Monday, March 17, 2014

The Most Memorable All-Star Games--1933

An Annual Tradition is Born

In 1933, Chicago was hosting a World's Fair in celebration of the city's one-hundredth anniversary. Arch Ward, editor of the Chicago Tribune, suggested that a "Game of the Century" should take place, pitting the best players from each league against each other. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis liked the idea and arrangements were made for fans to provide "advisory" votes to assemble the rosters. John McGraw--recently retired from his long tenure as Giants skipper--was appointed manager of the National League. Connie Mack--in his thirty-third season at the A's helm--was an obvious choice to pilot the junior circuit. Using the choices of fans as a "guide," Mack and McGraw made the selections.

The game drew concerns from many inside the baseball establishment. In addition to the risk of injury to players and the cost of travel, the idea of one league establishing supremacy over the other prompted opposition from various sources. Despite those objections, the exhibition was tremendously popular with fans. More than forty seven thousand spectators squeezed into Comiskey Park on a Thursday afternoon to see one of the most star-studded showdowns in history. The revenue generated from the gate receipts totaled more than $50,000--a significant sum in the Depression Era.

The game featured fifteen future Hall of Famers, including some of the biggest names of all time such as Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx and, of course, Babe Ruth. Cardinals' left-hander Wild Bill Hallahan, who got the start for the NL on the strength of his 10-4 record, remarked years later: "We wanted to see the Babe. Sure, he was old and had a big waistline, but that didn't make any difference. We were on the same field as Babe Ruth." At thirty-nine years of age, the "Bambino" had slowed down considerably, but he could still hit.  In the third inning, following a walk to Detroit's Charlie Gehringer, Ruth smashed a homer to deep right field, giving the AL a lead that would hold up.

With Senators' ace General Crowder on the mound in the sixth, the NL broke through for a pair of runs on a triple by Cubs' hurler Lon Warneke and a solo homer by Cardinals' second baseman Frankie Frisch. Warneke's drive was reportedly misplayed by Ruth, who was really beginning to show his age defensively. Lefty Grove came on in the seventh and pitched three scoreless frames to nail down a 4-2 win for the American League. There were no pitch counts in those days and hurlers were often left on the mound for three or more innings at a time in the early All-Star games.

The American League dominated the Midsummer Classic between 1933 and 1942, winning seven of ten meetings. The National League became an unstoppable force later on, winning eleven straight showdowns between 1972 and 1982.

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