It was 26 years ago that the All-Star Game came to Baltimore for the first time since 1958. These days, fans are wondering if they’ll ever see another one.
Last year, when commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before the All-Star Game in Washington, he angrily denied that there was any connection between the MASN dispute and the lack of another All-Star Game in Baltimore.
There was talk that Baltimore would get the 2016 game, but it went to San Diego instead, and Washington hadn’t had a game since baseball returned there in 2005.
Tonight’s game in Cleveland may sting particularly because the Indians last hosted it in 1997, four years after the Orioles did.
In 1993, everyone in baseball was delighted with how the All-Star Game went. Then, the Home Run Derby and Celebrity Game were held on Monday afternoon, and the Futures Game hadn’t been thought of. The nearby Baltimore Convention Center held FanFest, and everything went swimmingly.
The nation had a great impression of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, then in its second season and of the renaissance at the Inner Harbor.
Things are much different and more troubling in Baltimore now, but that’s not why there’s not an All-Star Game. The long-running issue between Major League Baseball and MASN over rights fees for Nationals games is the reason, no matter what Manfred argues.
Next year’s game is in Dodger Stadium for the first time in 40 years, and Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park will host the All-Stars in 2021. Philadelphia has been named the game’s host in 2026, when the United States celebrates its 250th anniversary.
In theory, that leaves 2022-25 games open for Baltimore, but there is legitimate competition from other cities. The Texas Rangers, which hosted the game in 1995, will open a new park next season, and would love to show it off.
In its last season, the old Yankee Stadium was the site of the 2008 game, and New York is always a great place to host major events. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Yankees to get an All-Star Game in the near future.
Toronto had the game in 1991, two years before Baltimore, and it would make sense to bring the game back to Canada, especially since the city, thanks to the Raptors’ recent success, is a more important one in the sports world than it was 28 years ago.
Wrigley Field had the All-Star Game in 1990, when lights were a new phenomenon, and everyone likes going there, too.
For now, the Orioles don’t have to worry about Oakland, which had an All-Star Game in 1987 or Tampa Bay, which has never had one. Until the Athletics and Rays get new facilities, there won’t be an All-Star Game there.
Baltimore makes too much sense for baseball. Oriole Park, despite diminished attendance in recent years, still is one of baseball’s jewels, and Baltimore has thousands more hotel rooms than it did in 1993.
Coincidentally, Manfred was visiting Baltimore on the night that the riots began in April 2015, causing postponement of the game between the Orioles and Chicago White Sox.
The MASN case was being litigated then, too, and no one knows when it will finally end, and if MLB will look more favorably on the Orioles.
If Manfred, who professes an ample social consciousness, wishes to punish the Orioles by not awarding Baltimore a game, he’s wrong. He’s hurting Baltimore, which given its tarnished image in recent years, can surely use the game.
Not only would it be a confidence booster for a city that badly needs it, but the many thousands of tourists who come for All-Star Week would help the beleaguered city economy.
The Orioles and any other franchise does get a temporary boost from the All-Star Game. They sell additional season-ticket plans that allow fans to buy tickets to the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, which has become a fan favorite as well.
However, the year after the game, many of those fans don’t renew the tickets, and the benefit is temporary.
There’s no guess here about when the All-Star Game will return to Oriole Park, but Baltimore deserves and needs it. For a sport trying to appeal to a diverse audience, awarding the game to Baltimore would be a symbolic win, showing that baseball cares about the problems of urban America.
But it will probably have to await a resolution of the MASN lawsuit—and another few years for good measure.