Baseball All Star Game

Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, put together the first All-Star Game in 1933 as a part of Chicago’s Exposition that year. The contest has retained its basic form ever since: teams of NL and AL stars, usually chosen by the fans and the year’s All-Star managers, compete against each other in a mid-summer exhibition game.
For the first game, played in Comiskey Park, the managers were the senior pilots of their respective leagues: the recently retired John McGraw for the National League and Connie Mack, still going strong in his thirty-third straight year as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. In subsequent years the pennant-winning managers of the previous season guided the teams, and in the years 1935-1946, they selected the entire lineup. From 1947 to 1957 the vote for the starting lineup was returned to the fans, but Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot box in 1957, producing a starting lineup with only one non-Reds player. The Cardinals’ Stan Musial joined Reds Ed Bailey, Johnny Temple, Roy McMillan, Don Hoak, Wally Post, Frank Robinson, and Gus Bell. Commissioner Ford Frick kicked Post and Bell off the team to make room for Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and took the vote away from the fans, giving it to the players, coaches, and managers. It was returned to the fans in 1970.

Each year, various sportswriters and broadcasters decry the injustices of the latest vote, as reputations, rather than current performances, govern voter preferences. Ballot stuffing in Oakland and a weak crop of AL catchers made the A’s Terry Steinbach a starter in 1987 (he was batting .218 at the time), but Steinbach became the hero of the game, winning the MVP award with a solo homer and two RBI. In 1989, Mike Schmidt was elected to start at third base for the NL despite having retired in May, and Jose Canseco was named to the AL starting lineup after missing the entire first half of the season with an injured wrist. Neither one played.

There have been many memorable moments in the All-Star Games. The aging Babe Ruth won the first game with a three-run homer, setting an early pattern of AL dominance by the younger league’s abundance of superstar sluggers. The 1934 game featured Carl Hubbell striking out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin consecutively, the first three on twelve pitches with two runners on in the first inning. He then struck out Lefty Gomez, the AL pitcher; Hubbell’s six strikeouts in an All-Star Game have since been tied but not bettered. However, the AL won the game and took the 1935 contest too, before the NL finally won in 1936.

An unfortunate incident occurred in the 1937 game when Earl Averill‘s line drive hit Dizzy Dean on the toe. When told by the doctor that the toe was fractured, Dean said, “Fractured, hell! The damn thing’s broke!” He hurt his arm by favoring his foot when he came back, shortening his Hall of Fame career.

The first shutout was recorded by the NL in a 4-0 victory in 1940, Paul Derringer getting the victory with support from Bucky Walters, Whit Wyatt, Larry French, and Hubbell. The AL was 12-4 in the first sixteen years of the mid-summer contest, including a thrilling 1941 victory on Ted Williams‘s three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the AL down 5-4. The 1942 contest was followed a day later by a game won by the AL All-Stars 5-0 over Mickey Cochrane‘s Service All-Stars (mostly major leaguers in the military). In a losing cause in 1943, the NL’s Johnny Vander Meer was the first pitcher to equal Hubbell’s six strikeouts. The 1944 Game featured Phil Cavarretta setting an All-Star mark by reaching base five times (triple, single, three walks). In 1946 Ted Williams returned from military service to hit two homers (including the famous clout off Rip Sewell‘s blooper pitch) with four hits and five RBI as the AL won 12-0.

The 1949 game saw the first black All-Stars: Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, and Roy Campanella for the NL, and Larry Doby for the AL. In the 1950s the NL began to even the overall record, winning seven of the eleven contests (there were two All-Star Games each season starting in 1959). The most exciting AIl-Star Game of the decade was the 14-inning contest of 1950, tied on a Ralph Kiner HR in the ninth and won by a Red Schoendienst homer. Larry Jansen pitched one-hit ball for five innings and struck out six. Ted Williams broke his elbow while robbing Kiner with a catch against the wall in the first inning, but Williams stayed in the game and had an RBI single in the fifth inning. Williams had also saved the 1949 contest with a running catch of a Don Newcombe liner that was slicing away from him with the bases loaded in the second inning.

In the 1960s the NL went 11-1, with one tie. Some have attributed this to senior circuit teams’ earlier willingness to sign black players who became superstars, such as Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Willie Stargell, and Bob Gibson. Stan Musial, helped by the two-contest-a-year format that continued through 1962, set an All-Star record by playing in 24 games. Denny McLain pitched three perfect innings in the 1966 contest, but the NL won yet again on a game-winning 10th-inning single by Maury Wills that drove in Tim McCarver. In 1967 Tony Perez homered in the 15th inning off Catfish Hunter to give the NL a 2-1 victory in the longest All-Star Game ever. Pitching dominated the game to such an extent that there were 30 strikeouts, including six by Ferguson Jenkins.

Rico Carty became the first player elected as a write-in candidate as his comeback season caught the ballot makers by surprise in 1970. The NL won that year on 12th-inning singles by Pete Rose, Billy Grabarkewitz, and Jim Hickman. Rose scored the winning run in a famous home-plate collision with catcher Ray Fosse that broke Fosse’s collarbone. He was never the same afterward. The win was the NL’s eighth in a row, and they started a new streak of 11 straight in 1972. Lee Mazzilli was the surprise hero in 1979, tying the game with an eighth-inning HR in his first All-Star at-bat and then walking in the ninth with the bases loaded for the win. The only AL win in the 1970s came in 1971 when Reggie Jackson crushed a mammoth home run that caromed off a light standard atop the right-field roof at Tiger Stadium.

The AL finally reached parity in the mid-1980s starting with their 1983 victory, which featured the first-ever All-Star grand slam, by Fred Lynn. Dwight Gooden was the youngest All-Star ever in 1984 at the age of 19, and he and Fernando Valenzuela struck out six consecutive batters between them, breaking Hubbell’s mark. Valenzuela equaled Hubbell’s individual feat in 1986, striking out Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker, and pitcher Ted Higuera consecutively. The NL won another extra-inning game in 1987 on a two-out 13th-inning triple by Tim Raines.

1989 marked the first All-Star Game to feature the DH, but the Royals’ Bo Jackson, starting in left field for the American Leaguers, stole the show as the AL won, 5-3. He homered off Rick Reuschel to lead off the bottom of the first and in the second swiped second base to become the second All-Star after Willie Mays to homer and steal a base in the same game. In his only All-Star appearance, Jackson walked home with the MVP award.

The win was the AL’s second in a row, as the boys from the Senior Circuit settled into what would become a six-game losing streak. In 1994, it appeared the AL’s run would stretch to seven when they took a two-run lead into the ninth. But a two-run blast from Fred McGriff off Lee Smith sent the game to extra innings, and Moises Alou doubled home Tony Gwynn in the 11th to give the NLers their first victory since 1987.

Two of the most memorable All-Star matchups of the decade involved the intimidating left-hander Randy Johnson. In 1993, Johnson’s first pitch to the Phillies’ John Kruk sailed above Kruk’s head and slammed into the backstop. Kruk, visibly shaken, flailed weakly at the next three deliveries as Johnson walked off, grinning.

Four years later, Colorado’s left-handed slugger Larry Walker — who was criticized earlier in the year for sitting out an interleague game that the Big Unit had started — stood in against Johnson in the All-Star Game. As he had with Kruk, Johnson fired a heater above Walker’s head to begin the at-bat. Walker promptly turned his helmet around and switched to a right-handed stance as the fans roared.

The most newsworthy All-Star event of the 1990s didn’t happen on the field, but rather when the ALers assembled for a team picture before the 1996 contest. White Sox closer Roberto Hernandez accidentally tumbled into starting shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr., breaking the Iron Man’s nose, but Ripken played six innings with a schnozz full of gauze and continued his consecutive-games streak when regular-season play began two days later.