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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strike Could Take Twinkle Off All-Stars

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania -- Baseball's big names -- Griffey Jr., Thomas, Bonds, Bagwell -- are ready to party in Pittsburgh.

But for the first time since a titanic homer by 39-year-old Babe Ruth inaugurated the first midsummer classic in 1933, the specter of a season-ending strike hangs over Tuesday's All-Star game like a badly thrown slider.

The All-Star game usually is a time to look back on past games -- Pete Rose's head-on collision with Ray Fosse in 1970 and Reggie Jackson's huge homer in '71.

The three-day All-Star break also is traditionally a time to look ahead, to the second half of the season when titles and MVP awards will be won and lost.

But when the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association meets Monday, it won't be to divvy up licensing money. A strike date may not be set, but the mechanism for a shutdown surely will be put into motion.

"I don't see how there won't be a strike," the Pirates' Andy Van Slyke said. "The owners want a salary cap, and there will be peace in the Middle East before the players accept a salary cap. And there hasn't been peace in the Middle East in 2,000 years."

Maybe this All-Star game should not be billed as the American League vs. the National League but the Players vs. the Owners. It is ironically appropriate that a game with such a tradition-filled past will be played in a city that may not have a baseball future. The Pirates, a major-league franchise for 107 years, contend a salary cap and revenue sharing are essential for their very survival.

The last time the All-Star game dropped by the cavernous Three Rivers Stadium in 1974, there were 10,000 unsold seats a month before the game and the workout day was a private affair, with only the media attending.

Then, the National League was all-powerful, and was in the midst of winning 19 of 20 All-Star games. Now, the American League has most of the stars -- Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Kirby Puckett -- and, not surprisingly, a six-game winning streak.

Of the 11 homers hit in the last six All-Star games, all but three were by the AL's young bashers. So how come the AL has all the stars? The AL is so loaded that Jose Canseco and Julio Franco, who would rank near the top of the NL in RBIs, did not even make the AL team because of the rule that every franchise must be represented.

Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros is having a monster year and is threatening to win the NL triple crown, yet none of his numbers (.352, 26 homers, 77 RBIs) would lead the AL.

"I don't put myself into the category of a Ken Griffey Jr. or a Frank Thomas," he said. "I'm just Jeff Bagwell, and I'm having a good first half. There's still a long way to go."

Perhaps not for this All-Star of a season, much to the disappointment of fans eagerly watching the Cleveland Indians' first legitimate pennant race in four decades, and the possible pursuit of Roger Maris' magical 61-homers record.