The Mid-Summer Classic

0
All-Stars from both leagues line up at the 2009 game. In an era of free agency, differences between the two leagues have long been diluted, but the game remains great fun.
All-Stars from both leagues line up at the 2009 game. In an era of free agency, differences between the two leagues have long been diluted, but the game remains great fun.

The All-Star game, played every July to commemorate the halfway point of the major league season, was the brainstorm of Arch Ward, a Chicago sportswriter, as a way to highlight the 1933 World’s Fair held in the Windy City. It turned out to be a terrific idea. The first game was at Comiskey Park and the thrills have never stopped coming.

The hero of that first game was—who else?—Babe Ruth, who in the twilight years of his career, banged out a three-run home run to win the game. And the drama was just beginning. Perhaps the most storied game was in 1941, when Ted Williams, on his way to a .400 season, won the game for the American League with a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Williams called that home run the biggest moment of his Hall of Fame career.

Another memorable All-Star game took place in 1955, where the National League won the 12-inning thriller on a home run by Stan Musial. Before the at-bat, Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, told Musial that he was tired of squatting up and down for a mere exhibition game. Musial obliged Yogi with the homer.

Hall of Famers at the 1937 game. From left: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg.
Hall of Famers at the 1937 game. From left: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg.

At the 1962 game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the wind was so strong that it knocked pitcher Stu Miller, right off of the mound.

In 1964, the New York Mets opened their spanking new ballpark, Shea Stadium, where the All-Star game was played that year. It, too, was won by the National League on a ninth-inning home run by Johnny Callison off Boston Red Sox reliever, Dick Radatz.

One of the great All-Star games was in 1971, back at Tiger Stadium. The talent on that field was legendary: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose and Joe Torre on the National League squad, while the American League team fielded such greats as Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew and Thurman Munson. The game featured no less than 26 future Hall of Famers. The home runs flew out of Tiger Stadium that evening. Most memorable was Reggie Jackson’s tape measure shot, which hit a light tower in right field and is still talked about today.

In 1983, the American League ended a 12-year losing drought by defeating the Nationals, paced by a grand slam home run by Fred Lynn.

We’ll end with the Splendid Splinter. In 1999, Ted Williams, now confined to a wheelchair, made an emotional appearance at Fenway Park. He was surrounded by an impromptu gathering of that year’s stars, including Cal Ripkin and Mike Piazza. One of the game’s immortals had come home.

Leave a Reply