic names (“Metropolitan”); then in the 1960s and '70s multi-use stadiums were built and named for famous, powerful people (Humphrey, King, RFK, Shea); but then in the 1990s it was decided, no, retro ballparks subsidized by local governments, with high-priced seating and suites so rich people wouldn't have to intermingle with the rabble, that was the way to go, and while we're at it let's make even more money by selling naming rights to the highest-bidding corporation. And that's where we are. The world keeps turning, and turning bad.
But what sticks out for me is that each of the above ASGs was in a different stadium—except for the two I attended, at Safeco/T-Mobile. How often does an All-Star Game show up at the same stadium within a 25-year span? And that led me to this Wikipedia page on all the MLB All-Star venues, which led me to the realization that I have no idea how they choose the ASG venue. I'd always assumed they just took turns. And if a new stadium was built, well, you go to the head of the line. That first part isn't really true, though. The Tampa Bay Rays, for example, have been around since 1998 and have never hosted—I assume because they have a shitty ballpark. It's MLB going to Tampa, “No, you haven't tried hard enough. You're not helping the brand.”
But if a county builds a new stadium? Damn right we're going to showcase you. The first retro ballpark, Camden Yards in Baltimore, opened in 1992 and hosted the All-Star Game in 1993, and since then, with a few detours to stadiums that were established (Veterans, 1996) or iconic (Fenway, 1999) or iconic and soon-to-be-shuttered (Yankee, 2008), it's been all the retro ballparks, year after year. And then I guess they just ran out. In 2019, the ASG returned to Cleveland and Jacobs/Progressive. In 2021, Coors got a second go-round. In '22 it was iconic Dodger Stadium and now it was Seattle's turn to re-host. Re-hosting at the same stadium with a new corporate name is the new thing. It's what's happening. And I was there for the happening.
Seattle lucked out in showcasing our city, since yesterday was about as perfect a day as you could ask for: mid-70s, blue skies, and the mountains were out. My Philly cousin in LA sent me this email during the game: “Seattle sure looks good on TV. In fact the beauty shots are way more interesting than the game.” I have to admit, there were times, sitting in the 300 level behind homeplate, when a plane went overhead and I'd get lost just looking at its slow trajectory against that vast blueness.
On the ground, not everything was so peachy. Walking there, via the International District and Seahawks parking lot, I ran into crowds on Occidental, as well as one of those miked-up doomsaying preachers. I thought: “Well, at least they pushed him way back here instead of in front of the stadium where he usually is.” Except, nope. He was one of four such preachers I ran into on Occidental. Is there a permit involved when using a microphone for soap-box sermonizing in a public space? I'm curious how it works. I'd be way more interested in these guys if they'd lose the mic. (OK, not too interested.)
And the hawking that I wanted to hear but didn't? Scorecard guys. “Programs, get yer programs!” That was about as staple as baseball use to be, and I would've bought one. But apparently they don't sell them that way anymore. Now it's via the souvenir shops and stands, which may be why the lines there were superlong before the game, and not long at all for the foodstuffs. Me, I bought a brat from my usual guys, ate it in my seat while watching BP, then returned to the 100-level and walked around the park a bit. My favorite thing was checking out all the jerseys everyone was wearing. It wasn't just M's and whatever team we were playing. Everyone was represented, all 30 MLB teams, and then some. My seatmate Andy W. saw an Expos jersey; both of us saw a good 1969 Seattle Pilots number. Hell, Rays fans even showed up, poor bastards. (“Poor” in that they have a smart, winning organization with a shitty ballpark and fanbase.) I saw a Bench 5, and a De La Cruz 44, and a Mets de Grom, and a Jeter 2—along with the usual Griffey 24s, Martinez 11s and Rodriguez 44s. Oh right, I even saw a Yankees 13 for the other Rodriguez, A-Rod. That was intriguing. The most obscure jersey? A Kenji Johjima number. Been a while. If ever.
Two chants got going during the game: “Come-to-Seattle! [clap clap clapclapclap]” whenever Shohei Ohtani batted; and “Sell the team!” whenever the Oakland A's lone rep did anything. That message was for the A's current owner, who is in the midst of shipping the team to Las Vegas, a horrible idea, so I was behind both chants. What I wasn't behind? The continued booing of Astros ballplayers because of the 2017 garbage-can scandal. One, most of the current Astros weren't on that team, so you're booing innocent bystanders. Two, the Mariners weren't going anywhere that year, so it's not like Houston robbed us of anything. And three, who knows, but the cheating might've prevented the New York Yankees from winning the pennant in 2017, which was their best shot at a pennant in the 2010s, so instead they suffered their first pennant-less decade since Babe Ruth was purchased for $100k back in the winter of 1919. C'mon. Anything that prevents the Yankees winning more is a positive. “By any means necessary,” as a great man once said. So stop with the booing already.
(I know, the booing won't stop. Mob rule. Once booing becomes a thing, you can't put it back in the bottle. See: A-Rod.)
We had three Mariners reps this go-round and were lucky to get those. The first one chosen, Luis Castillo, didn't play, but George Kirby pitched an inning (and gave up a run), and Julio Rodriguez, whose jersey I was wearing, played the second half in center field and struck out in the 7th. In the 9th, with the AL down by one, he was the fourth man due up, and the first two guys made outs. The third guy, Kyle Tucker, is an Astro who wasn't around in 2017 but was lustily booed nevertheless. He worked a walk to let us see Julio bat again. (See? Astros can do good things.) Last year, it seemed Julio kept making the magical happen, but this season not so much. He flails too much after the outside sliders and then takes the fastballs in the zone. But here he worked a walk, to get us to Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez, who struck out to send us home, a little disappointed but not much.
I was excited to see the youth on the field, all these up-and-comers, so it was interesting that the big blow for the NL was struck by Colorado catcher Elias Diaz, age 32+, a career .249/.302/.391 hitter, playing in his first All-Star Game. Good for him! The scoring began with a Diaz homerun (Yandy, AL, 2nd inning) and ended with a Diaz homerun (Elias, NL, 8th inning), which is a nice bookend. We try to stay neat in Seattle. But I would've preferred it ending with a Rodriguez homerun.
Is that my last All-Star Game in my home park? Probably, unless I move. The year 2001 doesn't seem so long ago in some contexts, but I was 38 then and I'm 60 now. And 60+22 isn't my favorite math.
After the game, fans file past an image of a Diaz who was neither of the Diazes that went yard during the game. (I wish I'd taken more photos of all the jerseys. I like the brave Bonds fan. And the Kyle Lewis wearer has nothing on Kenji.)