Is it Time for Another All-Star Game in Cleveland?
Vince Guerrieri | On 02, Jan 2016
No Major League city with just one team has hosted an All-Star Game as many times as Cleveland has.
The Indians are one of four teams to have hosted five Midsummer Classics: four at Municipal Stadium and one at Jacobs Field, in 1997. (St. Louis has hosted five All-Star Games, but one of them was by the Browns, even though they shared Sportsman’s Park with the Cardinals.)
And of course, the question looms: Is it time for a sixth in Cleveland?
The Indians haven’t hosted an All-Star game since the one at Jacobs Field, when Sandy Alomar Jr. was named All-Star Game MVP after belting a two-run home run that made the difference in the 3-1 American League victory. With the All-Star Game locations being set through 2018, the earliest the Indians could host the game would be 2019 – as luck would have it, a year that’s slated to go to an American League city. If the Indians host an All-Star Game in 2019, it will be 22 years between games in Cleveland – the longest the city’s gone without a Midsummer Classic.
The first All-Star Game was played in Comiskey Park in 1933, the brainchild of Chicago Tribune Arch Ward, who wanted a showcase event during a World’s Fair in Chicago (Ward can also claim some credit for the Browns; he was the driving force behind the team’s original home, the All-America Conference). It was scheduled as a one-off event, but became an annual occurrence.
Two years later, it was in Cleveland for the first time at Municipal Stadium (League Park never hosted an All-Star Game, but was home to the Addie Joss benefit game, a forerunner of the game that saw the Indians play a team of American League All-Stars).
Since then, the game returned to Cleveland in regular intervals, in 1954, 1963 and 1981. After Jacobs Field opened, it became home for numerous postseason games, but was awarded the 1997 Midsummer Classic. Jacobs Field was a glistening new ballpark, and the stadium building boom that started in earnest with Camden Yards in 1992 wasn’t yet in full swing.
And that’s what has kept the All-Star Game from Cleveland since then. The game’s become a showcase for stadiums on their way out (Yankee Stadium, 2008) or new ballparks. (And subtly, as an incentive to GET a new ballpark; Tampa has never hosted an All-Star Game, and it hasn’t been played in Oakland since 1987.) But we’re getting to the end of that cycle now, with All-Star Games scheduled for San Diego, Miami and Washington over the next three years.
And it’s true, what’s now called Progressive Field isn’t a new stadium. But it’s a different stadium than it was in 1997. And what better way to show that off than with an All-Star Game (and, of course, the Home Run Derby, which is an event unto itself, not quite on par with the game, but getting there)?
The top three All-Star Games for attendance were all at Cleveland Stadium. The one at Jacobs Field was also a sellout. And that’s the cynical reason for the Indians to host another All-Star Game. In a town where baseball attendance – or lack thereof – is a major topic of conversation, the best way to boost season ticket sales (absent a postseason appearance) is an All-Star Game. I watched them do it in Pittsburgh. PNC Park opened in 2001, but the team remained in a two-decade stretch of bad baseball, and season ticket sales started dropping – then spiked in 2006, when the stadium hosted the All-Star Game.
So it’s getting to be time for Cleveland to host an All-Star Game. The city’s due. The ballpark’s like new. And the Indians could use it.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project