Ventura reflects on All-Star playing days

Ventura reflects on All-Star playing days

CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura made his first American League All-Star appearance in 1992, during his third full season in the Majors with the White Sox.

Home-field advantage in the World Series was not on the line for the winning league at that point. But Ventura pointed out that no extra incentive was needed to fire up the AL players against the National League, and vice-versa.

"When there was no Interleague Play, that was the only time you really got to play against the other side unless you met them in the World Series," Ventura told MLB.com during a recent taping of the White Sox extra podcast. "When you went [to the All-Star Game], it was you representing your side, and you wanted to make sure you won.

"The older guys made sure you understood that. That was very important to them, as far as carrying on the legacy for guys that have been lifelong American Leaguers.

"Kirby [Puckett] was really good about kind of being like a captain. It was really important to him that we win that game," Ventura said. "[Minnesota and AL All-Star manager Tom Kelly] addressed the team in the same manner, as far as how we were going to go about it and what we were going to do."

Ventura doubled and singled in a game won by the AL, 13-6, and played at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on Ventura's 25th birthday. The All-Star Game presented by MasterCard returns to San Diego on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

The talented third baseman didn't make another All-Star appearance until 2002, when he was with the Yankees, during a game in Milwaukee that ended in a 7-7 tie in 11 innings and was a catalyst for granting home-field advantage to the winning league in future All-Star Games.

Freddy Garcia was the last pitcher for the AL in that 2002 contest, having worked two scoreless innings. Ventura remembers Garcia offering to keep pitching, but players' livelihoods were not going to be put in jeopardy.

Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle also played on that same AL team with Ventura, with Konerko knocking out two doubles. Ventura would later manage Konerko on the White Sox.

"Having been with the White Sox, I'm sure they heard some bad stories," said Ventura with a laugh about his interaction with Konerko and Buehrle. "I had to clear some stuff up with both of them when we were in the locker room.

"It's the truest All-Star Game [in sports], as far as competing. There's no letting up on anything, and so I think that's part of it. Both leagues took pride in being able to beat the other league, and you played hard for that."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.