By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jul 09, 2002 at 5:15 AM

The players' reps did not set a strike date in Chicago, clearing the way for the All Star Home Run Derby Monday night at Miller Park.

By no means does the players' lack of action Monday end the threat of a strike. But, it did allow the sluggers in the derby to concentrate on striking as many balls out of the park as possible, rather than concern themselves with how long they will play this season.

The 41,732 fans at the event loved it. They cheered wildly for every homer. Of course, the Brewers' Richie Sexson got one of the biggest ovations. Sexson got off to a slow start, but finished strong with six homers in his first round to make it to the semifinals.

Sammy Sosa put on an incredible show in the first round with 12 homers, averaging 477 feet. He hit two balls out of Miller Park on the fly, the first time that has been accomplished. His longest homer measured 524 feet.

Sosa beat Sexson in the semis, 5-4, but showed some signs of tiring. Meanwhile, the Yankees' Jason Giambi hit 11 homers in the first round and beat the White Sox' Paul Konerko in sudden death in the semis to reach the final round.

Giambi hit seven homers in the final round, while an obviously tired Sosa managed only one. "It was such a great time," Giambi said. "After the first round, I thought 'oh my God'. He knocked balls out of the stadium. To have an opportunity to go against him and walk away with the trophy was something incredible."

In addition to the labor problems, recent revelations about steroid use among players threatened to cast a bit of a shadow over the derby. But, the fans didn't seem to care, and the participants minimized the impact.

"I honestly don't know players who use steroids," said Twins' outfielder Torii Hunter, who hit three homers in the derby. "That's not saying there aren't players who do, but if they do they're going to pay the price later. I don't have a problem with testing if they want to."


Sosa said he hoped the steroid issue would not diminish the enjoyment of the derby, which has become one of the most popular events during All Star Week.

Superstars' Opinions

Three of the game's superstars reacted to the labor situation during media conferences Monday morning. "The only strike I'm worried about is the one I hope to throw on the first pitch," said D-Backs pitcher Curt Schilling, who will start for the NL Tuesday night.

"This town has waited too long for this. This is about the All Star Game right now. I'll worry about that other stuff later when I have to."

Giambi had a different view. "Why should Mr. Steinbrenner (Yankees' owner, George) be penalized because he wants to win?" Giambi said. "I understand the concern of small market teams, but you can't take everything away from the big market teams."

Alex Rodriguez suggested teams that develop good young players be compensated. "For example, Oakland would get compensated for developing Jason Giambi," A-Rod said. "Then, they could sign a player to replace him."

A-Rod also said success is "as much about management as the size of the market." He pointed to his years in Seattle as an example.

The players' reps said Monday that they would go back to their teams to get opinions about negotiations, and reserve the right to set a future strike date.

Kind Words

Wisconsin and Milwaukee received some kind words from one All Star who is from the state, and some former players who played in town. Damian Miller, a catcher for the D-Backs and a native of the small town of West Salem near the Mississippi River, said, "This is a thrill to be able to come back here and play in an All Star Game.

"I think Wisconsin is a great place. I still come back home during the off-season. I think it is a great place to live and raise kids."

Joe Torre, the AL manager, said he first came to like Milwaukee when his brother, Frank, played for the Braves. "When I was signed by the Braves, and came up in 1960, it was a great thrill," Torre said.

"My first hit was off Harvey Haddix, when I pinch-hit for Warren Spahn. The fans were always great here. It was very sad when we moved."

Robin Yount, who was the AL honorary captain, said he still considered Milwaukee one of his homes. "This All Star Game is probably the biggest baseball thing here since we won the pennant in 1982," Yount said.

Starting Lineups

Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly announced their batting orders Monday. For the AL, it will be: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, RF, Shea Hillenbrand, Red Sox, 3B; A-Rod, Rangers, SS; Giambi, Yankees, 1B; Manny Ramirez, Red Sox, LF; Jorge Posada, Yankees, C; Hunter, Twins, CF; Alfonzo Soriano, Yankees, 2B; Derek Lowe, Red Sox, P.

The NL lineup will be: Jose Vidro, Expos, 2B; Todd Helton, Rockies, 1B; Bonds, Giants, LF; Sosa, Cubs, RF; Vladimir Guerrero, Expos, CF; Mike Piazza, Mets, C; Scott Rolen, Phillies, 3B; Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, SS; and Schilling.

Let's party

You could find a variety of entertainment at the parties after the Home Run Derby Monday night. Natalie Cole performed at an official Major League Baseball All Star party at the art museum.

Former major league pitcher Jack McDowell and his country band performed at a media party at Shank Hall. McDowell starred with the Twins, White Sox and Tigers.

The Big Game

The pre-game activities start at 7 p.m. Tuesday. If you have tickets, you can enter the gates at 4 p.m. The NL team is taking batting practice at 4 p.m. The AL team will hit at 5:20 p.m.

If you don't have tickets, FOX is carrying the game. You also can read a special edition of The Brew Crew Review on Wednesday morning, on OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann is writing special editions of The Brew Crew Review during All Star Week.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.