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Midsummer showcase ends in embarrassment

MILWAUKEE -- This was brutal.

Major League Baseball, already clouded by a strike threat and suspicions of players on steroids, somehow managed to screw up its All-Star Game Sunday night.

It was a pretty fun game for the first 10 1/2 innings. But as the clock groaned toward midnight, there was trouble in Brew-town. Both managers had used all their players and this being 2002, it was too much to ask for the fellows to settle things on the field.

The game ended in a 7-7 tie. And Commissioner Bud Selig was roundly booed in his own park.

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Yeesh.

You could see trouble coming when there was a long conference near the commissioner's box after the American League went out in the top of the 11th. Both managers and the umpires met with Selig. It was agreed that the game would be called if it remained tied after 11.

With one out in the bottom of the 11th, the public address announcer told the crowd the bad news. Folks who had forked over $175 for box seats learned that this actually was no different than a spring training game.

The Rhinelanders booed for the rest of the inning as Selig -- already under siege -- shrank in his box seat. It had to be a terrible moment for Bud to hear the booing on this most anticipated and festive of nights in his new ballpark.

Brutal.

Naturally, the National League didn't score and the game ended, 7-7, on a called third strike to Benito Santiago.

"We had called the game this evening and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the fans that were here," said Selig, who looked as if his dog just died. "Their unhappiness was understood by all of us. In the middle of the inning, both managers told me they were out of players.

"They had used everybody because they wanted to get everybody in the game, but in your wildest dreams you wouldn't have conceived this game would end in a tie, but given the health of the players and where they were at that point, I had no choice. As much as I hated to do it, and with all the reluctance in the world, I really had no choice but to end that game at the end of the 11th.

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"It would have become a worse farce in the 12th inning…; This is not the ending we had hoped for. This is the first time it has ever happened. It is very regrettable and very sad."

"I feel bad for Bud, especially here," said AL manager Joe Torre.

Why not a home run derby between Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds? How about penalty kicks? No. Instead, we got spring training baseball or a regular-season NHL game. We got a tie.

This was a problem waiting to happen. Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly both tried to get all 30 players into the game. They accomplished that, but then had no relief pitchers for the potential 12th or 13th innings.

"You can't have it both ways," said Torre. "Fans want to see all the stars, but the last thing I want to do is get a pitcher hurt."

Many fans lingered and booed for a half hour after the field was cleared. Some chanted, "Let them play," "Bud Must Go," and "We want a refund." It was a truly hideous conclusion. Selig is not a particularly lucky fellow these days.

This was the night when the All-Star Game MVP trophy was named in honor of Ted Williams. But the game ended with no one being named MVP.

Brutal.

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"This is not the way I wanted this to end," said Selig. "I am saddened by it."

And baseball is embarrassed. Again.

Dan Shaughnessy is a sports writer for the Boston Globe.

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