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2012 All-Star Game Stirs Memories Of Home Runs

For Monday night's Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium, there is certain to be some tape measure jobs.  

It may even surpass the longest homerun hit in Kauffman history at the 1973 All-Star game. But one person at the stadium on Sunday would rather forget the last All-Star game played in Kansas City.

Washington Nationals scout Bill Singer arrived at Kauffman Stadium early on Sunday to check out batting practice before the Futures game. It featured the top prospects in the minor leagues. Singer took a seat in the upper portion of the stands, in the shade because the gates had not opened yet for the public. 

In 1973, while pitching for the California Angels, Singer was on the mound for the All-Star game in Kansas City.  He gave up home runs to Bobby Bonds (the father of Barry Bonds) and Johnny Bench.

"It was disappointing, obviously," said Singer. "Two home runs in two innings, especially the fact that I usually had good luck with Bonds and Bench.  It’s kind of a double whammy there that I wasn’t used to."

Memories of 1973 Game include Home Runs

If you ask those who attended the game in 1973, they won’t forget those home runs.  Especially anyone sitting in the left field stands like Bill Althaus, now a sportswriter for the Independence Examiner but then a freshman at Northwest Missouri.

"I think I was sitting as far as you down the left field line and about as high, so it was the definition of nosebleed and I didn’t care at all," said Althaus. "I just wanted to be in there and experience it."

John Dodderidge was in junior high in 1973. He now works in Rockhurst University athletics.

"I sat down the left field line in the lower level with my younger brother," Dodderidge said. "And I guess the one play I remember is the Johnny Bench home run."

The Johnny Bench home run was the longest home run ever hit at Kauffman Stadium.

"I’ll never forget that home run because it created so much electricity," said sportswriter Bill Althaus. "But (it was) negative electricity because it was like, ‘Oh, you know we don’t have a chance now.’"

The National League won the game, 7-1. 

A Pitcher Remembers Who Gave Up the Home Run: Others Forget

If you ask the same people, “What pitcher gave up that Johnny Bench tape measure shot?," you’ll receive answers like this one by Dodderidge: "I'm going to guess Bert Blyleven, but I’m probably wrong.  I don’t remember."

The pitchers who give up the home runs remember.  But if a pitcher didn’t give one up, it’s another story.

Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rollie Fingers said, "If I was on the mound, I’d remember it.  But I don’t remember Johnny hitting one."

Fingers played in his first All-Star game in 1973.  He was untouched in the inning he pitched - it was the ninth - against the National League team. 

You’d never figure a pitcher, even an ex-pitcher in the Hall of Fame, to watch batting practice with interest.  But Fingers was around the cage when the celebrities took batting practice, even took a few swings.  More odd is a pitcher enjoying a Home Run Derby, but Fingers defies logic, there, too.

"Pitchers usually don’t like to watch them," Fingers said. "I usually never go out and watch batting practice of the other team when I was playing, but for Home Run Derby it’s fun to watch because you know these guys are just swimming from their hind end and trying to hit a ball out."

Making Peace Many Years Later

So Bill Singer can make peace with himself.  It seems no one remembers that he gave up the longest home run in Kauffman Stadium.  He wasn’t even tagged with the loss in the 1973 All-Star game. Bert Blyleven was.  But over and over, if the film footage of the Bench home run is replayed on television, Bill Singer is seen on the mound.

"Well, it’s one way to get on film," Singer jokes.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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