Q: A few friends and I are still wondering why the American League was the home team in Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game even though it was played in San Diego, which is home to a National League team. Can you enlighten us?
D.C., of Belleville
A: After more than a century of success, you would think they’d stop fiddling with America’s so-called pastime.
Designated hitters. Interleague play. Tying an exhibition game to home-field advantage in the World Series. Even one of my BND sports colleagues this week groused, “Why can’t they leave well enough alone?”
But noooooooo. Major League Baseball decided that the American League team would be the home team this year to balance out another decision that has left at least a few scratching their heads. Here’s the story:
In their infinite wisdom, the MLB poobahs have awarded the All-Star Game to National League cities from 2015 through 2018 — four straight years (with 2019 and beyond still to be determined).
That’s unprecedented. As old-timers know, the site traditionally alternated between AL and NL cities with the exception of 1950 and 1951, when it was held at Comiskey Park in Chicago and Briggs Stadium in Detroit. But that was quickly rectified in 1952 and 1953, when games were played in Philadelphia and Cincinnati. The anomaly cropped up again between 1959 and 1962, when two All-Star Games were played each summer. Both were played in NL parks in 1959. but again this quickly was balanced out in 1960 with games in Kansas City and Yankee Stadium.
Since then, the leagues again have alternated cities with the exception of 2006 and 2007 when games were played back to back in Pittsburgh and San Francisco. In both cases, the National League enjoyed home-team status.
Many probably figured that’s the way it would continue — home-team site, home-field advantage. But with that all-important (and, to many, ridiculous) World Series tie-in now at stake, the MLB thought it would be unfair for the National League to have the home-field edge four years in a row. So in an equally unprecedented move, the MLB decreed that the National League would be home team in 2015 in Cincinnati and 2017 in Miami but the American League would have the last at-bat this year in San Diego and in 2018 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Of course, that leaves the puzzling question of just why the MLB would award the All-Star Game to four National League cities in a row. In reply, the MLB says that all four parks were first-time hosts while every American League park already has hosted one with the exception of the new Yankee Stadium and Tropicana Field in St. Pete, which critics seem to rate about 0 on a scale of 10 of parks deserving a national showcase. But with the Yankees having just hosted one in 2008 to help drop the curtain on their old stadium, it may be a few years before the new one enters the rotation.
Q: I celebrated the Fourth of July by attending the Cardinals baseball game, at which the teams celebrated the occasion and honored the country by wearing flag patches on the sleeves of their uniforms. But I’m wondering if there was a mistake because the flags on the right arm were backwards with the stars to the right as you looked at it. I’m thinking they either didn’t notice it or there wasn’t enough time to make a fix, but I thought I’d check with you for an official ruling.
J.S., of Fairview Heights
A: Atten-hut, private! You obviously need a few more hours studying your Army regulations, because the Redbirds’ recent patriotic display was not only proper, it also represents a colorful tradition in American military history.
According to Army Regulation 670-1, the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
Picture if you will Colonial troops being led by a fifer, drummer and flag bearer. As they rush into battle, the flag would very possibly be flying “backward,” especially in a strong wind. Thus, the flag bearer would lead with the field of stars.
Soldiers imitate that image individually with those “backward” patches on their right arms. (Patches on the left arm would have stars facing front naturally.) You also might notice that such patches are usually trimmed with gold to imitate the gold-fringed flag, also known as the U.S. military flag. In 1959, then-President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order mandating that such flags be used exclusively by the armed forces. Military flags, however, are often seen in federal courtrooms. Conspiracy theorists argue that the display of such flags means that all such courtrooms are being controlled by the military, but the vast majority of people think it’s just a pretty decoration.
Now, drop and give me 20.
What did Jay Livingston and Ray Evans initially call their holiday classic, “Silver Bells”?
Answer to Friday’s trivia: When the Downtown Athletic Club in New York decided to honor the nation’s top collegiate football player, it chose 23-year-old Frank Eliscu to sculpt the award that eventually would be named for the club’s athletic director, John Heisman. For his model, Eliscu chose high school friend Ed Smith, who at the time was a star running back for New York University.
After receiving Eliscu’s preliminary sketches of the statue, the athletic club suggested that the artist move the outstretched arm to the side, because it would look more like how a runner would push away a tackler. Eliscu made the change, and his finished product was used to create the mold for the bronze trophy that is handed out each year.
Drafted in the third round, Smith would play for the 1936 Boston Redskins, which lost to Green Bay 21-6 in the NFL Championship Game. In 1937, he was signed by Green Bay, but soon was forced to retire from pro sports because of a nagging ligament injury. His pro career consisted of seven rushes for 39 yards in 10 games — and he reportedly did not realize that he was the model for the Heisman trophy until 1982. Three years later, the Downtown Athletic Club would present him an honorary Heisman. He died in 1998 at age 84.
As for Eliscu, he was paid $200 for his work. In 2005, the original plaster cast was auctioned off for $205,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.