This week, the Cincinnati Reds were awarded the 2015 Major League All Star Game and I immediately remembered when Willie McGee spit a piece of sandwich in my face. Let me explain...
There are plenty of sporting events--Bengal's Freezer Bowl, Tom Browning's perfecto, 4192--where people claim to have been there but were actually not. However, I did get to attend the 1988 All Star Game at Riverfront as working media. I had been at WVXU full time for less than a year when it was time to submit credentials for the '88 Summer Classic. Neal, our sports guy, of course nabbed the main credential but after NPR decided not to send anyone, Neal was able to grab a second one, arguing that he couldn't cover both locker rooms. I still thank him today.
The event was like nothing I had ever experienced...we got to go on the field during batting practice and watch the players warm up. We got a bag full of "gifts" to take home. There were fireworks and ushers dressed in tuxedos. And although many national media-types snickered at owner Marge Schott simple boxed lunches, nothing ever tasted better to me in my life. Since there were so many media, we couldn't all fit in the press box, so Neal and I sat in the stands, but that was okay with me. The only disappointment was the dearth of Reds players in the game and the fact that the National League lost 2-1 (the only time the NL has lost in a Cincy All Star Game.) After the last out, the work began as we had to fulfill our commitment and file stories for NPR and 'VXU. Since the AL were the victors, Neal went to that clubhouse to get sound and I went to the get the loser's reactions in the NL locker room. But I was still a "rookie" and wasn't too familiar with the tricks of getting cogent comments on tape. So I wandered the clubhouse looking for people to interview and, because of the loss, not too many were eager to talk to this skinny "kid." However, there was a small crowd of guys around then St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Willie McGee, so I eased my way into the pack. I don't recall why there was such an interest in McGee, by the way, because, although he played, I don't think he had much to do with the outcome but...well, he was talking and "sound" was "sound." So I held out the mic and turned on the cassette deck and squatted in front. McGee was eating a baloney sandwich as he talked and something must've excited him because a big lump of Wonder bread hit me square in the forehead before I could move. I don't think it was intentional. No one said a word or reacted and, thinking it was just one of the hazards of sports reporting, I just continued recording. No I didn't save the sandwich lump. Maybe I should have because, speaking of memorabilia, most of the nicer "bling"--the commemorative pin, the press pass--were stolen when our house was burglarized several years later.
It's doubtful I'll get to go to the next All Star Game because our little station doesn't have a news or sports department. But I think it's terrific news for the city and surrounding area--even if Willie McGee won't be there.