Stars sound off on Gonzalez
Posted: Monday July 12, 1999 10:35 PM
BOSTON (AP) - Juan Gonzalez was a prominent topic of conversation Monday after he decided he'd rather stay home than come off the bench for the AL team.
"I think he is totally out of line refusing to be recognized as one of the greatest players," said Carlton Fisk, an 11-time All-Star and the AL honorary captain.
"I don't know whether that is a kind of attitude or selfishness on his part, but it is. I think down the line he may regret the decision."
Gonzalez, the reigning AL MVP, was angered by the high number of votes for the Cleveland Indians. Despite being third in the league in homers and RBIs, he finished fifth in the voting, behind Ken Griffey Jr. and three Indians.
Nevertheless, his colleagues were confounded by the Texas slugger's choice.
"I think the decision he made wasn't a very good decision," said Sammy Sosa, Gonzalez's friend and former teammate. "But that's his business and there is nothing I can do about it."
Tony Gwynn, who has been selected to 17 All-Star teams, made the trip even though he is sidelined with a calf injury.
"Juan decided he didn't want to be here," Gwynn said. "That's his choice. They are not going to call off the game because Juan Gonzalez isn't here."
Junior and Junior
Ken Griffey Jr. was a late arrival for his All-Star news conference. At least he had an excuse.
"Sorry I'm late," he said right before receiving the award for being the leading vote-getter in the AL. "My 3-year old, who just got in, wanted me to stay in the room and watch cartoons."
Once Griffey arrived, much of the talk was about his chances to pass Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home run king. Griffey, who doesn't turn 30 until after the season, has 379 career homers -- more than halfway to Aaron's record 755.
"I've never really thought about it," Griffey said. "The person that I wanted to beat was my dad -- over 2,000 hits, world championships, played every day. That's the only person I wanted to beat because he was the guy I could physically touch.
"Now they're talking about me breaking Hank Aaron's record, and I just say OK. It's an honor that he says it and you people say it, but I still take it one day at a time."
With 23 first-timers at this All-Star game, AL manager Joe Torre reminisced about his first All-Star experience.
As a 22-year-old in 1963, Torre was thrilled to be selected as the third catcher, even if he spent the entire game in the bullpen.
He finally got to play the next year, catching Don Drysdale at Shea Stadium in front of his hometown. The two went over the signs before the game for the fastball, slider, change-up, and even the spitter.
They agreed that the fastball and spitter would have the same sign, and since Torre didn't know which was coming, he had trouble catching some of Drysdale's pitches.
"He said 'I'll throw it off the fastball.' And I said OK," Torre recalled. "That was the dumbest thing I've ever done. In the first inning, I went back to say hello to Mayor Wagner [behind the plate] about four times. We had a sign for it after that."
There is a decidedly Cleveland flavor to this year's game. And you can't put all the blame on the Jacobs Field ballot stuffers.
Former Indian Tony Fernandez joins six current Cleveland players -- Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Charles Nagy and Omar Vizquel on the AL squad. The NL has six former Indians: Matt Williams, Jay Bell, Paul Byrd, Sean Casey, Jeromy Burnitz and Jeff Kent.
"That's a quality organization," Burnitz said. "They develop guys and they can make trades with their prospects. I loved it there even though I didn't play. I learned a lot there and so did a lot of other guys."
Many of the former players were forced out of Cleveland because there was no room to push out the All-Stars who were already there.
"It was really tough with Jim Thome ahead of me," Casey said. "You look at the long-term situation there and you realize there isn't much chance. If I hadn't gotten the opportunity to be traded, who knows how long I would have waited."
At least two All-Stars agree that baseball shouldn't do away with the requirement that every team be represented at the All-Star game.
"If there wasn't that rule, I wouldn't be asked that question," Detroit's Brad Ausmus said. "I know it doesn't make everybody happy, but I don't know if there is a perfect system."
Minnesota's Ron Coomer, another player who wouldn't be at Fenway Park without that rule, sees both sides of the issue.
"When I was a kid, I remember waiting up all night to see the one Cub, Steve Swisher, get his one at-bat," Coomer said. "I'm glad we have the rule, but it can keep some deserving guys out."
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