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KANSAS CITY, Mo.--Among those assembled to pay homage to the 1973 crop of baseball all-stars, scheduled to play here tonight (8 p.m. EST), is the usual throng of hangers-on associated with any event offering glamor, celebrities, and free liquor. The hangers-on are small town reporters, former scouts, and public relations men who all have jobs or titles much too big for their roles.
A quick walk through the free bars set up by the Kansas City Royals management reveals the number of hangers-on. It seems that the necessary background to be a reporter, manager, coach, director of player personnel, general manager, or owner is to be white, a drunk, and a little too stupid to run a bowling alley.
But because this crowd contains reporters, the Kansas City politicians and baseball officials are doling out complimentary 50 cent lighters, 19 cent pens, and worthless commemmorative medallions. The locals hope the press will not only report the action of the game but also the wonders of Kansas City. The wonders include a new hotel, several fountains, and major league franchises in baseball and football. There is also an airport 20 miles from the city and a basketball team that plays half its games in Nebraska.
The press conference is part of the circus before the game. The National League manager, Cincinnati's Sparky Anderson, was asked if he had a strong bench for the game. Knitting his brows, he said that he did, since he has 29 of the best players in baseball, and there should be a few good ones on the bench.
Anderson was also questioned about Willie Mays, who is 42 years old and batting .219 for the New York Mets. Sparky, the reporters asked, is Willie going to play? The implication was that, with his average, he belonged on the Long Island beaches instead of in the dugout. Anderson lied when he answered, "I'm not here to see that particular people get in the game. I am here to beat the other team." Mays was added to the squad as a fan-pleaser by Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
After the press conference, the assembled double-knit sports coats and white shoes trooped to the free lunch. Curiously, the Kansas City attempt to claim status as a major league city did not include providing good food. The buffet offering included pressed turkey with bone, tuna fish salad with celery, and Apple Pie.
Perhaps the high point of the meal, and of the all-star activities to date, was that there were fresh strawberries in the canned fruit cocktail. But in keeping with the spirit of the week, only a third of a strawberry was in each dish of cocktail.
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