As the sports seasons inexorably meld—baseball into football, football into basketball and hockey, basketball and hockey into baseball—the fan who pays fealty to them all inches ever closer to terminal disorientation. This condition has never been more apparent than it was last week, when the baseball and football All-Star Games were played only three days apart. Was that Henry Aaron who blocked the field goal? Roger Staubach who pitched two scoreless innings? Big Bob Lilly behind the plate for the Nationals? Little Joe Morgan at wide receiver for the Cowboys? Who, in fact, were all those people, and what season is this, anyway?
To add to the already abundant confusion, there were some real similarities between the two games. Relief pitchers, for example, won them both—Tug McGraw for baseball's National League and Craig Morton for football's Dallas Cowboys. The losing baseball manager, Baltimore's Earl Weaver, started Jim Palmer from his own team over another pitcher, Mickey Lolich, whom many, including Lolich, considered more deserving. The same might be said for the losing football coach, Bob Devaney, who preferred his own passer, Jerry Tagge, to Auburn's Pat Sullivan, the eventual All-Star star in a losing cause.
And, as always, in both games there were those who did not particularly want to play, but did, and those who desperately wanted to play, but did not. Such is life among the stars.
No matter really, for the fans, both at the scene and in front of television sets, watched in great numbers. The baseball game attracted 53,107 to Atlanta Stadium, the football game 54,162 to Chicago's Soldier Field. And despite their understandable bewilderment, they were reasonably entertained as the National League defeated the American League 4-3 and the Cowboys took the College All-Stars 20-7.
The baseball game was easily the more esthetically pleasing. Henry Aaron hit what was almost the game-winning home run before his hometown fans, although the contest was not actually won until Morgan singled home Nate Colbert in the 10th inning. Again, no matter. Aaron was the All-Star in Atlanta.
There were few heroes in Chicago as the professionals once again dominated the game, although Sullivan's late-inning—er, last-quarter—passing (8 for 15) did pick things up. Game honors, however, belonged to Craig Morton, who came out of the...well...bullpen to replace an injured Roger Staubach and throw two touchdown passes. Staubach, the Super Bowl wizard, did not remember much of the game after he got conked on the head in the second quarter.
"Apparently I didn't do very well," he acknowledged later. "I understand we were ahead only 3-0 when I left."
It is hard for anybody to remember much, since it seemed as if one game—baseball?—had no sooner ended when the other one—football?—started.
This convergence of the stars is probably inevitable, what with the trespassing seasons. In fact, it may come to pass that, after 38 years of separate but more or less equal existence, the two games will be played on the same night. Or it may happen that the football game will back up right past the baseball game into an earlier date. As it is, the baseball game has gotten later and the football game earlier. Last week they were the closest together they have ever been.
Time was when the games were at least a month apart. The first football game, in 1934, was played on Aug. 31, nearly two months after the July 10 baseball game of that year. And in eight different years, including 1953 through 1957, they were played exactly one month apart.