LOS ANGELES — Major League Baseball will throw it back to 1980 on Tuesday, finally finding its way back to Dodger Stadium for an All-Star Game.
The contest will have distinct Southern California flair, with the National League not only using Los Angeles Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw as its starting pitcher, but also starting two Dodgers position players in shortstop Trea Turner and center fielder Mookie Betts.
It is the first time the Dodgers will have multiple starters for an All-Star Game in 42 years, and it is perhaps no coincidence that game was the 1980 contest at Chavez Ravine. Six total Dodgers will be on the squad, along with six Atlanta Braves players, while the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays will have six apiece on the American League team.
“I am just so excited I get to do it here at Dodger Stadium,” Kershaw said of the start, recognizing that the sentimental value of making him the starter pushed him ahead of worthy NL pitchers like the Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara, the Braves’ Max Fried and teammate Tony Gonsolin.
It is Kershaw’s ninth All-Star nod, but his first start.
“I really didn’t think anything of it (previously),” said Kershaw (7-2, 2.13 ERA). “I was like, ‘Well, yeah, it would be fun to do it or whatever,’ but now that it’s finally here and I get to start that game (Tuesday) night, it just means a lot, and it means a lot to my family and we’re excited.”
The cluster of players from the Dodgers, who are the top team in the NL at the break, can help end the side’s eight-game losing streak to the AL. The last time the NL won the Midsummer Classic was an 8-0 victory at Kansas City in 2012.
The past 25 years of All-Star Games have been nothing but AL domination. The AL holds a 20-3-1 advantage, with the 2020 All-Star Game canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another local player on the NL squad is former Dodger and current San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado. Other NL starters include catcher Willson Contreras (Cubs), first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), second baseman Jeff McNeil (Mets), outfielders Joc Pederson (Giants) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves) and designated hitter William Contreras (Braves).
McNeil and William Contreras are in the lineup as replacements for Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper, who were voted as starters but are injured.
The AL had a pair of L.A.-area starters in OF Mike Trout and DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, but Trout announced Sunday he will not participate because of back spasms.
AL starters in the field will be catcher Alejandro Kirk (Blue Jays), first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), second baseman Andres Gimenez (Guardians), third baseman Rafael Devers (Red Sox), shortstop Tim Anderson (White Sox) and outfielders Aaron Judge (Yankees), Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees) and Byron Buxton (Twins). Buxton was Trout’s replacement, while Gimenez is in for injured Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
The Rays’ Shane McClanahan (10-3, 1.71) will get the start instead in just his second major league season and first All-Star appearance. Ohtani, who started for the AL last year, will start at DH but could pitch later in the game.
“I think growing up, I’ve always been a baseball lover and always had great respect for the (All-Star Game),” McClanahan said. “I would be lying if I told you I didn’t ever envision myself being on that mound and competing against the best players in the world and for it to come true is truly an exciting opportunity for me.”
Even the AL team has a tie to the last All-Star Game in Los Angeles. AL manager Dusty Baker of the Astros played for the Dodgers in 1980 — and felt he was an All-Star snub.
“I was a little hurt because I wasn’t chosen because we had about half the team that went to the All-Star Game,” said Baker, who batted .294 that season with 29 home runs and 97 RBIs, while finishing fourth in NL MVP voting. “So it’s come full circle for me and I’m glad I’m here.”
Baker did go on to make his only two All-Star teams in each of the next two seasons in 1981-82.
–By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media