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Christopher L. Gasper

Baseball’s All-Star Game used to be a must-see event. Can it ever regain that luster?

Superstars Shohei Ohtani (right) and Aaron Judge were the first two hitters in the American League lineup Tuesday.Ronald Martinez/Getty

LOS ANGELES — This entertainment capital loves a good remake. Reinventing properties that inspire nostalgia and once held great appeal is actually a cottage industry. That’s why Dodger Stadium was the perfect setting for the 2022 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a once-iconic brand that’s trying to reclaim lost luster and eyeballs.

This sunny and trendy mecca of film and television provided the perfect baseball backdrop for MLB’s continued remaking of the All-Star Game into an anticipated promotional platform for the game, instead of a midsummer obligation of ennui, especially with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw starting and former Red Sox Mookie Betts playing master of ceremonies.


It was always odd that a league that adopted the sobriquet of “The Show” turned one of its signature showcases into non-compelling fare, saddling it with the dubious distinction of deciding home-field advantage in the World Series from 2003-2016. That turned an entertaining exhibition into an awkward and cheerless faux-competitive affair.

Now, the show and showtime are back, this year ending with the Guardians’ Emmanuel Clase striking out the side in the ninth on 10 pitches to save the American League’s 3-2 victory.

The All-Star Game pendulum has swung back toward vibes over victory. Nothing speaks to that more than the decision that if Tuesday’s game had been tied after nine innings a home run derby would have been used to determine a winner with each team selecting three players who would each take three swings. The most homers wins.

Minnesota's Byron Buxton, seen here celebrating his fourth inning homer Tuesday night, was one of several young stars on display at this week's All-Star Game.Ronald Martinez/Getty

Hardball Hallelujah! MLB needs a game focused on viral moments, not empty victory. But baseball needs to tap into the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) of the younger generations.

This might be anathema to old-time baseball fans, but it’s exactly the type of thinking baseball needs to remain relevant in an age of omnipresent entertainment options. Baseball needs to find a way to make the right pitch to prospective fans with this marquee event.


“I think it’s great where we got it right now,” said St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who homered in his first at-bat of his seventh All-Star Game.

“I understand why the ‘This time it counts [thing]’, why they wanted it. But every one I was a part of guys were playing hard, even before it was home-field advantage.

“I’ve never been a part of one where guys weren’t trying, at least the large majority of guys. We’re all competitors. We want to win. I think it’s also cool to also just get to celebrate the game and have a lot more fun with it. Kind of find that balancing point.”


The game devolved into a no-fun flop thanks to the infamous 2002 tie in Milwaukee. Former commissioner Bud Selig grossly overreacted to the embarrassing non-outcome in his backyard.

The risible “This time it counts” era was a regrettable error. It left the game with an identity crisis, stranded somewhere between entertaining exhibition and meaningful competition. It made it baseball’s answer to Ambien.

Thankfully it died in 2017, but not before it played a part in tanking MLB’s ratings for the Midsummer Classic, a decline that MLB hasn’t been able to stem.

The last time the game registered a double-digit rating was 2001 (11.0). It hasn’t reached a 7.0 rating since 2014, Derek Jeter’s farewell, which was marred by a controversy over Adam Wainwright grooving a pitch for the Pinstripe poster boy in a game that counted for World Series home field.


Last year’s game did a 4.5 rating, according to Sports Media Watch, the lowest on record, although total viewership did experience a 1 percent increase last year from 2019, grabbing 100,000 more viewers. (The game was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic-truncated season.)

Free from Selig’s folly, the game can serve its ideal purpose — as a promotional and marketing vehicle for MLB’s galaxy of young stars from Betts to Shohei Ohtani to Rafael Devers to Juan Soto to Ronald Acuña Jr. (Mike Trout missed Tuesday’s game with back spasms.)

Even though he didn't pitch Tuesday night, Shohei Ohtani had plenty of reasons to smile.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Long gone are the days when NL and AL players would bludgeon each other for bragging rights. Pete Rose and Ray Fosse aren’t walking through that door. The infamous demolition derby-worthy home plate collision initiated by Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game would make him a pariah among players today.

For modern players, the game is more about fun and fraternization, having a good time, and seeing their friends from across the game.

Guys still play the right way.

“We’re promoting the game, but you don’t come out here to lose. You come out here to win,” said Mets All-Star Pete Alonso.

It was telling that when I asked swag-filled Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, part of a dazzling behind-the-back double play, about his favorite All-Star Game memory, he said he didn’t really watch the game as a kid.


“I was a basketball guy,” he said.

This game needs to capture the next Tim Anderson.

When I was younger, the All-Star Game was an event not to be missed. I still remember the frisson of excitement I felt watching Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs hit back-to-back home runs off Rick Reuschel in the first inning of the 1989 All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif.

The indelible moments like Pedro Martinez striking out the first four batters he faced at Fenway in the 1999 All-Star Game are what endure, not the final score. Did you know that, the AL has won nine straight All-Star Games? Probably not because it’s about playing to the audience, not the scoreboard.

“The one in Milwaukee that everyone hated [I remember] Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of the home run. I could’ve cared less that there was a tie. That’s just my personal opinion,” said Goldschmidt.

“I understand why it wasn’t fun for the fans there. I was a kid, a little different. But those are kind of the moments. What happened with Albert [Pujols] last night [at the Home Run Derby], what happened with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Big Papi had his time. So, it’s about celebrating the players and the game here. I like where we have it.”

If you think I’m off base prioritizing promotion over competition, just remember there would be no All-Star Game without sports writers.

The first All-Star Game was held in 1933 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. It was the brainchild of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward. Billed as the “Game of the Century,” it was won, 4-2, by the AL, which got a two-run homer from Babe Ruth.


That game was billed as a one-off “spectacle.” That’s what the All-Star Game should be again, a spectacle worth watching.

Correction: Because of a reporter’s error, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig was incorrectly described in an earlier version of this article. He is alive.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at christopher.gasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.