Tonight is the 88th Major League Baseball All-Star Game. In 1933 Arch Ward of the Chicago Tribune pushed for the game to go along with the World Fair. That first All-Star game was played on July 6, 1933. Lefty Gomez drove in the first run in the bottom of the second. The next inning an aging Babe Ruth hit the first homerun in All-Star game history. Frankie Frisch hit a homerun of his own for the National League, but the AL would hold on to win 4-2.
The American would win 12 of the first 16 games, but things would turn around after integration. Led by the likes of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, and others, the Senior Circuit would win 30 of the next 37 (there was one tie), including a humiliating 19 out of 20 from 1963 through 1982.
In 1982 the game was played in Canada for the first time. Montreal hosted the game and the five Expos who played in the game had their finger prints all over it. Steve Rogers pitched three innings and got the win, Gary Carter had an RBI single, Tim Raines walked and stole a base, Al Oliver had two hits, and Andre Dawson added a hit as the NL extended their winning streak to 11 straight with a 4-1 win.
In 1983 the American League won for the first after 11 straight defeats in the place where it all began, Comiskey Park. Fifty years to the day the American League used a seven run second inning – highlighted by the first (and so far only) grand slam in All-Star Game history – to defeat the NL 13-3. That grand slam came off the bat of the Angels’ Fred Lynn with Manny Trillo on third, Rod Carew on second, and Robin Yount on first. The unfortunate pitcher to give it up was Atlee Hammaker of the Giants.
Starting in 1997 when Sandy Alomar became the first player to win the game’s MVP award in his own home park (his two-run homer in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie and became the final score. As Joe Buck put it “Hometown hero, goodbye!”). The American League has won 16 of the last 20, with one infamous tie in there.
That tie was the second one in the game’s history and took place in 2002. Besides the ridiculous use of pitchers, Joe Torre felt obligated to bring five shortstops to the game*. The fifth one was Omar Vizquel, whose RBI triple in the eighth inning tied the game and brought in the format we’ve had up until this year.
*-For the record, Alex Rodriguez was voted as the starter. After that, I don’t care which other one he took. Taking five was ridiculous. Even taking three would’ve been at least defensible. Five wasn’t.
In 1999 Major League Baseball announced the top 100 players of the 20th century at the game in Fenway Park. The ceremony was capped off by the present day All-Stars gathering around Ted Williams as he went to throw out the first pitch.
The 1971 All-Star Game featured 26 future Hall of Famers who launched six homeruns, highlighted by Reggie Jackson’s blast that nearly left Tiger Stadium.
In 1994 Fred McGriff’s ninth inning homerun tied the game for the National League and the subsequent win snapped a six-game losing streak for the NL.
In 1941 with the American League trailing 5-3 in the ninth in Yankee Stadium, Joe DiMaggio had a chance to be the hero, but hit an RBI ground out. Ironically Ted Williams followed that with a three-run homerun to give the American League a 7-5 win in what turned out to be one of the most famous seasons in the sport’s long history.
In 1989 Bo Jackson interrupted former President Ronald Reagan* with a blast to straight away center field off of the Giants’ Rick Reuschel.
*-It should be noted that Ronald Reagan is famous for playing the Gipper in “Knute Rockne: All-American”, but he also played Grover Cleveland Alexander in the movie “The Winning Team”. If you’ve never heard of it or wondered why this wasn’t brought up during the eulogies at the time of his death, allow Joe Posnanski’s review of the movie sum up why: “’The Winning Team’ is so spectacularly bad, there is no possible way you can watch it for more than 10 minutes without your eyes bleeding.”
In 1970 Pete Rose famously crashed into the Indians’ Ray Fosse to win the game for the National League.
Charlie Gehringer and Ted Kluszewski both batted .500 in their All-Star Game careers. Mike Trout and Alfonso Soriano both have 1.000 slugging percentages. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial all played in 24 All-Star games. Musial hit six homeruns while Mays had 23 hits and both had 40 total bases. Those are all-time records.
Al Rosen, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Arky Vaughan, and Gary Carter all hit two homeruns in one All-Star game. What do Rosen and Williams have in common? Both were hit theirs in their home ball parks. What do Rosen and Carter have in common? Both their games were in Cleveland Municipal Stadum.
Ted Williams drew 11 walks in 57 All-Star plate appearances. Even in an All-Star game he wasn’t swinging at everything.
Anyone reading this probably knows that Carl Hubbell famously struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin consecutively after allowing a single and a walk to start the 1934 game. Do you know who the winning pitcher was that game? It was the Indians’ Mel Harder, who pitched five scoreless innings in relief.
For his career Harder threw 13 innings in the Mid-Summer Classic. He never allowed a run and with the win also recorded two saves.
Hank Aaron, for all his greatness, only managed a .194/.222/.284 career line in 72 All-Star plate appearances.
What do Willie Mays, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken, Steve Garvey, and Mike Trout all have in common? All five won the All-Star Game MVP twice.
The Griffey’s both won the MVP of the game, Senior in 1980, Junior just 12 years later.
Coming into tonight, the National League leads the American League 43-42-2. The NL has outscored their AL counterparts 360-359.
No, tonight’s game doesn’t mean a whole lot. But for baseball fans it can trigger some imaginations and recall some memories of years past. Regardless, enjoy the best All-Star Game going.