All-Star Game memories from 1978 and 1992

All-Star Game memories from 1978 and 1992

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

If history repeats itself -- and early planning indicates it should -- the Padres' third All-Star Game, on July 12, 2016, should be a milestone event for baseball as well as San Diego.

When the Padres hosted past All-Star Games in 1978 and 1992, the Midsummer Classics played in Mission Valley became much more than baseball games.

The 1978 All-Star Game was turned into a celebration of baseball in San Diego. The 1992 All-Star Game became a template for All-Star Games of the future.

Each of those games helped establish San Diego as the perfect host city for major events.

The Padres' first All-Star Game, on July 11, 1978, came 4 1/2 years after Ray Kroc saved Major League baseball for San Diego.

Shortly after buying the Padres on Jan. 25, 1974 -- to prevent the franchise's move to another city -- Kroc met with Major League owners seeking approval of the sale. During the meeting, Kroc told his new partners that if the Padres turned it around, the city of San Diego should be rewarded with an All-Star Game.

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The National League scored a 7-3 win in the 49th All-Star Game, played before 51,549 at then San Diego Stadium. The win was the National League's seventh straight in a streak that would reach 11 straight games.

But the game itself was just part of "the happening."

Kroc talked Major League Baseball into opening the practices on the eve of the game to the public. Thousands flocked to San Diego Stadium on July 10 to witness batting practice and seek autographs.

A day later, a capacity crowd cheered every mention of the words "San Diego" or "Padre."

Kroc received a standing ovation as he accompanied former President Gerald Ford onto the field for the ceremonial first pitch. Padres outfielder Dave Winfield and relief pitcher Rollie Fingers got the largest ovations during the pregame introductions.

Winfield and Fingers would play key roles in the National League's win -- along with future Padres first baseman Steve Garvey at the expense of another future Padre Goose Gossage. The American League jumped out to a 3-0 lead. But the National League rallied and the game was tied 3-3 going into the last of the eighth -- thanks in part to Fingers allowing a hit while registering one strikeout over two scoreless innings (the six and seventh).

Garvey opened the bottom of the eighth with a triple off Gossage and scored on a wild pitch to give the National League a 4-3 lead. Gossage then walked Dave Concepcion ahead of a single by Winfield, who moved to second on a fielding error. Both scored when Crawford High grad Bob Boone singled off Gossage. Future Padres base coach Davey Lopes singled home Boone.

Gossage allowed four runs on four hits. Garvey was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

But the participant who stole the show was Ted Giannoulas, who made one of his first national appearances on television as the San Diego Chicken.

"The 1978 All-Star Game was my biggest break," Giannoulas said later. "I was honored that the Padres and Major League Baseball would give me a spot on such a big stage."

Fourteen years later, the All-Star Game returned to San Diego.

This time, the American League was in charge of the series and scored a 13-6 win before 59,372 at then Jack Murphy Stadium.

Again, Padres fans cheered their own with the biggest ovation going to San Diego native Ted Williams as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Before the game, San Diego icons Williams and Tony Gwynn talked baseball during what Gwynn later recalled "as one of the more memorable and informative chats of my life."

Gwynn, first baseman Fred McGriff and catcher Benito Santiago were voted into the National League's starting lineup, and shortstop Tony Fernandez and third baseman Gary Sheffield were on the squad as reserves.

McGriff had two hits in three at-bats and drove in a run. Fernandez replaced former Padre Ozzie Smith and was 1-for-2 with a run scored.

Gwynn was 0-for-2 with a walk. Santiago struck out in his lone at-bat.

Sheffield was 0-for-2.

But the National League was no match for the American League, which scored five runs in the first two innings off Tom Glavine. Ken Griffey won the Most Valuable Player honors, going 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.

The Padres again threw a party the day before the game, with FanFest drawing a record crowd. Mark McGwire won the Home Run Derby with 12 homers. Padres McGriff and Sheffield each had four homers in the competition.