IN A PERFORMANCE that had much of Washington thinking that the baseball strike was over, WEAM-1390 broadcast its own baseball All-Star Game Tuesday night. There have been attempts -- most of them miserabl failures -- to report old baseball games or present fictional games to satisfy the craving for the national sport that has been struck out. But Tuesday night's All-Star Game was in another league, rivaling the likes of "War of the Worlds" for making a work of imagination into a product with the feel of reality. Announcer Nat Allbright's voice had listeners sensing a breezy, summer Ohio night perfect for baseball, hearing the low roar of a crowd of 75,000 and even the crack of the bat in old Cleveland Stadium where the real All-Star Game would have been played Tuesday night -- if it had not been for the damnable strike.
Mr. Allbright created the All-Star Game in the way millions of American children have used baseball cards and whimsy to create baseball fantasies. He made out a list of players who were having good seasons before the strike, and then let the game begin, sharing his fantasy with radio listeners. He has done similar jobs before. He re-created Brooklyn Dodgers games for nine years from written descriptions of the action coming across a ticker tape. His re-creation of those games went out across the nation on a network of 80 stations. President Reagan did the same sort of job for a radio station carrying Chicago Cubs games. But those games were re-enactments of real games, which provide a script for the fantasy. Tuesday night's performance by Mr. Allbright was a more remarkable feat because there was no relity in any American Stadium to match the experience he gave his listeners. He took the fans inside his mind for the All-Star Game, just as a fine playwright can entice an audience into a shared fantasy.
Somehow baseball lends itself to these fantasies with its steady pace and repeated individual contests of pitcher versus batter, catcher versus basestealer, wise manager versus daring manager. And then, there is the soap opera of great athletes, their injuries, their streaks, their records and personal quirks. In the fantasy created by Mr. Allbright, that texture of the great game was alive again, despite the reality of monotonous strike talks. For example, Mr. Allbright's starting pitcher for the National League was Fernando Valenzuela, a rookie. It was the first time a rookie ever stared an All-Star Game. Gems like that could be found throughout the two hours and six minutes that Mr. Allbright gave his world-class performance. By the way, the National League won 5-3. Even in a fantasy, the American League could not win an All-Star Game.