Monday, April 7, 2014

The Most Memorable All-Star Games--1950-1958

46,000 fans at Comiskey Park got their money's worth in 1950 as the All-Star Game went into extra innings for the first time in history. Again, it was Ted Williams who drew attention to himself with a spectacular first inning catch on a hard drive by NL home run king Ralph Kiner. Williams slammed into the wall while snaring Kiner's drive and fractured his elbow. The injury was not discovered until after the game as the Red Sox slugger played nine innings, rapping a clutch single in the bottom of the fifth that put the AL ahead, 3-2. The score remained that way until the top of the ninth, when Kiner blasted a solo homer to tie things up. In the fourteenth frame, Cardinals' second baseman Red Schoendienst became an unlikely hero. Not known for his power, the future Hall of Famer had told teammates: "I'm going to surprise all of you by hitting a homer if I ever get into this game." He did exactly that leading off the inning. Joe DiMaggio had a chance to do something for the AL with a runner on in the bottom of the fourteenth, but he bounced into a game-ending double play. "The Yankee Clipper" was less than spectacular in All-Star play during his career, compiling a feeble .225 average in eleven appearances.  

The 1955 Midsummer Classic got off to a rollicking start when the American League battered Robin Roberts for 4 runs in the top of the first. After yielding consecutive singles to Detroit's Harvey Kuenn and Chicago's Nellie Fox, Roberts uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Kuenn. A walk to Ted Williams brought the equally dangerous Mickey Mantle to the plate. Mantle ripped a long shot to deep center field that put the AL up, 4-0 with nobody out. Roberts settled down after that, giving up just one more hit during his 3-inning stint. The AL tacked on a run in the top of the sixth and the game seemed well in hand until the bottom of the eighth. Whitey Ford, who had coughed up a pair of runs in the previous frame, got into a 2-out jam, surrendering three straight singles to Willie Mays, Ted Kluszewski and Randy Jackson. Ford was lifted for Red Sox right-hander Frank Sullivan, who promptly yielded a 2-run single to Hank Aaron, tying the score at 5. In the bottom of the twelfth, it was Stan Musial who stole the spotlight. Leading off the inning, the Cardinals' slugger reportedly turned to catcher Yogi Berra and said: "I'm tired." He earned a well-deserved rest when he lifted Sullivan's first offering into the right field seats for a game-winning homer. Musial had entered the game as a fourth inning replacement and admitted afterward that he had not been swinging for the fence--he had been swinging "just to get on."

The events that preceded the 1957 affair overshadowed the game itself. The Cincinnati Enquirer had encouraged Reds fans to stuff the ballot box by printing pre-marked ballots and distributing them in Sunday papers. It was alleged that various bars in the city withheld alcohol from customers until they voted for Cincinnati players. When the balloting was complete, Stan Musial was the only non-member of the Reds selected as a starter. The Reds (known then as the "Redlegs") were represented by Ed Bailey at catcher, Johnny Temple at second base, Roy McMillan at short and Don Hoak at third. The outfield contained a trio of Cincy stars: Frank Robinson, Gus Bell and Wally Post. Incensed by the scheme, commissioner Ford Frick stripped fans of the right to vote and inserted Willie Mays and Hank Aaron into the NL outfield in place of Bell and Post. From 1958-1970, NL managers and coaches made the All-Star selections. The game itself was exciting as the AL scored three times in the top of the ninth to take a 6-2 lead. In the bottom of the frame, the NL came storming back on an RBI triple by Willie Mays, who later scored on a wild pitch. With two runners on and one out, Ernie Banks lined an RBI single to right field. Chicago's Minnie Minoso threw out Gus Bell trying to advance to third for the second out. Gil Hodges, who represented the go-ahead run, lined out to left field, stranding Banks on second and ending the game in favor of the AL. 6-5.  

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