The First All-Star Game: The Dream of One Man

This year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game saw the National League break the American League’s winning streak for the first time since 1996. The hallowed game has seen its share of streaks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the National League won 17 out of 20 with one tie. But the exhibition has changed greatly from the first All-Star Game in 1933. Today, there is the Future’s Game and the Home Run Derby – All part of the All-Star Fan Fest Experience. The first All-Star Game was the experience.

Arch Ward had an idea. As the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, he wanted an event to go along with Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition. He somehow managed to convince Judge Landis, the commissioner, to approve of the idea. The fans and the managers originally selected the players for the summer classic. Babe Ruth actually campaigned to be a part of the game. Some people complained about Arch Ward and the game taking place in the midst of the Great Depression. If there was one thing America needed during the depression, it was a diversion. MLB attendance waned a little but did not falter. Along with the movies, Baseball provided a necessary diversion and the All-Star Game was the biggest diversion.

On July 6, 1933, over 49,000 filled Old Comiskey Park (You can tell I live near Chicago if I call it “Old Comiskey”) to see the greatest stars in the game. Baseball was a different game to America back then. The biggest difference was radio. The game on radio captured the imagination of the public. They did not get to see their stars on TV like today’s youth. Stars were bigger than life only limited to a person’s imagination.

In 1933, the league was different too. Only two teams were west of the Mississippi River – The Cardinals and Browns were both in St. Louis. St. Louis also happened to be the farthest south as well. And the league was without color as African-Americans played in a league of their own.

As for the game itself, it actually lived up to the hype as the “Game of the Century.” Babe Ruth cracked a homer in leading the AL to a 4-2 victory over the NL. Despite Jimmie Foxx being the star of the league that year, it was Babe who captured everyone’s attention. Within two years, Babe would retire.

“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.” – Wild Bill Hallahan – the pitcher who served up Babe’s Homer

AL Roster

Earl Averill
Ben Chapman
Joe Cronin
General Crowder
Bill Dickey
Jimmy Dykes
Rick Ferrell
Wes Ferrell
Jimmie Foxx
Lou Gehrig
Lefty Gomez
Lefty Grove
Oral Hildebrand
Tony Lazzeri
Babe Ruth
Al Simmons
Sam West
Manager – Connie Mack

NL Roster

Dick Bartell
Wally Berger
Tony Cuccinello
Woody English
Frankie Frisch
Chick Hafey
Bill Hallahan
Gabby Hartnett
Carl Hubbell
Chuck Klein
Pepper Martin
Lefty O’Doul
Hal Schumacher
Bill Terry
Pie Traynor
Paul Waner
Lon Warneke
Jimmie Wilson
Manager John McGraw

The game has been held every year since except 1945. In the late 50s and early 60s, there were two games a year. Major League Baseball could learn about how to put on the game from the first game.
1. Keep it simple
2. Don’t invite everyone on every team
3. Let the stars decide the game

In 1934, Arch Ward created the College All-Star Game.  This game saw college football stars from the previous season taking on the NFL championship team. This game lasted through to the 1970s.

In the end, the MLB ALl-Star game has survived for almost 80 years and it was never intended to be more than a one time thing. The fact the game has withstood  80 years and two ties is amazing and a testament to the allure of America’s past time.

Ed. Note – Quote from baseballalmanac.com

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