There have been several instances in All-Star Game history in which the best player did not start at his position. Often fan sentiment results in popular veterans getting the nod despite the fact that a younger (or perhaps lesser known) player is truly more deserving. Of course, no one ever said it was supposed to be the All-Deserving Team. For the most part, the fans, managers, and league officials have done a good job choosing the starters, but occasionally things go awry.
1. Hank Greenberg, 1935
Greenberg was the first slugger the Tigers ever had – at least in the tradition of Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Lou Gehrig-type slugging. In ’35 he failed to make the team despite putting up 101 RBI at the All-Star break because Gehrig and Foxx happened to be in the American League as well. It seemed an oversight at the time, but in retrospect, it looms as a big boo-boo. Greenberg led the Tigers to their second straight pennant, which was impressive enough, but add his league-leading 36 taters and 170 RBI, and it seems ludicrous that Hammerin’ Hank didn’t make the All-Star squad, if only as a pinch-hitter. The future Hall of Famer didn’t garner his first All-Star nod until 1937.
2. Robin Yount, 1989
Yount is a Hall of Famer who played 20 seasons, all with the Milwaukee Brewers. Yet he was an All-Star just three times, and never after his 28th birthday. He made the team as a shortstop, prior to the emergence of Alan Trammell and Cal Ripken Jr. Later, as an outfielder (1985-1993), he never made the grade, despite four .300 seasons while playing a very good center field. From 1987-1989, Yount averaged 194 hits, 97 runs, 34 doubles, 10 triples, 18 home runs, 99 RBI, 20 steals, and a .312 BA, yet never made the All-Star squad. He’s probably the one Hall of Fame position player who played in the All-Star era who garnered the least All-Star support.
3. Dave Parker, 1978
How could they have left Parker off the team in ’78? He’d won the batting title the previous season, his team (the Pirates) was one of the best in the league, and he was enjoying another fine year (hitting .316 with 13 homers, 47 RBI and 12 steals at the break). “The Cobra” went on to win the batting title for the second consecutive season in 1978, and remains the last player to win the batting crown and fail to make the All-Star team the year he did so.
4. Kirk Gibson, 1988
Gibson earns special mention because he never played in the All-Star Game. He was one of the best all-around offensive players of his era but was hampered by injuries that often kept him out of the lineup long enough to hurt his stats. In addition, he was never a huge fan favorite in his own home park of Detroit, which hurt his chances at being voted in. Twice in his career, Gibson refused to accept a reserve role on the team because he wanted to spend the three days off resting his aching bones (or hunting). In 1988, Gibby batted .290 with 25 home runs, 106 runs scored, and 31 steals in 35 tries. At the break, he was hitting right at .300 with 61 runs scored.
5. Don Newcombe, 1956
The big right-hander had won twenty games twice previously, so he was far from an unknown commodity. And, since the Dodgers were coming off their first (and only) World Series title in Brooklyn, it seems manager Walter Alston would have chose his star. But he didn’t, and “Newk” stayed home. He finished with 27 wins, five shutouts, and a 3.06 ERA, but didn’t earn a place on the All-Star squad.
So why are these five All-Star denials so noteworthy? It so happens that each of these men won the Most Valuable Player award the year they were slighted in the All-Star game. All of them had good or very good (in Greenberg and Newcombe’s case – great) stats at the time of the All-Star break, but they still stayed home and watched it on television (or listened on the crystal set).