Baseball Tributes Forgotten or Overlooked

Tony Gwynn, number 18

Tony Gwynn; photo courtesy of San Diego Padres, MLB

Baseball Tributes Forgotten or Overlooked
| published July 20, 2014 |

By Earl Perkins
Thursday Review features editor

Baseball has always been about lifelong memories and incredible stories from days gone by, but somehow the All-Star Game planners reached into their treasure trove and orchestrated a tin ear for this year's game, according to ESPN's Mo Egger.

Derek Jeter is certainly a Hall of Famer and deserving of a nice sendoff, but he's not the only person who deserved recognition July 15. Shame on Major League Baseball for turning its back on two Hall of Famers and one of the sport's most beloved figures: Tony Gwynn, Ralph Kiner and Don Zimmer were either forgotten or purposely ignored.

Spending almost their entire lives in the sport and garnering widespread respect along the way, it's inexcusable that MLB, Fox and the Minnesota Twins chose not to pay tribute to three cherished and important figures who recently passed away.

There are millions of decisions and numerous people and groups involved, but they have an entire year to plan one event. The League pretty much moved its headquarters to Minneapolis, catering to city and municipal interests, along with all the celebrities and key people involved. And then there was MLB's media partners, especially Fox, which held the television rights.

The game was choreographed to worship an individual, when its primary purpose should be paying homage to all fans and showcasing historic moments from the past. If you were a New York Yankees fan or an American League devotee, then the game was a wonderful recognition of one player.

It truly was a very good game, with several high points worth noting.

There was Jeter's first inning at-bat and his exit from the game just before the fourth inning, along with the Target Field crowd chanting "Der-ek-Jet-ter" and touching moments when he embraced each of his AL teammates. If he passed away before the game, do you think they'd have cancelled it to avoid dealing with important figures who have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

"Did Major League Baseball or Fox pay any attention to how sad Tony's passing made baseball fans? Did they take any look at the things being written about the Padre great? Did they not notice how devastated an entire city was when one of their icons passed?" Egger noted in a column. "He died a month ago, right in the middle of the planning for the game and the broadcast of it. How someone on the day that Gwynn died didn't immediately start working on a tribute to him is absolutely mind-boggling."

Gwynn played 20 Major League seasons and was considered one of the game's nicest players. Fans and players alike were thrilled watching him in person or on television for two decades.

The beloved Zimmer also died in June, after devoting 66 years in professional baseball, as a player, coach, manager and adviser. He played alongside Jackie Robinson on the only Brooklyn Dodgers team to win the World Series, and his manager once was the illustrious Casey Stengel. He even coached Jeter on the Yankees' latest dynasty.

Once described as "one of baseball's genuine and most charming gentlemen," Kiner died in February following an incredible career. He played 10 seasons, eventually joining the Hall of Fame as one of the game's top home run hitters. He finished that off with more than 50 years in the broadcast booth.

Baseball embarrassed itself by refusing to set aside a couple minutes to recognize the lives and careers of those who left us since last year's summertime classic. Hopefully they'll consider rectifying this oversight next year when the game is played in Cincinnati.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Wrigley Field at the Century Mark; Kevin Robbie; Thursday Review; June 7, 2014.

The Bird Takes Flight: The 1976 Season of Mark Fidrych; Kevin Robbie; Thursday Review; May 6, 2014.