That’s the legendary Chuck Berry performing at last night’s All-Star Gala, which took place in a large tent behind left-field at Busch Stadium. Considering he’s 82 years old, Berry still puts on a good show. You’ve got to wonder how many times he’s performed songs like “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music.” Also performing was Nelly, whom I was surprised to learn wasn’t Jeff Nelson.
Evan Longoria, who has an infected ring finger, was scratched from the American League team and was replaced by Johnny B. Goode, er, Chone Figgins of the Angels.
This was an opening for Russ Branyan to get added to the team, but I’m sure manager Joe Maddon liked the versatility offered by Figgins, who can play just about anywhere. Michael Young will get the start at third base in place of Longoria.
I attended the national Baseball Writers Association of America meeting this morning, in which commissioner Bud Selig took questions for an hour, as he has done for the past several years. He took considerable time celebrating the strength of baseball in light of the economic downturn. He said MLB’s goal was to hit 40 million in attendance by the All-Star break, and they fell 400,000 below that. Overall attendance is down 5 percent, and in light of the economy, “everyone I talk to in American industry is stunned by that.”
He added, “This might be, in a sense, our greatest season. It’s a great testament to our sport,…The popularity of our sport comes through more meaningfully this year thanany year I’ve ever seen.”
He said that he wrote a letter to President Obama inviting him to the All-Star Game, and “what was so wonderful is he answered within 18, 24 hours. He was very happy to come.”
All the living ex-presidents, plus Obama, will be on hand by video to honor community service.
“No matter what one thinks politically, whether they’re right or left, it’s a big thing,” he said. “It’s another testament to the meaning of this sport.
“We have an enormous social responsibility,and clearly that’s what intrigued the White House.”
On the topic of possible charges of collusion against the owners stemming from this winter’s stagnant free agent market, Selig was forceful.
“Given the world we live in, and what happened the last 18 months, I can’t even fathom anyone would think that….Some of us have to live in the real world, not in some make-believe little scenario that doesn’t exist. This is a tough world. Given the fact that the average major league salaray today is at $3.2 million, I rest my case.”
He went on at length on steroids, most of it familiar territory. But he did say,interestingly, “Steroids is a societal problem, not a baseball problem, despite what I’ve bleeping read.”
On the Manny Ramirez situation, he said, “Many people have asked how I felt when Rob (Manfred, a top baseball executive) called to tell me about Manny Ramirez. At first, I was saddened because of the image of the sport. Then I said to myself, ‘OK, he’s gone 50 games. This proves the program is working, and no one is above the law.”
He added that Ramirez’s is the only positive test by a major leaguer this season out of more than 2,400 tests administered.
“People have to determine for themselves how they feel about it.”
And on the leak of names from the infamous list of 102 players that tested negative in 2003, he said, “The names that got out are the result of us having a drug-testing program.”
And, finally, he said that he had problems with the negotiated rule that allowed Ramirez to play in the minors while serving his suspension.
“To be very candid, I believe that should be changed,” he said. “Fifty games, and then do what you’ve got to do.”
He spoke on numerous other topics, but most were related to specific issues in various cities, so I won’t get into them here.
Another interesting thing that came out of the BBWAA meeting was a proposal from Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun Times to form a committee to develop guidelines on evaluating players from the steroids era in Hall of Fame voting.
A lively debate ensued, in which some members argued that such a committee was unnecessary, that the Hall of Fame voters are already given guidelines from the Hall of Fame and the vote comes down to one’s individual beliefs and evaluations. Voters are instructed to consider a player’s “record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
I voted in favor of the committee, because I feel it be healthy to at least discuss these issues, which are confounding every Hall of Fame voter, including myself, and will only get more troublesome as players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa entere the ballot. But it was voted down, 30-25. One interesting fact: I noticed that a table comprised entirely of writers from Japan, about 10 of them, all voted against the proposal. I talked to one Japanese writer who noted that few of them are likely to remain in the BBWAA long enough to get the 10 years of membership necessary to be a Hall of Fame voter.