All-Star Game

The first home run couldn’t have been more fitting.

With the World’s Fair to be held in Chicago in 1933, the entire city was abuzz with trying to figure out how to really showcase the city itself and the United States of America as a whole. Chicago seemed to be the perfect place — big city and lots of immigrants. The Chicago Tribune also got involved as one of the city’s main newspapers, and as part of their effort, they tried to find a sporting event to truly show off American culture. Sports editor Arch Ward was up to the task. The later creator of the Golden Gloves boxing tournament and College All-Star Game (football) would make his first creation a doosy. Baseball was America’s pasttime, and with each league having a scheduled off-day on July 6th, Ward convinced the two leagues to play an All-Star Game, though some owners weren’t exactly on board (traditional battle lines and no real profit for the teams.), by footing the bill and donating the profits.

The first All-Star Game was a huge success. Rosters were chosen by fans and coaches, and the two teams headed to Comiskey Park with the game’s best. It all went according to plan. Major League Baseball’s premier player, Babe Ruth, hit the first ever All-Star home run and later made a spectacular diving catch. The American League went on to win the first All-Star Game 4-2. The success of the event tranformed it from a one-season novelty into an annual tradition.

Each league would host the game in alternating seasons, and that has happened uninterrupted except for 1945 when wartime travel restrictions forced the cancellation of the game. Other than that, no other games have been cancelled. The 1961 game was shortened due to rain in the ninth inning for the first ever tie, and the 2002 game also stopped as a tie. 1952’s game was also shortened due to rain, but the National League held a 3-2 lead for the victory. Strikes haven’t even cancelled them. In 1981, the game was postponed due to the mid-season strike, but they played it on August 9th to bring back interest to the game. The 1994 game was played before the strike began.

From 1933 to 1949, the American League dominated. They won 16 of the 19 games. In 1943, the first night All-Star Game was held at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Managers primarily chose the rosters during this time, but in 1946, the fans were given the right to vote on the starting position players (someone still needs to explain to me why we can’t vote for pitchers).

Over the next 9 years, the National League turned things around, winning 6 of 9. During those years, the voting changed again. As a result of the 1957 ballot stuffing, voting was taken away from the fans. Mickey Mantle started the first-ever 7-game hitting streak in the All-Star Game, only matched later by Joe Morgan and Dave Winfield in the next decades. In 1951, the alternation of hosting the ballparks was momentarily interrupted as Detroit held the game in order to celebrate the city’s 250th birthday.

The 1960’s and 1970’s saw utter domination by the National League. 22-4-1 was their record from 1959 to 1980. One might notice the odd number of games. From 1959 to 1962, a second game was held after the season in order to raise money for the player’s pension funds, but the two games severely weakened the appeal of the game, causing all games 1963 and on to be “Midsummer Classics” only. In 1970, the fans were given the right to vote again as another effort to boost enthusiasm for the game, and another note about the voting, the distinctions between outfielders was stopped. The 1967 game, however, is of particular interest among all of them as it was the longest game in history until last season’s game (both went 15 innings). This era also saw the only two MVP’s that played for the losing team — Brooks Robinson in 1966 and Carl Yastremski in 1970 (though the MVP Award for All-Star Games didn’t start until 1962, and as the bonus trivia question, who won that first award?).

Lady Luck began to turn on the National League in the 1980’s. After winning the first 5 of 6, the American League took the next 7 of 8. Toward the beginning of the run, a momentous thing happened — the 1989 game played in Anaheim was the first to use a DH. Four years before that, the first Home Run Derby was held as an official Major League Baseball event (the MLB had nothing to do with the previous ones). The 1988 game had some ballot stuffing accusations, but when Terry Steinbach (the player in question) won the MVP, the incident was partly forgiven. Two years earlier, Fred Lynn made some home run history himself when he belted the only grand slam in All-Star Game history.

The American League’s domination was momentarily stopped from 1994 to 1996, but they haven’t lost since. However, only two of those games have been decided by more than 3 runs, and 8 have been decided by 2 or less. The famous 2002 game ended in a tie, and the “This Time It Counts” rule began the following season.

What does the future hold? No one knows. The NL has run into serious bad luck in the past 13 seasons, but such runs have happened before. Next year’s game will be held in Anaheim and Arizona will host the 2011 game, but it’s undecided after that. Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and Yankee Stadium hold the record for most games hosted with 4, but the Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Rays have not yet hosted a game (the D-Backs will shortly but the other two will probably have to wait for a new stadium, and the Nationals hosted the 1982 game in Montreal).

The National League leads the series 41-37-2.

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3 Responses to “All-Star Game”

  1. lar Says:

    They just announced that the Royals will host the 2012 All Star Game (I think the announcement was made late last weeks sometime). And, for some reason that I haven't been able to learn yet, they went from Pittsburgh in 2006 to San Francisco in 2007. It's strange.

    I enjoyed the piece though, Mark.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Because of Bonds' home run chase. It was supposed to be a celebration, but it ended up a little different.

  3. lar Says:

    Wow, really? I didn't know that. Funny how that worked out for MLB, huh?

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