Game day had finally arrived. Adrenalin was my main power source after sleeping at the Kingdome for three straight nights. The Groundskeepers had the field looking better than ever. Red, white and blue draped the gray concrete in every imaginable space.
As the day marched on, players arrived and a constant buzz of activity nested on the field. Dignitaries and stars came and went. I saw more people in the clubhouse than ever. In today's game, I don't think you would ever see access like in those days.
In one quiet moment, I walked through the dugout out on to the field. The television crews were laying cable and positioning cameras and I looked to my left and noticed an older man sitting by himself on the dugout bench.
I did a double take when I realized the man was one of the Seattle Mariners owners, Danny Kaye. The famous actor and philanthropist sat quietly taking in the scene. He noticed my look and called me over. I nervously walked over and introduced myself and he did the same. My first thought was, Of course I know who you are!
He invited me to sit down and for the next half-hour, we talked about all things from baseball to being a kid. In fact, I walked away assured that Danny Kaye, although up in the years, was a kid at heart. He talked about everything with a passion and excitement. He made me feel like a million bucks. I try today to put that moment into words and it's difficult. In some strange way, I think he believed he was the character that he played in the movies—Peter Pan.
Thirty-four years later, I can still recall the feeling of sitting on the wooden bench as his eyes lit up talking about the opportunities he has to make the world better, especially for children. I didn't know until later in life about the impact he had on things like UNICEF. He truly lived an inspirational life and I know that my moment with him influenced my life as well.
Back in the clubhouse, the players were dressing and we put out a pre-game spread unlike any I had ever seen before. Fred Genzale went all out for the All-Stars. Cheese, fruit, hors d'oeuvres and more, it looked more like a cocktail party than a pre-game spread. I saw more reporters and other freeloaders hitting the spread than actual ballplayers.
I sat in my locker taking in the scene when black-suited men infiltrated the locker room. I thought that this was strange, but everyone just went about their business. Surrounded by more staff, the former President of the United States, Gerald Ford, walked into the clubhouse and made his way to each locker, congratulating the players. He stopped at mine and asked about my role in the game. Nervously, I started talking non-stop about being batboy.
As I talked to the former leader of the free world, I couldn't help but think about the Saturday Night Live sketches with Chevy Chase portraying the clumsy former President. He moved on to the next locker as a smile grew across my face. It's probably a good thing, I might have asked him about SNL if he had talked longer.
|Jim Devitt running back with a bat after a Mike Schmidt triple|
It was time to get on the field. The pre-game introductions and ceremony took about twenty minutes. Compare that to today's event that has about an hour-long pre-game show. Once the game started, it was all baseball. Many people claim that the players just go through the motions for this spectacle, but I can tell you first hand that is not the case. Especially before inter-league play, there was a lot of pride on the line for the Mid-summer Classic.
The players gave it 100%, I remember Mike Schmidt legging out a triple off Nolan Ryan (his first All Star game!) and Dave Parker's frozen rope from right field that nailed Brian Downing at Home Plate in the eighth. The eventual ending was anticlimactic as the National League won on a bases loaded walk in the ninth inning.
It didn’t matter how they won, the players celebrated as if they had just won the World Series. The clubhouse was at a fever pitch as the players whooped it up around the post-game spread. We served what would have amounted to a fancy Thanksgiving dinner after the game that the players hardly touched.
On reflection, I had taken part in the biggest spectacle in baseball. The World Series may be more important, but the All-Star game was different. Players loosened up and you could see the respect and camaraderie that they all had for each other.
I made some good friends in those few days that would change how I view life and its opportunities. I often think back on the conversations and experiences I had over that span of 72 hours, not because it was the Good Old Days, instead, I think about how it helped shape my life, attitude, and my respect for others in our world.
Jim Devitt is the author of the #1 Kindle Bestselling Young Adult novel, The Card. He's also a healthcare consultant specializing in helping healthcare companies and practices develop a social media marketing platform, and maximize cash flow. You can find him posting weekly to Indies Unlimited and occasionally as a contributor on Yahoo!