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MLB & Fox: Include Them All, or Omit the Titan? 

As many of you should already be aware, Major League Baseball and Fox released a joint-statement on Wednesday regarding the strange omission of any mention of Tony Gwynn in Tuesday night’s broadcast of the 85th Annual MLB All-Star Game:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, an extraordinary individual whose memory we have honored in numerous ways in recent weeks. The Baseball family has sadly lost a number of people this year – including Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, Frank Cashen, and former All-Stars Jerry Coleman, Jim Fregosi and Don Zimmer – and did not want to slight anyone by singling out one individual” – courtesy of Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports.

This statement came in response to an outpouring of discontent and disapproval of Fox and MLB that noted Tony’s more-than-apparent absence in any form in the mid-summer classic. Individuals who viewed the game and failed to hear even one mention of Mr. Padre took to social media and voiced their censure. Indeed, Fox and MLB saw criticism from Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, and several other San Diego sports personalities.

I think if Tony were around to see this, he would have simply shrugged and carried on with his day. Tony was always a man of humble origins and a strong, quiet work ethic. In fact, I’m certain Tony would have preferred there be no fanfare or mention at all; he did, after all, find playing the game much easier than being involved in any pre-game or post-game ceremony or celebration.

With this in mind, does this make his omission any easier to take? As a long-time Padres fan and huge Tony Gwynn fan, the answer is of course NO.

There is a plethora of evidence to draw upon to beat MLB and Fox into the ground for omitting any mention of one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His 15 All-Star game selections. His 8 National League batting titles. His 7 Silver Slugger awards. The 5 Gold gloves. His being a recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award.

Not to mention that he was a first-Ballot Hall of Famer with 97.6% of the vote, a lifetime .338 batting average with 3,141 hits, and his induction into Cooperstown in 2007 being one of the most attended induction ceremonies in baseball history.

Hell, his slide into home after trucking it from first base in the bottom of the 10th in the 1994 MLB All-Star game that won it for the National League should have been worth mentioning – here’s a 40-second clip (40 whole seconds) showing that wonderful moment:

The point is, Tony was (and still is) a great man, and it has only been one month since his passing. In one month, Major League Baseball could have done so much to prepare for any type of mention or ceremony to honor and remember Tony. But they didn’t.

In 2002, when Ted Williams passed away a week prior to the MLB All-Star game in Milwaukee, MLB made an effort to paint Ted Williams’ #9 in left field at Miller Park. The league also took the effort to rename the All-Star MVP award after Williams. Again – the league managed to put this together in a week.

In 2010, long-time Yankee owner George Steinbrenner passed away the morning of the MLB All-Star Game. In response, the league managed to put together a pre-game memorial and moment of silence, as well as hold a press conference with Yankee All-Stars. The league organized this in a matter of hours.

So here we are in 2014, in the age of technology and social media, and Major League Baseball could not manage to bring Tony up EVEN ONCE. No commercial break “in memoriam” mention, no mid-inning highlight of a previous all-star game with Tony in it – nothing. Fox and MLB decided to instead make the above joint-statement as a way of clearing the air surrounding their mistake. I’d like to take a moment to break that statement down with a few of my own comments included.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, an extraordinary individual whose memory we have honored in numerous ways in recent weeks…”

To Fox’s credit, they apparently aired a short pre-game video about Tony on their critically acclaimed Fox Sports 1 channel. But the issue with airing it on Fox 1 instead of on the actual main broadcast prior to the game is that virtually nobody saw the video. So if you are trying to remember Tony for Tony’s sake so that people will remember him and recognize him, then perhaps you should expand your services to a national audience instead of a couple of guys standing outside the Fox Sports 1 studio. I want to emphasize, however, that I take no issue with Fox Sports San Diego. I’m certain that they would have had the foresight to mention Tony after the wonderful tribute they did the day of his passing and beyond. Fox Sports also took effort to at least show Tony. The national broadcast took no such initiative, however.

The Baseball family has sadly lost a number of people this year…

This is a tragically true statement, which Padres fans and baseball fans are certainly aware of. 2014 has been an extremely difficult year for baseball fans of many teams outside of records, and we are only halfway through the season.

…including Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, Frank Cashen, and former All-Stars Jerry Coleman, Jim Fregosi and Don Zimmer…”

Tony did not find himself alone when he left this world. He left and joined several other greats of the game in Ralph Kiner and Frank Cashen, and former Padres manager/coach Don Zimmer, along with six-time All-Star Jim Fregosi, and of course, San Diego’s own Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Coleman.

“…and did not want to slight anyone by singling out one individual.

Now here’s where I get mad, so let me re-emphasize what it is that upsets me about this quote.

…singling out ONE INDIVIDUAL.”

Major League Baseball didn’t want to single out one individual. So you have six individuals here, who were greats of the game, and you don’t want to mention one of them.

They were all great. Every single one… It hurts the baseball family that they are all gone.

…We don’t want to slight anyone by mentioning just one of them.

…SO LET’S SLIGHT THEM ALL.

Major League Baseball didn’t want to mention Tony Gwynn because they would have failed to have mentioned any of the other great baseball players that passed away this year. Obviously discussing Tony Gwynn means mentioning nobody else ever, right? Because, you know, baseball is such a fast-paced game that there is HARDLY any downtime to sit there and mention a handful of players who impacted the game. Goodness, we should be so lucky that we even get to see the score or even the names on the backs of player’s uniforms in this BREAK-NECK SPEED that baseball operates at. I’m fairly certain that players don’t even warm up anymore. I think they just run onto the field and haphazardly adjust their pants and socks before someone slips a disc trying to leg-out a homerun or the inning changes like a NASCAR pit-stop before their very tired and overworked eyes.

Why, Erin Andrews barely had time to ask Adam Wainwright about his pipeline pitch down the middle to Derek Jeter and then later on ask him why he claimed he was giving him some batting-practice type pitches. I don’t think we even got to see Derek Jeter get welcomed with applause every time he sneezed on the field or tightened his glove. We barely got a chance to see the captain stand at the dugout for 55 minutes when he wasn’t playing for the remainder of the game after we got to watch him stand in the batters’ box and everyone clapped for another 15 minutes when he was playing.

Was it Derek Jeter’s last All-Star Game? Yes, it was, and that is most certainly worth noting. Much like Tony Gwynn’s special selection to the 2001 MLB All-Star Game as a non-playing roster member because it was his final All-Star game too. But the amount of individualized effort and fanfare placed on Derek Jeter in Tuesday night’s game was almost nauseating. Clearly there was no time to single out one individual on a night of All-Stars – I mean, Major League Baseball said so. No. Time. Period.

This is hardly an excuse for Major League Baseball. In fact, if it is any excuse, this is just a sad excuse for a statement. Let me take a moment now to mention these players that MLB decided were not worth mentioning.

Ralph Kiner was an outfielder who played for the Pirates, Cubs and Indians between 1946 and 1955. Over his career, Kiner collected over 1,105 RBI and was a six-time All-Star between 1948-1953, a seven-time NL Homerun champion between 1946-1952, and also the NL RBI Champion in 1949. Kiner’s #4 is currently retired in Pittsburgh, and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 with 75.41% of the vote. Kiner passed away in February at 91 years of age.

Frank Cashen was a Major League Baseball Executive and Manager with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets between 1966 and 1991. Cashen held lead the 1966 and 1970 Baltimore Orioles clubs to World Series titles, as well as leading the Mets to their 1986 World Series title. Cashen passed away in June at the age of 88.

Don Zimmer was an infielder who broke out with the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1954, and was a distinguished journeyman who played for the Cubs, Mets, Reds, Senators, and even the Toei Flyers of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in 1966. He later would serve as a manager and/or coach for the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, Expos, Yankees, Giants, Rockies, and Rays from 1971 up until his passing this last June at the age of 83. Zimmer was a two-time All-Star and a six-time World Series Champion as both a player and coach. Zimmer was elected NL Manager of the Year in 1989.

Jim Fregosi was a shortstop who entered Major League Baseball back in 1961 with the Los Angeles Angels/California Angels. His #11 is actually retired with the Angels today, and he also played for the Mets, Rangers, and Pirates. Fregosi was elected to the MLB All-Star Game six times between 1964 and 1970, and was awarded a Gold Glove in 1967. He passed away this last February at the age of 71.

And last but not least, Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman. If you’re a San Diego fan, you need no explanation and certainly you have already read it all before.

The point is, mentioning those 4 other players took little-to-no effort at all. They were great members of the baseball family and they are worthy of mention and notice. Each one of them did something great that is worth remembering, and it takes no effort to recognize their contributions to their fans, their teams, or their game. Major League Baseball and Fox had multiple opportunities to acknowledge every single one of them, and yet took no initiative to do so.

I know that the other five that passed away are of some importance, but Tony Gwynn was one of the greatest players to ever play the game – and he played it the right way. In an era of steroids and supplemental enhancement, Tony was a homegrown star who worked hard in every possible way to be one of the best players he could possibly be. He was an eternal student of the game who was always dedicated to his craft… and yet not a single utterance or mention of him came across the broadcast Tuesday evening.

It didn’t have to be anything big. Something small. They could have mentioned it before a commercial break or during a pitching change. They could have shown Huston Street warming up in the bullpen in the top of the 9th inning (even though he ultimately was not put into the game) and pointed out the “19” patch on his chest as he threw. They could have flashed a picture of him for five seconds or less and mentioned his passing and greatness.

They could have done it for any of the men they mentioned.

But they didn’t… and that is just shameful and hurtful to the game and its fans.

I never recall being told that saying thank you to more than one person is a bad thing. When I get off the bus, I say thank you to the bus driver. When I get off a plane, I say thank you to the flight attendants and the pilots if they are there. I don’t take the opportunity to ignore any of the crew just to thank the pilot. I thank the co-pilot or anyone else who helped me along the way. MLB and Fox claim that they didn’t want to say thank you to Tony or even mention him because they didn’t want to ignore the others.

That’s when you take the initiative and thank everyone, and recognize everyone. So. With that being said. Thank you, everyone for enhancing the game and making it so much better. Thank you for being good at your craft and inspiring teams and inspiring fans. Thank you, gentlemen, for making this game great.

Thank you, Ralph. Thank you, Frank. Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Don. Thank you, Jerry.

And finally?

Thank you, Tony.

Comments

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About the author: Ian Edward Russell Smith

Ian is a former writer for the San Diego Padres, having worked as the Padres' "In-Season Blogger" during the 2015 season. Ian wrote as a member of the Friarhood's writing staff between parts of 2013-2015, writing over 100 articles over that span. In addition to being a writer, Ian is also a recent graduate of California Western School of Law in San Diego, having earned a Juris Doctor, as well as his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Law & Society from the University of California, Riverside. Be sure to follow Ian on Twitter (@SDRedBull8) to see what other ramblings he's posted about the Padres, San Diego, and baseball in general!

  • Mark Ellingson

    Yeah. They didn’t want to single anyone out except Derek Jeter. Every All-Star game should have time dedicated to the greats who have recently passed.

  • ballybunion

    Right after the last of the players have been introduced, while they’re still lined up, have the announcer list “the past All Stars who couldn’t be with us today…” and then they can get on with the game. How hard is that?