Monday, April 14, 2014

The All-Star Experiment--1959-1962

Something odd happened to the Midsummer Classic between 1959 and 1962. Major League Baseball decided to hold two All-Star Games every year. Though the rivalry between the two leagues still ran deep, the primary reason for the change was monetary. By some reports, baseball had fallen behind on payments to the players' pension fund and needed to make up the shortfall. Commissioner Ford Frick confirmed that money was the motivating factor. "If there were no dollars involved, we wouldn't play it," he said.

In 1959, the games occurred nearly a month apart. The first was held at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and the second at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Both drew capacity crowds. The earliergame proved to be more exciting as the American League rallied for 3 runs in the eighth off of hometown hero Roy Face, taking a 4-3 lead. Whitey Ford couldn't hold off the NL attack in the bottom of the frame, yielding an RBI single to Hank Aaron and a run-scoring triple to Willie Mays. "He hits me like he owns me" Ford said after the game, which ended in a 5-4 NL win. The American League salvaged a 5-3 victory on August 3 to split the series.

When MLB announced that it would play two more games in 1960, the reaction was mixed. Municipal Stadium in Kansas City was full to capacity on July 11, when the National League prevailed by a score of 5-3. But the second game on July 13 produced an embarrassing turnout. There were well over 15,000 empty seats at Yankee Stadium as the NL romped to a 6-0 win, completing the sweep.    

Before the second All-Star Game in 1961, a New York Times columnist wrote: "The public at large is finding a second All-Star attraction something of an anticlimax, like playing a second World Series in Brazil." The game, which took place at Fenway Park, lived up to its lackluster billing, ending with a 1-1 score. Called on account of rain at the end of the ninth, it was the first tie in All-Star history.

In 1962, the games were scheduled weeks apart again. The first match was held at D.C. Stadium in Washington. The American League had the tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth when Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio flied out to deep right-center field, ending the game in favor of the NL, 3-1. Wrigley Field in Chicago was the setting for the second All-Star match that year. Aided by three homers, the American League rolled to a 9-4 win. The AL would not win again until 1970. After the '62 double-bill, team owners agreed to dramatically increase player shares from a single game format. The practice of holding two All-Star Games officially ended. 

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