When the Phillies learned that they would be hosting the 1996 MLB All-Star Game, the club looked like it was on its way to some great things -- it was September 1993, the Phillies were on their way to a National League East Championship (and eventually a league pennant), the fanbase was whipped into a frenzy over the lovable "Macho Row" heroes who made baseball relevant after 10 years spent mostly in the second division.
But, as Yeats says, things fall apart, especially when those "things" are mid-level starting pitchers given ridiculous workloads by a masochistic manager, reckless, hard-living star players, and a front office that was convinced that its lightning-in-a-bottle success in 1993 could be sustained.
The 1996 Phillies would stumble into the All-Star Break with a 37-49 record, thanks in large part to a dreadful 6-21 record in June. National League Manager Bobby Cox selected just one Phillie to represent the host team -- relief pitcher Ricky Bottalico. And really, he may have been the most deserving. Add in the fact that Veterans Stadium was and would remain one of the game's true hellholes, and you have a truly embarrassing host city situation. Other incredibly lame factors: A U.S. National Anthem sung by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer; Canadian National Anthem presented by Sarah McLachlan I hate you so much for showing those sad puppies on TV; and vile former Phillie and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning taking part in the first pitch ceremonies. Click here to view the broadcast opening, if the sanctimonious twit Bob Costas is what you crave.
Bottalico would pitch a scoreless fifth inning en route to a 6-0 National League victory, the National League's last win until their 2010 triumph.
The game's real star, though, was Mike Piazza, Phoenixville native and Dodgers representative. Piazza smashed a huge home run into Veteran Stadium's upper deck in the second inning off Charles Nagy. Seeing the hometown kid rub it in the city's face was a truly upsetting thing, and was a harbinger of things to come once the catcher would join the Mets later in the decade.
The Phillies have not hosted the Midsummer Classic since, and you have to figure they'll have to wait a least a few more years until its their turn again, despite a new ballpark and a thriving baseball scene. Of course, the way these things go, we'll be back in the dumps, young reliever Trevor May will be the sole representative of the Phillies, and local boy Mike Trout will really make the city look on with longing. Negadelphianism dies hard.