Traditionally, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game used to mark a symbolic midway point of the season. This season teams will have played about 95 games before Tuesday’s 89th gala affair in Washington D.C., and for the first time since 1963, the American League can move ahead of the National League in the all-time series.
The AL used to own the game, winning 12 of the first 16 contests from 1933-49. The NL tied the series in 1964, then dominated for years, building a 37-20 advantage by 1987. Now the series stands 43-43-2.
Arch Ward, a Chicago Tribune sports editor, is credited with the idea of the All-Star Game, proposing that it be held in conjunction with the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. A coin flip awarded “the game of the century” to Comiskey Park over Wrigley Field.
According to baseball historian Jerome Holtzman, the rosters for the game (played July 6) featured 24 future Hall of Fame players. Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the AL’s 4-2 win before a crowd of 47,595, and the game was so well-received that commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made it an annual event.
Following are a number of memorable moments in All-Star Game history (not meant to be a ranking of the best moments):
1934: HIGH FIVE
In perhaps the best pitching performance in an All-Star Game, fans at the Polo Grounds saw Giants lefty Carl Hubbell strike out five future Hall of Famers — Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin — in succession! Hubbell, a nine-time All-Star, won 253 games, had a 2.98 ERA and entered Cooperstown in 1947.
1946: A BLOOPER
Playing at Fenway Park, Ted Williams was 4-for-4 with two home runs as the AL romped, 12-0. Williams’ second blast is long remembered because it came off Rip Sewell’s famed blooper pitch — “the eephus.”
Sewell developed the pitch as a result of a hunting accident in which he shot himself in the foot on Dec. 7, 1941 — Pearl Harbor Day. Because it was difficult for him to pivot on the foot and create power, he was inspired to develop a lob pitch with about a 25-foot arc. The slow speed (estimated at about 40 mph or so) of the eephus required the batter to supply the power.
Facing Sewell in the eighth inning with two outs and two on base, Williams took a couple of hops forward to generate power and drove the ball over the rightfield wall. A photo shows that Williams was out of the batter’s box when he hit the ball and should have been called out.
Dodger teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe joined Larry Doby of the Indians as the first African-American All-Stars. Robinson was 1-for-4, Campanella 0-for-2 and Doby 0-for-1. Newcombe was the losing pitcher in the AL’s 11-7 victory at Ebbets Field.
Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Doby became the first black player in the American League when he joined the Indians later that year.
“Doby gets very little publicity for being the first black in the American League,’’ said 97-year-old Eddie Robinson, who was Doby’s teammate in 1947. “Doby went through all the things that Robinson went through. He couldn’t stay at the same hotels, eat at restaurants.’’
Former Negro Leagues and future Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige was on the AL roster in 1953. At 47, he was the oldest player to appear in an All-Star Game.
1954: OISK RECALLS
Former Dodgers righthand-er Carl Erskine, 91, has perfect recall of his brief appearance in the game in Cleveland.
Speaking from his home in Anderson, Indiana, Erskine said, “They brought me in to pitch in the eighth inning after Gene Conley had loaded the bases with one out and the score tied 9-9. I faced Mickey Vernon, struck him out on a 3-2 pitch. That was the big out. Nellie Fox was the next hitter. He had a thick-handled bat. He just punched the ball here and there. He hit the weakest little pop-up between short and second base. It hit the dirt and two runs score and the game ends up 11-9. After all the big hits in that game, Nellie Fox gets this little squeaker. This slugfest ended up with the weakest base hit you can imagine.’’
1970: STARS COLLIDEPete Rose’s collision with Indians catcher Ray Fosse at home plate at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium remains the most notorious play in All-Star history. Rose scored the winning run after crashing into Fosse’s left (non-throwing) shoulder. Initial X-rays were negative and it wasn’t until 1971 that Fosse was diagnosed with a fractured and separated shoulder.
With the score tied at 4 in the 12th inning, Rose singled with two outs and went to second on a single by Billy Grabarkewitz. Jim Hickman then singled to center, and Rose raced around third and toward the plate.
“I didn’t bowl him over,” Rose said in 2015. “I actually went over and tagged the plate with this hand right here and my knee hit his shoulder. I missed the next three games. He went on to play nine more years. So I did not ruin Ray Fosse’s career.”
Asked if he had any regrets about how that play unfolded, Rose said: “Hell, no. I won the game. We’re safe, man. That’s why we’re playing the game.”
Fosse, an A’s broadcaster, declined comment through the team. In a 2013 interview, Fosse said, “The whole thing, [Rose] says I tried to block the plate, very simply . . . as a catcher, I positioned myself where the ball was being thrown by Amos Otis. I was up the line. Because if I’d stayed on home plate, I miss the ball by three feet and we wouldn’t be talking today.’’
Fosse made the All-Star team in 1971, but his career was never quite the same. Fosse and Rose spoke briefly in 1971. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re off to a slow start,’ ’’ Fosse said. “Those were the only words I heard from him from the All-Star Game until I retired 10 years later. That was it. We never had interleague play. ‘Hey, you’re off to a slow start.’
“Sure I was. Because I had a fractured and separated shoulder, and the pain was there and is still there 43 years later.”
1979: MOST VALUABLE ARM Pirates rightfielder Dave Parker was the MVP of the game at Seattle’s Kingdome by virtue of his two powerful throws to cut down baserunners. In the seventh inning, Jim Rice tried stretching a double into a triple and was thrown out at third by Parker. With the score tied at 6 in the eighth and Brian Downing on second base, Graig Nettles singled to right and Parker fired home to catcher Gary Carter, who blocked the plate and tagged out Downing. The Yankees’ Ron Guidry walked in the winning run in the ninth as the NL won, 7-6. Parker, 67, announced in 2012 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
1983: LYNN’S JUST GRAND
The game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park was the ninth straight All-Star appearance for Red Sox outfielder Fred Lynn, this time in the city of his birth. “We hadn’t won one since I’ve been on the team,’’ Lynn, 66, said from Carlsbad, California. The AL was on an 11-game losing streak. “It was pretty much getting tiresome, those guys beating us,’’ Lynn said.
Lynn became furious when NL manager Whitey Herzog told Giants lefthander Atlee Hammaker to walk Robin Yount, loading the bases for Lynn in the third inning. “I get the strategy, but those things never sat well with me,’’ Lynn said. “You’re an easy out, we’re going to pitch to you. What am I, chopped liver?’’
On a 2-and-2 count, Lynn hit a curveball for the first — and only — grand slam in an All-Star Game. “I pumped my fist rounding first not because I hit the home run. Because I knew we were going to win this game. It put us up 7-1. The monkey was off our back,’’ Lynn said.
Lynn turned down an offer of $5,000 for the bat. Instead, he gave it to the Hall of Fame.
In 1990, Lynn became Hammaker’s teammate with the Padres. “All the other pitchers are hooting on Atlee, ‘Hey, look who’s coming in,’ ’ Lynn said. Lynn said he said to Hammaker, “ ‘We’re going to be OK, right?’ He was just laughing.’’
Bo Jackson, a two-sport star in football and baseball, was named the MVP in his only All-Star appearance. In the top of the first inning in Anaheim, Jackson’s running catch in leftfield robbed Pedro Guerrero of a run-scoring hit. Leading off the bottom of the first, he hit a 450-foot home run to centerfield off Rick Reuschel. “Luckily,” Jackson said, “I got a piece of it.” Jackson had two hits and stole a base.
1999: A SALUTE TO TED
In the final summer of the 20th century, baseball honored the fans’ vote of the greatest living players over the last 100 years at the game at Fenway Park. In a pregame ceremony, Red Sox legend Ted Williams was honored along with other greats, including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Ernie Banks and Carl Yastrzemski. Williams, slowed by a stroke in 1994, was brought onto the field in a motorized cart.
In an emotional moment, with fans cheering, the game’s greatest living players approached Williams and greeted him. Minutes later, he stood up from his cart and threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.
2001: HONOR FOR CAL
A surprise was in store for Cal Ripken Jr. in his final All-Star Game. The Rangers’ Alex Rodriguez, the starting shortstop, told AL manager Joe Torre he’d like the 40-year-old Ripken — who redefined the position before moving to third base in 1997 for the Orioles — to start at short at Seattle’s Safeco Field.
“I said what can I do to make this event better and really honor him for the great shortstop that he’s been,’’ Rod riguez said in a TV interview.
It all happened in real time as the AL stars took the field and Rodriguez literally had to force Ripken to move from third to short.
“At that time, fear ran through my veins because I didn’t think that on the world stage that it was the time to go back to shortstop and see if I could play there,” Ripken was quoted afterward. “But when I thought it out more, it was a really neat tribute.”
Ripken played an inning at short (with no balls hit to him), and in the third inning, he hit a first-pitch home run off Chan Ho Park in the AL’s 4-1 victory. He was named All-Star MVP for the second time.
Kirk Gibson was one of the best players never to make an All-Star roster. But it was his own choice.
Gibson received managerial invitations to the game in 1985 with the Tigers and ’88 with the Dodgers but declined both times. “There are people who like being stars, so let them shine,” he was quoted in ’88. Observers thought he was annoyed at not being voted on to the team. “Not at all. It was a personal decision,’’ Gibson said from Detroit.
“I was really tired. I wanted to go home and see my family and be ready to go when the season started back up. I was gassed both those times. Screwed up as it sounds, I felt it was not being team-oriented to do it. It just wasn’t me, I was about my team. I think the most disappointed person was my dad. He wanted me to do it. Like I said, I just wanted to go home, rest and go all out the second half.’’
Gibson was the NL MVP for the ’88 world champion Dodgers. He was a coach for the NL in the 2011 game. In 2015, Gibson announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He continues to broadcast Tigers games for Fox Sports Detroit.