Why the MLB All-Star Game in Philly was announced 7 years early

There’s the semiquincentennial celebration — but also a sad, personal reason.

Of course the Phanatic took part in the announcement

Of course the Phanatic took part in the announcement

Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports
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Calling it the “worst kept secret” in baseball, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday afternoon climbed onto a sunlit podium in front of Independence Hall and officially announced the All-Star Game is coming to Philadelphia in 2026.

This info had already been leaked last week, which isn’t that uncommon for Major League Baseball. In 2018, for example, fans sussed out the location when a banner naming Nationals Park as host was spotted by fans and media at an early season exhibition game.

What is very uncommon, however, is letting fans know where the ASG will be held a full seven years in advance.

“We usually don’t announce things out of order,” Manfred said. “That process went out the window with respect to Philadelphia.”

Why the ultra early kerfuffle? Here’s five reasons.

USA250 is a really big deal

The ostensible reason for the super-advance notice is because of the significance of the year, which marks the semiquincentennial of the Declaration of Independence signing and the birth of the United States.

Philly is making a big push to be THE destination for what’s likely to be a huge nationwide commemoration (bring on the jingoism), and a lot of bringing the ASG here, “had to do with our desire to be part of the 2026 celebration,” Manfred said.

So Mike Schmidt could reminisce

There’s a symmetry to the occasion. The 1976 All-Star Game was held in Philadelphia during the Bicentennial celebrations here, and was generally considered a big success. Who better to confirm those positive vibes than former Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt?

“One of my favorite memories was going out [in the ’76 ASG] and being introduced to about a five-minute standing ovation at Veterans Stadium,” Schmidt said from the stage on Tuesday.

The silver-haired legend also remarked that he’s almost 70 years old — so maybe MLB didn’t feel like taking their chances on him being agile enough to crack jokes if they held the news a couple more years.

So Philly can reclaim ‘Sports City, USA’

One of USA250’s goals, according to Dr. Andrew Hohns, the investment baker who’s chairing the nonprofit’s efforts, is to rack up as many sports events in Philly during 2026 as possible. During the Bicentennial, he said, the city was host to a whopping 130 of them — including the NBA and NHL all-star games — and it helped earn Philadelphia the moniker of “Sports City, USA.”

A preliminary search didn’t turn up much evidence of Hohns’ claim, although a Daily News article from 1983 did include the line, “The way things are going, Philadelphia is starting to look like Sports City, USA.”

In the meantime, though, the title was snagged by a different town. Frisco, Texas, began branding itself as Sports City, U.S.A. in 2017, and right now if you Google the phrase, that’s what you’ll get.

Philly needs those seven years of advance notice not just to get other sports leagues on board with the 2026 plan, but to wage a marketing battle with those Texans.

Bryce Harper’s hair

The only current player to speak at the announcement event at Independence Hall was the city’s new home run wizard, Bryce Harper. The $330-million charmer didn’t say all that much during his turn at the mic — although he did take a dig at the former players lined up behind him, calling them “all those old guys back there” — but he did look good.

If MLB had waited several more years, who knows whether Harper’s coif would still be so perfect, or whether the city would still be viewing him with reverence. Taking advantage of the sweetheart stage of this love affair was a smart move on the part of the league.

David Montgomery is ailing

Possibly the truest reason for the premature announcement had to do with something sad. David Montgomery, the current chairman and former president of the Phillies, is very sick.

He had surgery for cancer back in 2014, and though he subsequently returned to work and for several years showed few signs of slowing down, word is that he’s not doing all that well right now.

At the announcement on Tuesday, Commissioner Manfred and other speakers, who included Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Jim Kenny, alluded to that fact, noting they wished Montgomery and his family the best, and wished he could be present.

In 30 years of friendship, Manfred said, Montgomery never asked for a favor, but “about two years ago, he began asking me if we could announce it here — and if we could do it really soon.”

So Dave, wherever you are, this one’s for you.

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