San Diego hosts its first All-Star Game in '78

Winfield, Fingers have roles in National League win

San Diego hosts its first All-Star Game in '78

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

Four years after buying the Padres, Ray Kroc won the right for San Diego to host its first All-Star Game.

As it turned out, the 1978 All-Star Game played at San Diego Stadium was a pivotal event in the history of the Midsumnmer Classic, the Padres and San Diego.

In addition to breaking new ground for the game, it helped establish San Diego itself as a perfect host city for major sports events.

Prior to 1978, the Monday practices before the All-Star Game were largely closed to the public. Kroc got approval from Major League Baseball "to open the gates" for practice, and the results led to the creation of FanFest and other pregame events that are now a part of the annual All-Star Game experience. The 1978 All-Star Game was played on July 11 before 51,529 fans, and the National League rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the American League, 7-3, in the 49th edition. It was the seventh straight win for the NL and 15th in 16 games.

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.

The Padres did turn it, around and Major League Baseball granted Kroc's wish with the 1978 All-Star Game. When the game quickly sold out, Kroc approached baseball's leaders with a plan to address the disappointment of the many San Diegans who wanted to go to the game but couldn't get tickets -- open the practice sessions on the eve of the All-Star Game to the public. For free. And make the players available to sign autographs.

More than 30,000 San Diegans -- including kids from area schools, via bus transportation provided by the Padres - turned out to see the All-Stars take batting practice and shag fly balls. And autograph lines stretched hundreds deep as players lined up along the field.

Come the day of the game, fans cheered every mention of "Padres" or "San Diego." 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 NL's win -- along with future Padres first baseman Steve Garvey -- at the expense of Goose Gossage. The game was tied at 3 going into the bottom of the eighth, thanks in part to Fingers allowing only one hit over two scoreless innings (the sixth and seventh).

Garvey opened the bottom of the eighth with a triple off Gossage and scored on a wild pitch to give the NL 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. Davey Lopes singled home Boone.

Garvey, who finished 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and a run scored, was named the Most Valuable Player.

However, 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."

The American League jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first and widened the lead to 3-0 in the top of the third thanks to Rod Carew. The Minnesota Twins first baseman led off both innings with triples, becoming the first player in All-Star Game history to have two triples in the game.

After Carew opened the game with a triple to left center off NL starting pitcher Vida Blue of the San Francisco Giants, No. 2 hitter George Brett, the third baseman of the Kansas City Royals, followed with an RBI double. Brett advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a sacrifice fly to short right by Boston left fielder Jim Rice.

After Carew again tripled off Blue to open the third, Brett again drove him in with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

But the NL tied the game in the bottom of the third with three runs off AL starter Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles.

Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa opened the inning with a single before Palmer retired the next two hitters. Palmer then issued three straight walks to Cincinnati teammates Joe Morgan and George Foster and Philadelphia left fielder Greg Luzinski, the third walk forcing home Bowa.

Garvey then hit a two-run single scoring the Reds' second baseman and center fielder. The NL broke it open with the four runs in the bottom of the eighth. Like Garvey, Bowa was 2-for-3 in the game. Boone and Garvey had two RBIs. Carew and Brett each had two of the AL's eight hits -- Carew scoring twice and Brett driving in two runs and scoring once.

Larry Sorenson of the Milwaukee Brewers allowed one hit over three scoreless innings for the AL, while Steve Rogers of Montreal and Fingers each worked two scoreless innings to keep it tied. Bruce Sutter of the Chicago Cubs struck out two in 1 2/3 perfect innings to get the win.