Since it is All-Star week, I thought we’d share a couple of favourite All-Star memories
1984 was the first time we had more than one player named to the All-Star team; we had three: Dave Stieb, Damaso Garcia and Alfredo Griffin.
Stieb was named to the team for the 4th time. He has the team-high mark for being named to the All-Star team at 7 (Roy Halladay was named six times as a Jay). In 1984, for the second straight year, he was picked to be the starting pitcher. Dave had another terrific season; at the break, he was 9-3 with a 2.42 ERA, and opposing batters were hitting .210 against him. He finished the year 16-8, with a 2.83 for a team that finished 2nd in the AL East, at 89-73, but 15 games back of the eventual World Series-winning Detroit Tigers.
Dave didn’t have the great start he had in the 1983 game. Steve Garvey hit a single after ground outs by Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg and went to second on a Reggie Jackson error. Then Garvey scored on Dale Murphy’s single to left field, running over catcher Lance Parrish at the plate. Lance was given an error, dropping the ball in the collision, so no earned run for Stieb. Stieb then struck out Mike Schmidt—nothing like striking out one of the best third basemen in baseball history.
In the second inning, Stieb started by striking out Darryl Strawberry, then gave up a solo homer to Expo catcher Gary Carter (who would be voted game MVP). He got Ozzie Smith to ground out and Chili Davis to line out to end his two-inning stint. As the NL went on to win 3-1, Stieb got the loss. Stieb faced four future Hall of Famers.
Garcia was named to the All-Star team for the first time; he would make the team again the following year. Garcia was the type of middle infielder popular in that era, but you don’t see much anymore: a decent batting average, no power, no walks and enough speed to steal at almost a break-even rate. At the All-Star break Damaso was hitting .303/.329/.394, with 27 steals and 48 runs scored. So, quite a good first half. If he were playing today, you’d want him to take some walks, get on base a little more and maybe give you more power. He finished the season with a .284/.310/.374 with 46 steals and 79 runs scored.
Damaso got into the game, replacing starter Lou Whitaker in the bottom of the 6th inning. He got an at-bat in the 8th, popping out foul, and made one play in the field.
But what makes it one of my favourite baseball stories is Griffin’s part. Griffin has to go down as one of the worst All-Star picks ever. Alfredo was a defence first shortstop in the John McDonald mould, but, in 1984, he hit far worse than you would expect even from Johnny Mac. At the break, Alfredo was hitting .241/.250/.317. Playing about every day, he had just 3 walks, 10 extra-base hits, 6 steals (caught 3 times) and 31 runs scored at the break. He didn’t turn it up after the break, finishing with a .241/.248/.298 line, 4 homers, 30 RBI. It’s worth noting that he finished the season with a 0.9% walk rate. That’s less than 1%. And we got on Kevin Pillar’s case.
So how did Alfredo make the team? At the time, the custom was for the MLB to give the All-Star player plane tickets and a hotel for two to the game. Generally, the player will take his wife or girlfriend (as long as no one tells his wife) (kidding kidding). Damaso invited his friend and teammate, Griffin, to visit San Francisco. The day before the game, Alan Trammell hurt his arm and could not play. Having an open roster spot and no real time to fly a player in, AL manager Joe Altobelli gave the spot to Griffin ‘partly before he’s a fine player, but mostly because he was here.’ He made the team because he fit the uniform.
Griffin got into the game in the bottom of the 6th, replacing starter Cal Ripken, but he didn’t get to bat; Don Mattingly pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the 9th. He did make an assist on defence. That was his one All-Star game.
I love that story; no matter how badly the voters or managers screw up now, you’ll never see anyone having as bad a year as Griffin make an All-Star game again.