PITTSBURGH. -- During commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig's annual state-of-the-game session with writers before last night's All-Star Game at PNC Park, he spoke of how baseball's showcase is the best in sports and how Arch Ward "would be proud."
That was the answer I got from nine All-Star players when I asked them whether they knew who Arch Ward was.
"Who?" Paul Konerko said. "Arch Ward?"
"Arch Ward?" Brandon Webb said. "I have no idea who he is."
Well, Brandon, he's the reason you are here. He's the one who created the All-Star Game.
And you know what? He was a sportswriter.
Webb was stunned that a sportswriter would have had such an impact on the game. "Really?" he said. "Wow. You would have thought someone in Major League Baseball would have came up with the idea."
You might think that. You also might think that baseball would engage in a little history lesson to let these players know that a sportswriter -- those pathetic creatures that make their lives so difficult by wanting to write stories about them, those weasels who baseball managers curse -- made all of this possible.
Given the diminishing stature of sportswriters in today's baseball clubhouse, it would be a worthy lesson.
Arch Ward was sports editor and a columnist at the Chicago Tribune and a man of great vision. He organized the first Golden Gloves boxing tournament in 1923 and also started the College Football All-Star game, in which the best of graduating college football players would play the NFL champions from the season before, an entertaining game that started in 1934 and ran until 1976. And he also was one of the founders of the All-American Football League in 1946, a rival league that lasted for only three years but gave birth to the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers.
But his crown jewel remains baseball's crown jewel -- the All-Star Game. Ward put together the contest in 1933 to coincide with the World's Fair being held in Chicago that year. The Tribune actually distributed the ballots and counted them as well. From that single promotional idea by a sportswriter came this week-long celebration of baseball, from Fanfest to the home run derby to, like Cadillac Bud said, the best of all the all-star games.
Yes, he would probably be proud. But he also might be a little disappointed that the players who reap the benefits of his creation and profess to enjoy it so much have no clue of his contribution or the contribution of his profession that so many in the game these days seem to despise.
Nomar Garciaparra, have you ever heard of Arch Ward?
"Are you surprised that a sportswriter started the All-Star Game?"
Thank you for playing, Nomar.
Brian McCann didn't know who Arch Ward was either, but at least he was a little more impressed than Mr. Mia Hamm.
"Really?" McCann said. "He did a good job. It's a big event."
Mark Loretta didn't know who Arch Ward was, either, but he gave him -- and his chosen profession -- some love.
"I guess then we have to thank you all for doing this," Loretta said. "We appreciate it." Yes, despite Manny Ramirez's insulting absence, most of the players -- particularly on this year's rosters, which had fewer perennial selections and more young stars -- seem to appreciate being named to the All-Star team.
"It's an honor to be on the All-Star team," Troy Glaus said. "It's a fun event. It's fun to be here."
Surprised that a sportswriter started it?
"It does surprise me a little bit," Glaus said. "That's funny."
I can see why a ballplayer would think it is funny, given the place on the food chain they put sportswriters. What would be proper, though, is if players thought it was important -- at least important enough to learn the history of this game.
Baseball used to acknowledge Ward's contribution with the game's MVP trophy. It was called the Arch Ward Memorial Award until 1970, when it was renamed Commissioner's Trophy. In 1984, baseball changed it back to the Arch Ward Memorial Award but in 2002 reworked it to honor Ted Williams. Now it is called the Ted Williams MVP award, and the winner is presented the Arch Ward Trophy. And most likely none of the winners has a clue whom the trophy is named for.
Tommy Lasorda was on hand for the festivities last night, so I asked the Hall of Fame manager whether he ever heard of Arch Ward.
"Arch Ward? Sure, he was the sportswriter who came up with the idea of the All-Star Game."
I told him that none of the players I had spoken to knew anything about Ward.
"None of the players probably know who George Washington is, either," he said.