For seven innings tonight, Philadelphia third baseman Mike Schmidt played just like an American League All-Star.
The National League's cleanup hitter struck out in his first at bat with three swings that showed just how much a 50-day strike could affect a hitter. In his next at bat, he grounded to short.
Then, he misplayed two ground balls, one of which was termed an error.
You almost got the idea that he hadn't played a game for two months.
At this point, it almost looked as if the American League would win for the first time in a decade.
But then Schmidt produced a 400-foot reminder that he is the NL's defending home run champ. He hit a Rollie Fingers pitch over Cleveland Stadium's center field fence in the top of the eighth inning for a two-run homer that proved to be the game winner in the NL's 5-4 victory in this 52nd All-Star Game.
"I guess it was just my night," said Schmidt, which is the same thing the American League must have been saying in the sixth inning when it held a 4-2 edge. The lead, like Schmidt's homer, evaporated in the warm Cleveland air.
"Believe me, there have been lots of times when Rollie Fingers has gotten me before. I went up there really hoping to do something. I just put the bat back on my shoulders and the pitch was there."
It was a bit of redemption for Schmidt, who had kicked a Rick Burleson grounder in the seventh inning, then picked up the ball and hurriedly thrown it somewhere north of Cincinnati. Burleson held at first while Schmidt held his head in disbelief.
"Yeah, I did scuffle around out there. But at least it didn't cost us any runs," he said.
Although this was not a game for the home team, it was a game for the home run. The National League hit four to tie an All-Star Game record (NL in 1951 and 1960 and AL in 1954). Besides Schmidt, Pittsburgh's Dave Parker hit one and Montreal's Gary Carter hit two.
Carter, the most valuable player in this, his first game as an NL starter, had a few diffficulties with his uniform before the game started. The catcher with the smooth swing and smooth smile ripped his pants and needed some needlework by a clubhouse worker to stitch up his problems.
"I only brought one pair," said Carter.
Now, he may need a new pair. He wore out the pants he wore tonight with two home run trots.
"I would have never imagined this happening," said Carter, whose homers both led off innings on first pitches. He hit the first in the fifth inning off California's Ken Forsch and hit his second in the seventh inning off Yankee Ron Davis.
"When you get in an All-Star Game like this, you just go up there hacking . . . I will have to say that I was looking for fast balls and that's what I got both times."
In the American League locker room, Oriole Ken Singleton could also speak of home-run success. Singleton gave the American League a 1-0 lead when he homered to right-center field off Cincinnati's Tom Seaver.
"When I hit them like that, they just don't stay in the park," said Singleton, who also singled and scored the AL's second run.
Then, Ken Singleton spoke words common in the American League All-Star vocabulary: "I really thought we had them. I really thought we were going to win this game."