All-Star Game Highs And Lows

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 13, 2005
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Ah, yes, the All-Star Game. A celebration of all that is good in baseball. Fan interaction, heroes to be cheered, history remembered, a possibly angry Texas pitcher pulling Kodak disposables from annoying shutterbugs. Oh, what a game.

Back in Detroit after a 34-year delay. Greektown, the casino, Thornetta Davis at the Music Box. Oh, what a time to be had.

To think it all began in 1934 at the insistence of Arch Ward, a sports editor for the Chicago Tribune. Seems he wanted it as part of the city’s “Century of Progress” exposition. The game featured Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Al Simmons against Pie Traynor, Bill Terry and Paul Waner. In a historical note to Uncle Bud and everyone involved in the debacle three seasons ago, Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane and Jimmy Foxx didn’t even get into the game.

The next year Giants pitcher Carl Hubble did the unthinkable by striking out six straight future Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Joe Cronin and even pitcher Lefty Gomez. The screwball was ahummin’ that day.

Of course, not all has gone according to plan. Hank Greenberg has to lead the list of the game’s biggest snubs. In 1935 Hammerin’ Hank came into the break with 101 RBI. He finished the year batting .328 with 36 home runs and 170 RBI. Evidently the first bag position was so crowded that Foxx was moved to third while sharing sack time with the brilliant Ossie Bluege, who after the game continued to pulverize the league by hitting .263 with no home runs and 34 RBI.

Leaving the Tiger firstbaseman off the team may not have been the biggest crime perpetrated on the game. Twenty-two years later overzealous Cincinnati Reds fans so enthralled with their hometown guys, stuffed the boxes well enough to ensure all nine Cincinnati starters a spot in the starting lineup. Commissioner Ford Frick allowed only five to start and kicked Gus Bell and Wally Post off the team, giving their spots to a couple of guys named Aaron and Mays. He also took the vote away from the fans. They eventually got it back and continued to do crazy things.

In 1987, A’s catcher Terry Steinbach was given the starting nod even though he was hitting just .218 at the time. He was hardly the only one. In 2000 Cal Ripken made it in on the strength of his .239 batting average. However, unlike the others, Steinback made his supporters sound like Nostradamus by winning the MVP with a home run and two RBI. The selection process got even wackier two years after Terry when Jose Canseco, who missed the whole first half of the season, and a retired Mike Schmidt were selected to start the game.

Baseball showed its heart by playing a second all-star game in 1940 for the benefit of the Finnish Relief Fund.

The double game tradition was reborn in ’59 and continued through 1962 for reasons that no one should ever revisit.

The first night game was played at Philly’s Shibe Park in 1943, and six years later they finally did the right thing by including Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Larry Doby — the first African Americans to play in the Midsummer Classic.

It was in 1970 that Pete Rose barreled into Ray Fosse at home plate. This was not the first time an all-star injury cost someone a career. In 1937, Earl Averill hit a line drive at pitcher Dizzy Dean, breaking his toe. By coming back too soon and compensating for his bad foot, Dean destroyed his arm and won only 17 more games before retiring four years later.

And in 1971, the last time the game was in the Motor City, Reggie Jackson led a power barrage for the ages. Going long were Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson and the aforementioned Jackson. Coming into the game as a replacement for Tony Oliva, the future “straw that stirs the drink” took advantage of favorable winds and hit a shot that struck the light tower on the right field roof of Tiger Stadium. Officially guestimated to have traveled 520 feet, all those involved agree it was the hardest hit ball they ever saw while some claim the sphere was still climbing when it made contact.

Let’s get it on.

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