The Fourth of July was this week, and two nights ago, I covered the fireworks show at Kingsburg High.
When I think about Independence Day, I think patriotic music, hot dogs, bombs bursting in the air and, well, baseball. The major league baseball All-Star game is always around Independence Day, with this year’s set for July 11 at Marlins Stadium in Miami. There, the best will go at it, including Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Buster Posey from the National League and Aaron Judge, Eric Hosmer and a guy I covered in high school down in Victorville, Jason Vargas, for the American League.
All-Star games in the past have provided some memorable moments. In 1934, the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell used his screwball to strike out the murderers’ row of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession. I attended the All-Star game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1984, and don’t recall much about it except that Dwight Gooden struck out a lot of people.
More vivid was the memory of Pete Rose in 1970 barreling into American League catcher Ray Fosse at home plate in the 12th inning. Fosse tried to block the plate and Rose, who initially intended to slide, lowered his shoulder and knocked Fosse into next year to win the game for the NL.
Rose, known as “Charlie Hustle,” was widely criticized for such aggressive play in an exhibition game, but that was just his style. He wasn’t going to alter his style for the All-Star game, and that’s why Fosse wound up with a separated shoulder.
On June 30, I covered some All-Stars — the Selma 13-year-olds playing Ker-West in the Babe Ruth League tournament at Fowler High. Selma was not in top form, losing 11-0. Slugger Elijah Chavez, who had two hits for Selma, said his team’s players may have been tired from too much swimming. Hey, maybe that’s been the San Francisco Giants’ problem this season.
While the season is over for the Selma 13s, the Kingsburg 10-and-under Cal Ripken team forges on. The Kingsburg 10s, in fact, were scheduled to play on the Fourth of July against Firebaugh.
“I don’t mind playing on the Fourth,” Kingsburg manager Steve Ramirez said. “The Fourth of July and baseball just kind of go hand-in-hand.” Exactly.
Fireworks and minor league baseball are a good match as well. Minor league owners have a product than can be dull at times and use fireworks to lure fans to their ballparks like a moth to a porch light.
I covered the High Desert Mavericks of the California League from 1992 to 2000 and saw more than my share of fireworks shows. Fans from around the High Desert would arrive early, then endure the three-hour-long game before the fireworks show commenced.
Team personnel kept the masses as entertained as possible. That included contests of all sorts between innings, including the always-popular spectacle of a child racing the team’s mascot, Wooly Bully, around the bases. The children, like the Harlem Globetrotters, never lost.
Fireworks do have their downside. There was a sports reporter for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin who had only a passing interest in baseball and used to read paperback books during games. One Fourth of July, he actually fell asleep while covering the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, missed most of the game and didn’t wake up until the post-game fireworks started exploding.
I’m not sure what sort of questions he asked the manager after the game, but they couldn’t have been too insightful.