Thursday Throwback: Oakland Athletics Terry Steinbach Becomes 1988 All-Star Game MVP
While posting only a .217 batting average with five home runs and 19 RBIs, the Oakland Athletics’ Terry Steinbach was voted in as the American League starting catcher for the 59th All-Star Game in Cincinnati in 1988. He would go on to make history.
In 1987, Steinbach had hit .286 in his first full season in the major leagues with 16 homers, 16 doubles and 56 RBIs. In 1988, he had been injured by a thrown ball on May 6 and suffered five fractures around his left eye, resulting in corrective surgery and almost a month on the disabled list. That season he was splitting catching duties with Ron Hassey.
While spending time on the DL, and in a platoon catching role, he still garnered 690,438 votes, making him the AL starting catcher over more known named players such as Bob Boone of the Angels, Carlton Fisk of the White Sox, and the Twins’ Tim Laudner. The election of three Athletics to the starting roster was credited to a fan push happening at the Coliseum with a rising first-place club in the AL West.
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The game that summer night at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium remained scoreless until the third inning when Steinbach got the AL squad on the board when he drove a Dwight Gooden fastball toward the right-field wall. The ball hit the top of the fence, glancing off Darryl Strawberry‘s glove, and fell over the wall for a home run.
As Steinbach got to the AL dugout, he clanged elbows with a number of his more renowned American League teammates with the celebratory gesture of forearm “bashing” which was becoming trendy that season by his Oakland Athletics and AL All-Star teammates Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire (a.k.a. the Bash Brothers).
With the off-field shot, Steinbach had become the first player in history to homer in his first All-Star at-bat as well as his first at-bat in the major leagues. As a September call up in 1986, Steinbach, in his first Major League at-bat on Sept. 12, homered off the Indians Greg Swindell in the seventh inning in Cleveland.
In the fourth inning of the 1988 Summer Classic, with the bases loaded and one out, Steinbach came to bat again and drove another fly off the Astros’ Bob Knepper that sent left fielder Vince Coleman to the warning track. The result was a sacrifice fly driving in the Yankees’ Dave Winfield with the AL squad’s second run and a 2-0 lead.
The NL squad scored a run in the bottom half of the inning when Coleman came home on a Mark Gubicza wild pitch. The game would remain 2-1 into the ninth when A’s closer Dennis Eckersley shut the NL All-Stars down 1-2-3 for an American League win.
With the home run, and knocking in both of the AL team’s runs, Steinbach was the obvious choice for the game’s MVP. No other Athletic player has received the award.
Sterinbach would be elected an All-Star again in 1989 and 1993 and be an integral part of the Athletics’ AL Pennant winning years from 1988-1990 and 1989 World Series Championship.
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