The song of joy and vindication began in rollicking old Comiskey Park as soon as Fred Lynn, his fist pumping over his head in the cool night air, finished his home run trot after the first grand slam in the 50-year history of the All-Star Game.
"Nah, nah, nah nah, hey-hey-hey, good-bye," roared the American League throng, bellowing the gloating refrain that is sung across America from high schools to the Super Bowl whenever a particularly despised foe is finally vanquished. And vanquished totally.
Twenty summers of frustration were, if not washed away, then at least pushed far out of mind tonight as the long humbled and much ridiculed American League not only beat, but swamped, the mighty National League, 13-3.
Thanks to the biggest inning in All-Star Game history--a seven-run third, climaxed by Lynn's grand slam--the American League broke this classic's record for scoring in one contest, totaling a lucky 13 runs worth of revenge.
With a hail of hits and a slew of offensive records, the American League ended its incredible and freakish streak of 11 consecutive loses to the NL, as well as 19 loses in 20 games since 1963. For reference, the AL had not won this game since 1971, when the Washington Senators were still in the league.
The AL got 15 hits, the second highest total ever, and equaled the All-Star Game record with seven extra-base hits as Lynn and Jim Rice homered, George Brett and Lou Whitaker tripled, and Dave Winfield, Brett and Willie Wilson doubled. This night, the Al had nine runs before the NL had a hit.
"That's probably the most emotion I've ever showed," said Lynn, the game's unanimous most valuable player. "Everything just came out. At that point, I thought we might finally win. We've been up on them before (six straight years), but they always came back to win . . .
"This was my ninth All-Star Game and I was zero for eight," said Lynn, who now has four homers and 10 RBI in All-Star games, the second highest totals in both categories. "Just winning this game is awful big for me.
"On behalf of all the American Leaguers who have waited so long for this victory, I accept this award," said Lynn, taking his trophy from Bowie Kuhn.
"I thought we fielded the better team tonight," beamed Dave Winfield, who had three hits. "We set records and we looked good doing it."
"It was a picnic down there," said Rod Carew, who scored twice.
Lynn's historic grand slam deep into the right field pavilion not only gave the AL a 9-1 lead but ended a nightmare inning for 25-year-old San Francisco southpaw Atlee Hammaker which included a leadoff line drive home run to left by Jim Rice, a triple to the center field fence by George Brett and singles by Winfield, Manny Trillo and Rod Carew.
"To put it bluntly, it's probably the worst exhibition of pitching you'll ever see," said Hammaker after the worst inning any All-Star ever had. "And I couldn't have picked a worse spot for it . . . my first All-Star game in front of all these people. I have no excuses . . . I was too terrible to alibi."
By the sort of lovely coincidence with which baseball always seems to be blessed, Lynn's mighty line drive homer landed--almost to the row and seat--where the first home run in All-Star history had landed 50 years ago tonight on July 6th, 1933.
Then, also in the third inning of an AL victory, Babe Ruth hit a liner 15 rows into the lower deck pavilion in straight right field. Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune who conceived this game half a century ago, couldn't have written a finer piece of local-color detail.
If any NLers must take some credit for this AL win, it would be manager Whitey Herzog. He selected a radically young and inexperienced pitching staff--omitting Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Bruce Sutter; youngsters Hammaker, Pascual Perez and Lee Smith were shelled.
Herzog issued an intentional walk to Robin Yount in the third (rather than bringing in warmed-up righty Bill Dawley) and the next man--Lynn--blew this game to smithereens. "Maybe Whitey should manage more of the National League games," said Lynn. "It would be great for us."
The day before this game, Herzog said, "It would be good for baseball if the American League won."
"It was just a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," he said tonight. "But it was kind of good for baseball that they won."
"Basically, we had a pretty inexperienced team this year," said Mike Schmidt. "Not to make excuses, but this year a lot of guys who were involved in the 11 straight wins weren't here."
In truth, the AL's huge third inning, and even its grand slam homer, only seemed a matter of time, so great was the "inferior league's" offensive pressure in the first three innings. The AL put 13 men on base in the those three innings and Lynn was actually the third AL player to step up with the bases loaded; Brett and Yount had delivered one-out sacrifice flies to center with the bases loaded in the first and second innings to give the AL a 2-1 lead.
Ironically, those early indecisive runs--all three unearned--made a loser pitcher of Cincinnati's Mario Soto and a winner of Toronto's Dave Stieb.
"I got in some big jams, but was able to get out of them," said three-inning worker Stieb, who allowed no hits and struck out four, including Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt in the first inning. "If I don't get them right there, it gets out of hand. Usually, I don't get out of it with three strikeouts, though."
It seemed ironically appropriate that the AL began this night of redemption with as awful a first inning as any team could play. It seemed that, before finally exonerating itself, the AL had to show the sort of abominable gaffs that have been dogging them for years.
On the game's first two hitters, Stieb fielded ground balls and threw them past Carew down the right field line as the crowd of 43,801 gasped in disbelief. Stieb got one error, and Carew, blinded by the setting sun on the second play, got the other. Also in that inning, catcher Ted Simmons made a terrible throw to second on Steve Sax's steal and, later, botched a throw to the plate when Sax should have been out by 10 feet.
Watching all those goofs, 60 million TV viewers must have moaned, "Not again." "It didn't look good for us," said Lynn. "We were sayin', 'What else can happen?' "
In fact, the only good defensive play of the inning was made by two left field security men who scooped up Morganna the Kissing Bandit on her first hop and hustled her back into the box seats whence she'd come.
Just when the AL seemed tight, the NL looked tighter. Schmidt booted a perfect inning-ending double play ball in the first, leading to an AL run, and Sax, in the grip of a sophomore jinx phobia, made his 22nd throwing error of the season (25th overall) in the second to help the AL to another run.
By the third, the shaky nerves and the bad luck seemed to be on the NL side. After Rice (seven homers in his last six games) greeted Hammaker with his leadoff homer, Brett followed with a liner to center that should have been an out or a single. However Dawson played it into a triple.
After Simmons popped out, Winfield singled home Brett. Trillo hit the next pitch to left. After Doug DeCinces flied out--the score still only 3-1--Carew lined an RBI hit to left. As Trillo went first-to-third, Carew, bravely but perhaps foolishly, tried for second. Schmidt made an underhand, off-balance, but perfect throw to second. Umpire Jim Quick was all ready to call Carew out until he saw the the ball on the ground.
In other years, no such luck has attended the AL. After the intentional walk to Yount, Lynn fell behind 1-2. On a borderline pitch, AL umpire George Maloney signaled "Ball two." Another break.
"They tell me in the dugout that I had Lynn struck out, but that doesn't mean anything," said Hammaker.
On the next pitch, a hanging slider, Lynn started the night's long song.