Fleshing Out Some All-Star Fun

Let’s get this much out of the way first: I agree with Joe Posnanski, and just about everyone else addressing the subject: Andrew McCutchen’s absence from the National League’s All-Star roster—he isn’t even on the Final Man ballot—is a sham and a disgrace. So is pegging postseason home field advantage to the All-Star Game’s outcome. So is the everyone-must-play rule, last year’s absurdity of which merely began with Albert Pujols getting hooked after three innings and merely climaxed with seventeen pitching changes.

We’ve come a long way from Lefty Grove pitching six All-Star innings in 1935 and Catfish Hunter going five in relief—Tony Perez hit what proved the game-winning bomb off  Hunter in the top of the fifteenth (Tom Seaver held the American League scoreless in the bottom to win it)—in 1967’s extra-inning show.

And we can argue long and well about how to fix the Game, including but not limited to removing that Little League-like everyone-must-play rule, removing the postseason home field peg, leaving the big stars in (remember when Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastrzemski, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, and Dick Allen might bat three times in a game?), and mandating that the only team which “must” be represented on an All-Star roster should be the team whose home park is hosting the Game. For openers.

Let’s find some of the fun of All-Star Games past, just for now:

Fisk---hard-luck All Star . . .

* Well, this probably isn’t a lot of fun for Carlton Fisk to remember, but the Hall of Fame catcher went to nine All-Star Games and never played on the winning side. Six times in his Red Sox years, three in his White Sox years.

* If you thought it was difficult enough for Carl Hubbell to strike out five straight All-Stars in the 1934 Game, including (in order) future Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin, imagine how tough an act Dwight Gooden had to follow on the fiftieth anniversary of Hubbell’s feat, in the 1984 Game: Fernando Valenzuela punched out, in succession, another trio of Hall of Famers-to-be: Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett. Gooden relieved Valenzuela and had to settle for punching out, in succession, Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, and Alvin Davis.

* One more from the Hubbell game: Only one player out of the eighteen starters in the 1934 Game is not in the Hall of Fame: Wally Berger.

Traynor: Home is where the larceny is

* Okay, another from the Hubbell game: It featured the only time any All-Star ever stole home in a Game. Pie Traynor turned that trick in the 1934 Game, on the front end of a double steal with Mel Ott, while Traynor’s teammate Paul Waner was batting and Mel Harder (in relief of Red Ruffing) was on the mound. The theft brought the National League back to within a run; Joe Cronin’s RBI double in the sixth proved to be the winning American League run.

* Valenzuela would get his chance to tie Hubbell’s five straight All-Star punchouts a year later—he punched out Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker, and (since, in a National League park they don’t use the DH) Teddy Higuera. Alas, only Ripken was a future Hall of Famer.

* In the same game, Fred Lynn hit the only grand slam in All-Star history. The pitcher he victimised, Atlee Hammaker, never appeared in another All-Star Game.

* Three men have hit walkoff bombs in an All-Star Game—Ted Williams (two on, the American League an out away from losing), off Claude Passeau, 1941; Stan Musial (bottom of the twelfth, after the National League rallied from a 5-0 deficit after seven), off Frank Sullivan, 1955; and, Johnny Callison (two on, two out, game tied at four), off Dick Radatz, 1964.

* The most future Hall of Famers not to be Veterans Committee choices in an All-Star starting lineup: seven, for the American League, in the 1985 Game—Rickey Henderson, George Brett, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk.

* Siblings have won back-to-back All-Star Game MVP honours only once: Sandy Alomar, Jr. won in 1997, and Roberto Alomar won in 1998.

* It took until 2007 for an All-Star Game to feature an inside-the-park home run. The hitter: Ichiro Suzuki.

* The most rookies to start any All-Star Game: Two. (In the second 1962 Game; they played two Games from 1059-62: Tom Tresh, Dave Stenhouse. In 2008: Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto.)

* The number of Japanese rookies to start All-Star Games: Four. (Hideo Nomo, 1995; Ichiro Suzuki, 2001; Hideki Matsui, 2003; Kosuke Fukudome, 2008.)

* The first African-American rookie to start an All-Star Game: Frank Robinson, 1956.

* Most frequent position played by rookie All-Star starters: Pitcher, four. (Dave Stenhouse, 1962; Mark [The Bird] Fidrych, 1976; Fernando Valenzuela, 1981; Hideo Nomo, 1995.)

* Franchise with most rookie All-Star starters, history: The Yankees, with three. (Joe DiMaggio, 1936; Tom Tresh, 1962; Hideki Matsui, 2003. Note the distances—26 years between DiMaggio and Tresh; 31 years between Tresh and Matsui.)

Paige, the Old-Star . . .

* Oldest All-Star: Satchel Paige, 1953.

* Youngest All-Star starters: Position player—Al Kaline, 1955; pitcher: Dwight Gooden, 1984.

* Manager to lose All-Star Games in each league: Sparky Anderson, 1971 (National League), 1985 (American League).

* Lou Whitaker, a second baseman who usually had his head squarely in the game, lost his head when packing for the 1985 All-Star Game: He forgot to pack his Tigers uniform. When he realised his mistake, Whitaker bought a souvenir mesh-back Tigers cap and a blank souvenir Tigers jersey. He had to scrawl his uniform number on the back with a magic marker. Whitaker’s makeshift uniform didn’t disappear, either: the Smithsonian Institution requested and received it, and it’s still there.

* Mickey Mantle was voted by the players (the fans lost the All-Star vote after the Cincinnati ballot-box-stuffing scandal of 1957, and didn’t get it back until 1970) to start in the 1963 All-Star Game—even though he was on the disabled list with a broken foot.

* Mike Schmidt was voted by the fans to start in the 1989 All-Star Game . . . even though the Hall of Famer-in-waiting, saying he could no longer play the way everyone including himself usually expected him to play, retired earlier in the season.

* The man National League manager Tommy Lasorda picked to replace Schmidt: Howard Johnson.

* The only non-Cincinnati Red elected to start the 1957 All-Star Game in the infamous Cincinnati ballot box stuffing scandal: Stan Musial.

Brandt---the naked truth . . .

* The replacements Commissioner Ford Frick ordered for Wally Post and Gus Bell in the same scandal: Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

* Most powerful bunt in All-Star history: Leo Durocher, 1938. Durocher was trying to bunt Frank McCormick to second and dropped one up the third base line. Jimmie Foxx, playing third base (unusually enough), threw wild past first and into right field; Joe DiMaggio ran over from center to retrieve the ball but threw high past Bill Dickey at the plate . . . allowing both McCormick and Durocher to score on the play.

* The bare facts about one of the 1961 All-Star Games include Jackie Brandt, then an Orioles outfielder and a renowned flake. He’d had a pinch-hitting appearance and came out of the game immediately, then thought of having a shower until he realised he wanted to watch the game. But he couldn’t see the action too well from the Candlestick Park clubhouse. So, while drying off, Brandt wandered to the runway—and was spotted from a portion of the crowd, in the flesh.

All of it.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark on July 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    As one columnist wondered about the ’57 Cincinnati voters’ ballot-box-stuffing choices, “What did Reds’ fans have against George Crowe?”

    Reply

  2. Could it be that when George Crowe (who died in January, incidentally) finished the 1957 season with 31 bombs and 92 RBI (he had 10 and 31 before the break), the stuffers had to eat a little Crowe?

    Irony: Crowe actually made the 1958 National League All-Star team, though he didn’t get into the game.

    Reply

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