With all the hoopla given to Derek Jeter during the MLB All-Star break, most forgot to honor the late Tony Gwynn and other greats who passed this year. Hell, even Major League Baseball barely gave it credence. This is not to take away from Jeter’s spotlight, but as a 15-time MLB All-Star, Tony Gwynn deserved recognition of his own, as well as four other legendary players and managers.
In a press release, MLB had this to say about not honoring these individuals:
“The baseball family has sadly lost a number of people this year, and did not want to slight anyone by singling out one individual.”
Major League Baseball and the baseball community lost Ralph Kiner, Jim Fregosi, Don Zimmer, Bob Welch and Tony Gwynn this year, all of whom are legends in their own right. The all-star game is the first time the casual fan would have seen a tribute to any of these great baseball men. Though many tributes were given around the country, only the everyday fans saw those. This was a chance for all of America to appreciate the lives of these baseball legends. These were great men whose memories deserved the spotlight every bit as much as the captain, Derek Jeter.
Ralph Kiner, a Hall of Famer, was the National League’s best slugger from 1946-1952, and broadcasted the Mets for 53 seasons. Jim Fregosi played for almost 20 years and was a manager for 23 seasons. His 1993 Phillies won the NL pennant. Bob Welch won the AL Cy Young in 1990 and three world titles including two World Series in 1981 and 1990. Don Zimmer, the much beloved player and coach, gave over six decades of his life to the game he loved. As for Tony Gwynn, he was the greatest pure hitter baseball had seen since Ted Williams and has the highest career batting average of any player who has played in the last 60+ years.
These men deserved their day of remembrance. More importantly, the fans did as well. We spend our lives watching these incredible players; pulling for them, and rooting for them. When they pass, a part of us dies as well.
The MLB All-Star game is the place, the time, and the setting, for all to come together and remember these great men. I’m not arguing that this was an intentional omission from MLB, as the league did a great job of remembering these men on the days that their deaths occurred. They have always been known for appreciating their fallen heroes. In this case, it appears that it was a gaffe that caught baseball off balance.
Perhaps it was in the excitement of the Derek Jeter celebration, which can be understood. However, for MLB and Fox to say they didn’t want to leave anyone out, why would they have to? Fox can come on the air thirty minutes early for meaningless interviews and side-shows, MLB Network can do hours of ‘red carpet’ fluff and filler pieces all day. Then they can spare the fans and their heroes a few moments of silence before the game begins, so we can say goodbye and the youth can learn of what makes this game the greatest game on earth.
Every year Hollywood puts on a short tribute to the great actors, actresses, and filmmakers who have passed away over the last twelve months during the Oscars. Maybe it’s time that baseball starts a tradition of doing the same at some point during all-star festivities. Surely it wouldn’t be too much to spare five minutes to honor those who have given the game, and the fans so much. If we make it something that is an expected part of the all-star festivities, then perhaps we can avoid overlooking legends like these again.
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