Today's Dodgers All-Star moment wasn't necessarily memorable for the performance on the field, but rather a quirk in timing which created a unique circumstance. Normally when a player gets traded to a new team, his first foray into the clubhouse begins with greeting his new teammates. But what do you do when the first clubhouse you enter has not only some of your new teammates, but players from 15 other teams as well? That brings us to the tale of Jeff Shaw, who made his Dodgers debut at the 1998 MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field in Colorado.
Shaw was a rather ordinary reliever for his first six seasons with the Indians, Expos, and White Sox until finding a home in Cincinnati in 1996. After putting up a 2.49 ERA in 104 2/3 innings that year, he became the Reds' closer in 1997, and led the National League with 42 saves. In 1998, Shaw was having his best season, with a 1.81 ERA and 23 saves through July 3.
For the Dodgers, 1998 was a transition year. Mike Piazza was traded, manager Bill Russell and general manager Fred Claire were fired, and the team was struggling on the field, at 42-43 beginning play on July 4. If you thought it wasn't in Ned Colletti's DNA to be a seller, let me introduce you to interim GM Tommy Lasorda. With the team 12½ games out of the NL West, and eight games behind the wild card leader, Lasorda unloaded Paul Konerko, the number two prospect in baseball per Baseball America, and Dennys Reyes for the nearly 32-year old Shaw.
"You look at how many games we lost in the seventh, eight, ninth inning. You see how much I wanted to get this guy," Lasorda told the Associated Press on the day of the trade. "I feel this Dodger club needs this relief pitcher desperately."
Konerko has hit 382 home runs since the trade.
To make matters worse for the Dodgers, Lasorda didn't know about a rule at the time which allowed anyone traded with a multi-year contract had the right to demand a trade in the next offseason. Shaw used that leverage to renegotiate his three-year, $8.4 million deal into a three-year, $16.5 million contract, the second richest pact the Dodgers have ever given a relief pitcher (no, Matt Guerrier is not first).
But for Shaw, before he could join his new team in Los Angeles, there was the matter of the All-Star Game. Shaw was named an All-Star for his work with Cincinnati, but he was no longer a Red. He would debut as a Dodger at the All-Star Game, on his birthday, July 7. The night before, during the Home Run Derby and other festivities, Shaw's new duds hadn't yet arrived, so he had to improvise, per Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times:
He wore a blue Dodger cap, a green National League All-Star jersey with a Dodger logo (no, Fox hasn't changed it yet) on the sleeve, white pants that were a little too big and belonged to Raul Mondesi and had been shipped here in anticipation of Mondesi's possible selection, and white and blue workout shoes provided by new Dodger teammate and fellow All-Star Gary Sheffield.
Did he feel like a Dodger yet?
"I feel like a Dodger outfielder," Shaw said, referring to Sheffield's footwear and Mondesi's pants.
As for the game itself, Shaw was one of four closers on the team, with Ugueth Urbina, Trevor Hoffman, and Robb Nen. As expected at Coors Field, the game was high-scoring, a 13-8 win by the American League, and Shaw was not immune to the offense. He allowed one run on three hits in the eighth inning. But for becoming the first player ever to debut with a new team at the midsummer classic, Shaw's 1998 All-Star Game was one to remember.