The All-Star game. The mid-summer classic. The best of the best. Almost every year since 1933 the top major league baseball players have gotten together for a day of celebration, camaraderie and confrontation. The 2002 edition takes place (or took place, depending on when you read this) in Milwaukee, but the first game was in Chicago as an added attraction to the Century of Progress Exposition in that city. Here are a few highlights from some of the most memorable of the All-Star games from the early years.
1933 - This was the first and one of the best. The managers were the legendary Connie Mack for the American League and the equally-celebrated John McGraw for the National. Over 49,000 fans jammed Comiskey Park and they weren't disappointed as Babe Ruth cracked a two-run homer in the third inning and the Americans held on for a 4-2 win. The relief pitchers in the game? Carl Hubbell and Lefty Grove!
1934 - The King put on a show! "King Carl" Hubbell, that is. When Hubbell took the mound for the Nationals he was facing an awesome lineup of sluggers, but he struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession! Hubbell left the game with a 4-O lead, but the Americans jumped on his relievers and went on to a 9-7 victory.
1937 - Tragedy struck the All-Star game in 1937 when Earl Averill smacked a line drive back up the middle and broke Dizzy Dean's toe. While Diz recovered from the injury, his arm didn't. Dean tried to come back too soon, changed his delivery to favor his injury, and damaged his oh-so-golden arm. The American League won 8-3, but nobody cared.
1939 - Bob Feller made his first All-Star game appearance and stole the accolades from his veteran teammates. He entered the game with one out in the sixth, got out of the inning on one pitch (a double play) and pitched shutout ball the rest of the way as the Americans prevailed 3-1 in a game at Yankee Stadium.
1941 - There was this fellow named Ted Williams, see, who hit .406 that year. Well, going into the bottom of the ninth the American League trailed 5-3. When Williams got to the plate the score was 5-4, with two on and two out. Claude Passeau threw Teddy a letter-high fastball and it was lights out for the Nationals. American League 7, National League 5.
1946 - Eephus! There was no All-Star game in 1945 due to the travel restrictions imposed in the final months of World War II, but Ted Williams welcomed back the game with a bang. Make that two bangs. Williams (a.k.a. The Kid, The Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame) pounded two home runs, two singles and added a walk. One of his homers came off of Rip Sewell's famed "eephus" pitch, the first time one of Sewell's looping bloopers had ever been hit out. The Americans won, 12-0.
1950 - This was the first extra-inning game in All-Star history. Ted Williams broke his elbow in the first inning making a catch against the wall. Ralph Kiner homered in the ninth to tie the game for the Nationals, and Red Schoendienst hit the first pitch of the 14th inning for another home run as the National League won, 4-3.
1955 - This was the second extra-inning game in All-star history, and once again it was a St. Louis Cardinal player's home run that decided it. The National League was down 5-0 in the seventh, came back to tie it, and won it in the twelfth when Stan Musial hit the first pitch from Frank Sullivan over the right-field screen.
The synopsis above takes us through the first 22 games, but there is much more to tell at a future date. There's the controversial 1-1 tie in 1961, the incredibly boring 1-0 sleeper of 1968, and the 1971 game that featured home runs by Clemente, Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Killebrew, Frank Robinson and Johnny Bench.
And that's just the beginning.