NL Trips AL for Second Straight Year

September, 1998

Tom Hughes

It is common knowledge that the best recipes use the best ingredients - butter instead of margarine, fresh instead of frozen, Ghiradelli's instead of Hershey's.  So it was with confidence that Brassball assembled its best this summer at the Corn Crib in Iowa City for the 4th annual Brassball All-Star Game.  While uncertain how the various ingredients would interact with one another, the league was sure that the finished product would give its supporters another reason to be proud, and perhaps persuade a few of the uninitiated to find summer fun here rather than elsewhere.  Taking a break from watching the corn grow, Iowans flocked to the stadium on a beautiful July night to see if their American Leaguers could recapture the bragging rights they had lost last year in a devastating 9th inning National League rally.

There were no surprises in the first three innings, particularly if you believe that good pitching will beat good hitting.  Greg Maddux opposed Randy Johnson and both cruised through their three inning stints, the only nick being a Piazza single off Maddux.  The National League quickly took advantage of Johnson's replacement, Tom Glavine, when he took the mound in the 4th.  Craig Biggio coaxed a walk off the Snook lefty, swiped second on Piazza's slow release, and coasted home on Tony Gwynn's two-bagger.  Clemens and Schilling continued to hold the fort for the NL, but their offense was unable to increase the one-run margine despite a golden opportunity in the 6th.  With one away Biggio was hit by a John Smoltz pitch and was singled to third by Gwynn.  Mike Jackson, playing the same role he has in the regular season, came on to bail out his Mauler teammate.  After walking Mark McGwire, Jackson did just that, fanning Frank Thomas and getting Rusty Greer on a flyout.  Knowing that a one-run lead was not sufficient, even when the arms that they were relying on, the NL added to the cushion in the 8th off Hessville's Jim Bruske.  Tony Gwynn (who else?) singled and waltzed home under the shadow of a mammoth Mark McGwire homerun to left center.  These runs would prove decisive as the American League broke through in their half of the 8th, concocting two runs on singles by Bagwell, Rodriguez and Walker mixed in with two infield groundouts.  The Rube fans were hoping the AL could counter last years' NL comeback with one of their own, but the Wizards' Doug Jones retired the side in order in the 9th to preserve the 3-2 win.

The winners managed just five hits (three by Gwynn), but because two of them were the only extra-base hits of the contest they emerged on top.  Tony Gwynn collected the MVP trophy before flying back to North Georgia to join his teammates.

This game by itself means nothing.  If these two squads played a 162 game set, there is no telling who would triumph.  But coupled with last year's win and Bloomington's victory in the World Series, one has to wonder if the pendulum hasn't swung towards the National League.  American League managers aren't worried yet, but another year like the last one and it wouldn't be surprising to see some finger-pointing.  Meanwhile, the corn continues to grow in Iowa and thank God - we need to have some way to pay these contracts.