CLEVELAND — For years, baseball fans may be talking about Vlady vs. Joc.

And the fact that Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 40-39 triple-overtime victory over Joc Pederson in the semifinals of Monday’s Home Run Derby overshadowed winner Pete Alonso should not be disturbing.

The Guerrero-Pederson battle was the essence of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game – spellbinding entertainment and jaw-dropping talent. The appreciation crossed the lines of team loyalty and ignited childlike excitement.

Although it may have upstaged Tuesday night’s main event at Progressive Field, it likely captured the attention of the younger generation needed to grow the game.

After former commissioner Bud Selig’s attempt to make it something more than “a meaningless exhibition game” by giving the winner home-field advantage in the World Series, Major League Baseball returned the All-Star Game to what it should be in 2017.

It’s a spectacle like the Kentucky Derby, when people who care about horse racing only for two minutes on the first Saturday in May tune in, conduct some form of betting pool, and party.

It is a communal celebration of the game with a much wider draw than the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, which brings out huge blocks of fans from the inductees’ primary teams. For three days in Progressive Field, people clad in jerseys and tees from MLB cities across America enjoyed libations from Great Lakes Brewery, tacos from Barrio and West Side Market hot dogs with Ballpark Mustard.

This All-Star Game didn’t need a Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision or a Sandy Alomar home run moment to be memorable. Those who attended might go home talking about the welcome-back roar received by former Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, now with the Houston Astros, and his first-inning double, the standing ovation when Tribe first baseman Carlos Santana came to bat or the boos during introductions directed at members of the 2016 Chicago Cubs, the loudest reserved for current New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

Purists may long for what they consider the All-Star Game’s good old days, but that group may be dwindling, or perhaps swayed by a Home Run Derby for the ages.

They may remember that in the 1970 All-Star Game famous for Rose running over Indians catcher Fosse, American League manager Earl Weaver played outfielder Carl Yastrzemski for 12 innings instead of the one or two the starters go today.

They might have caught the Sports Time Ohio re-broadcast of the 1981 All-Star Game at Cleveland Stadium, the first after a 50-day players strike. NBC broadcasters Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek were so starved for baseball after 38 percent of the season had been canceled that they called it like a World Series. The players competed with nearly as much effort, determined to prove they hadn’t been laying around for more than eight weeks.

Some might have preferred the All-Star Games from 2003-2016, when the winner received home-field advantage in the World Series. Selig’s plan was a knee-jerk reaction to an aberration after the 2002 game ended in a 7-7, 11-inning tie in his hometown of Milwaukee when both teams ran out of pitchers.

“This energizes it. This gives them something to really play for," Selig said, per USA Today, after owners approved the plan by a 30-0 vote. "People pay a lot of money to see that game. They deserve to see the same intensity they see all year long. Television people pay a lot of money for the game. It was not and should not be a meaningless exhibition game.”

The American League won 11 of the 14 All-Star Games and eight World Series under the directive.

After that misguided change was dropped, the game reverted back to all it needs to be — the most entertaining day on the baseball calendar for the non-partisan general public.

It is the most energizing two days in the game, when the Home Run Derby is included. Monday’s derby was historic, with a record total of 312 homers hit, including a record 91 by Guerrero, dwarfing Alonso’s 57. It was also the first time two rookies had met in the final.

As for the All-Star Game, participants still consider the competition the honor of a lifetime.

“To be able to be in this event, which is the best event of the summer, it’s humbling, it’s special. I’m thankful for every player and coach that voted for me,” Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said Monday of his fourth All-Star selection.

It was never a meaningless exhibition game, at least not for those lucky enough to have attended or played in one. The Indians’ representatives — Lindor, Santana, Brad Hand and Shane Bieber — were bubbling over an opportunity they will never forget.

Neither will those in Northeast Ohio who attended or watched Cleveland’s sixth All-Star Game on television, even if they didn’t catch one of Vlady’s or Joc’s home run balls.

 

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.