It takes a lot of skill to be successful in the game of baseball. Sometimes, it helps to have a little luck. Good things happen when you’re in the right place at the right time.
Nobody knows that better than Alfredo Griffin. A man who happened to be in the right place at the right time the day before the 1984 MLB All-Star Game.
This Midsummer Classic edition of Flashback Friday looks back at Griffin’s fortuitous All-Star Game appearance, one which he had no business being at, but managed to make the roster anyway. Hat tip to Ben Ennis and J.D. Bunkis of Sportsnet 590’s Good Show for reminding me of this noteworthy story.
Griffin’s 1984 season was by no means “All-Star worthy”. His first half .567 OPS might be one of the worst of any MLB All-Star. Griffin had 10 extra-base hits going into the All-Star break … 10. He also walked a grand total of three times in 80 games.
So, how on earth did a guy with a .250 on-base percentage weasel his way onto an All-Star roster? It has nothing to do with merit; it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
The story goes that Damaso Garcia was the one selected to the 1984 MLB All-Star Game and each invitee was allowed to bring one guest. Garcia chose his teammate and countrymate to join him on the trip to San Francisco.
Instead of enjoying a relaxing game in the stands, the Blue Jays’ shortstop was called into action unexpectedly.
With the American League down two shortstops – Alan Trammel hurt his shoulder and Robin Yount wasn’t fit to play – at 6:30pm the night before the game, American League manager Joe Altobelli asked Griffin to play in the All-Star Game as a reserve.
Remember, Griffin had no idea he would be called into action, so he had no uniform and equipment whatsoever. So, he improvised. This note from the Globe and Mail:
Yesterday, Griffin worked out at Candlestick Park using equipment on loan to him by Garcia. Griffin’s own equipment will be shipped to him this morning. Griffin, who found out about his stroke of luck at 6:30 p.m. EDT, was wearing Garcia’s No. 7 game uniform in the workout while Garcia wore his practice togs.
But it kept getting better for Griffin. Not only did he get a free vacation to San Francisco. Not only did he enjoy the lustre of being named an All-Star. In a weird twist of fate, Griffin also somehow made money on the trip by receiving an All-Star bonus.
It could be a fortuitous visit for Griffin in another way. Many players have a clause in their contracts that provide a bonus for appearing in the all-star game and Griffin is one of them. It’s reasonable to assume that making the all-star team roster could mean at least $25,000 to Griffin.
Griffin made it into the game as a defensive replacement for Cal Ripken Jr. in the sixth inning, playing alongside his Blue Jays teammate in the middle infield, Garcia. The Blue Jays’ shortstop never got the chance to hit as he was subbed in for Don Mattingly in the ninth inning.
We may never see another All-Star like Griffin again. He may have been one of the most undeserving All-Stars ever, but he was conveniently close by and sometimes being lucky is better than being good.
Remember, kids … if you can’t make it into the Midsummer Classic, make sure you’re really good friends with someone who can get there and pray that they choose to bring you along for the ride.