Getting All-Star shaft a matter of perspective

Die-hard Milwaukee Brewers fans could be justified in feeling their team got fleeced.

Best record in the National League but no starters in the All-Star Game?

The Brewers must have one of the most complete groups of role-players ever assembled, or there’s some kind of fiendish plot to keep them out of the Midsummer Classic. Right?

Nope. In reality, it’s only the sort of collateral damage endured by small-market teams. Fewer fans in the base equals fewer votes.

Outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain will be suited up for baseball’s 89th All-Star Game on July 17 in Washington, D.C., as will relief pitcher Josh Hader. Those three are the only players representing the Brewers — who have led the NL Central for 74 days so far — although that’s only as disappointing of a thing as one wants to make it.

Being chosen for the All-Star Game is still the epitome of having made it in the big leagues, and the prestige of playing with and against the best players in the world shouldn’t be trivialized.

With a travel-heavy schedule and the usual assortment of aches and pains that accompany a 162-game season, some All-Stars would rather give it a miss and instead take the three days of down time.

This is especially true when the ego is in play and the All-Star feels he should be in the starting lineup.

The all-time dissatisfied customer in that realm is thought to be Garry Templeton, a shortstop for St. Louis who in 1979 led the league in base hits and triples while becoming the only NL player to ever get 100 hits from both sides of the plate in the same season.

His breakthrough year wasn’t reflected in the All-Star vote, where he finished fourth among shortstops. Ahead of him was Ozzie Smith of San Diego, who along with Templeton was hailed as an upcoming star but was only batting .182 at the break.

“If I ain’t startin,’ I ain’t departin,’” became the catchphrase forever associated with Templeton, whose reputation as a clubhouse distraction grew afterward, and he was eventually traded to the Padres for Smith.

Templeton got a bad rap, though, because he never issued that infamous ultimatum. The words ascribed to him were actually those of Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, who uttered what was basically a throwaway line attempting to summarize Templeton’s feelings.

It would be impossible today for a wrongly attributed quote to survive for very long, let alone for most of the falsely quoted player’s career.

In 1979 the proliferation of sports media was still years down the road. There were no sports talk shows on radio or television to analyze the comment or do follow-up interviews with Templeton. It would take about four minutes today to work out the fact that his poetic pout was written by someone else. In the media wilderness of that era, a controversy could instantly die or, as happened in Templeton’s case, a meme was hatched.

Only 21 years old at the time, a more seasoned Templeton not wishing to join the All-Star festivities may have saved himself the bother and just faked an injury.

Retired slugger Manny Ramirez preferred three days off to the All-Star experience, and pulled up with an injury in three of the 12 All-Star Games to which he was voted.

A far more cruel irony than the Brewers not having an All-Star starter would be to have one of their best players injured in a mid-season exhibition game.

Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean took a line drive off the big toe in the 1937 All-Star Game, botched the rehab and his career was shot. Catcher Ray Fosse never fully recovered from the shoulder injury he sustained getting trucked by Pete Rose on the last play of the 1970 All-Star Game.

Congrats to Cain, Yelich and Hader on making the All-Star team. If they all get in the game and contribute, that would be great. If their best performances come over the second half of the season, that would be even better.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.