First-year Padres bench coach Mark McGwire doesn't need anyone to sell him on San Diego's status as a perfect match for the All-Star Game. McGwire experienced the atmosphere for himself in 1992, the last time the Padres hosted the Midsummer Classic, when he represented the A's for the American League."It
First-year Padres bench coach Mark McGwire doesn't need anyone to sell him on San Diego's status as a perfect match for the All-Star Game. McGwire experienced the atmosphere for himself in 1992, the last time the Padres hosted the Midsummer Classic, when he represented the A's for the American League.
"It was really a fun week," McGwire says. "I had always loved coming to San Diego, and that was the only Home Run Derby I won. I loved [playing at] Jack Murphy Stadium, too.
"People are excited when they come to Southern California."
That's why McGwire says he was elated to hear that MLB selected the Padres to host the 2016 All-Star Game, this time at Petco Park, their jewel of a ballpark that has helped transform downtown San Diego. This year's All-Star Game will be San Diego's third, following the 1992 and 1978 tilts. The 2016 Classic, though, contains all the ingredients to be a much bigger show than its predecessors.
That's not to say the 1992 game didn't leave an indelible mark on the city and the region -- as well as on the sold-out crowd that packed Jack Murphy Stadium on that warm summer evening in the year Bill Clinton was elected President. What fans saw on the field was a largely one-sided affair, with the American League triumphing, 13-6. But the crowd was also treated to a historic pregame ceremony, as San Diego son Ted Williams stood atop the mound and fired a ceremonial first pitch amid deafening applause. Soon after, another San Diego favorite, outfielder Tony Gwynn, walked onto the field for his eighth of 15 career All-Star Games to such a raucous ovation that the stadium nearly shook.
Away from the cameras, Williams and Gwynn sat and talked about life and baseball. Gwynn would later say that his talk with The Splendid Splinter that day was "one of the more memorable and informative chats of my life."
Williams and Gwynn aside, Cooperstown was well represented, as a total of 14 future Hall of Famers were selected to the rosters for that particular All-Star Game. Once the contest started, a future icon -- 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Ken Griffey Jr. -- stole the show. The American League scored five runs off Braves pitcher Tom Glavine over the first two innings, and Griffey, wearing his signature wide smile at every turn, ran away with the game's Most Valuable Player Award, going 3 for 3 with a home run, two runs and two RBI.
Alongside Griffey, White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura was named to his first All-Star team in 1992. He admits that it wasn't just the fans that were in awe that day. "Any time you're in a room with the best players in the game, your first time, it's exciting," says Ventura, who was then just 25 years old.
"At that time we didn't have Interleague, and you really didn't see guys from the other league that often except for in the All-Star Game … or during Spring Training. All of the guys that are there that you've always looked up to, you're [now] playing against them. It was just special."
The California native brought his wife, Stephanie, to the 1992 game. He was less anxious about his at-bats that night -- he went 2 for 2 and knocked in a run -- than he was about keeping in contact with her.
"She was pregnant. And she did fly out [to San Diego] and gave birth two weeks later. She's tough that way."
As for this year's All-Star Game festivities, McGwire is content to observe from the sidelines. He is still very much enjoying the show, just like he did in 1992.
"Some people haven't been here, but it's a great ballpark," McGwire said earlier this season. "It's just San Diego -- the beauty, the sun, the beaches.
"Hopefully that'll bring everybody down to watch a great baseball game this summer."
This article appears in the MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Click here to purchase a copy, and read more features on allstargame.com.
Corey Brock works for MLB Advanced Media and covered the Padres for MLB.com for nearly a decade.