In the early thirties, just after the Depression, baseball was on hard times. People had little money to spend on frills like baseball and attendance was shrinking.
The story has it that, with a World’s Fair coming up in Chicago in 1933, Mayor Edward Kelly and Colonel Robert McCormick, Publisher of the Chicago Tribune decided that a major sporting event would be the attraction to make the Fair a success.
They assigned the Tribune Sports Editor, Arch Ward, to come up with an idea and he decided that a one time Game of the Century between the best players from the American and National Leagues would be such an attraction and would also help baseball. Players were selected by a vote of the fans with ballots placed in 55 newspapers around the country. Literally hundreds of thousands of votes were cast with Babe Ruth, the Yankee slugger, reported to have received the most votes.
The game was scheduled for July 6, 1933, in Comiskey Park, Chicago, and 47,595 fans appeared for the game.
The starting batting lineups for the two teams were the following:
NATIONAL LEAGUE AMERICAN LEAGUE
Pepper Martin, St. Louis, 3B Ben Chapman, New York, LF
Frankie Frisch, St. Louis, 2B Charlie Gehringer, Detroit, 2B
Chuck Klein, Philadelphia, RF Babe Ruth, New York, RF
Chick Hafey, Cincinnati, LF Lou Gehrig, New York, 1B
Bill Terry, New York, 1B Al Simmons, Chicago, CF
Wally Berger, Boston, CF Jimmy Dykes, Chicago, 3B
Dick Bartell, Pittsburgh, SS Joe Cronin, Washington, SS
Jimmie Wilson, St. Louis, C Rick Ferrell, Boston, C
Bill Hallahan, St. Louis, P Lefty Gomez, New York, P
(Rick Ferrell’s brother, Wes Ferrell, a pitcher with the Cleveland Indians, also made the American League team but did not get into the game, making the Ferrell brothers the first brother team to be selected to an All Star Game.)
The teams were managed by the legendary John McGraw for the National and Connie Mack for the American. McGraw had retired in 1932 after 31 years of managing the New York Giants and came out of retirement for the game. Connie Mack had managed the Philadelphia Athletics since 1901 and would continue to do so until 1950.
Bill Hallahan, of the Pirates, started on the mound for the National League and Lefty Gomez, of the Yankees, for the American.
The American League, the home team, scored first in the second inning when Dykes and Cronin both walked and, with two out, the pitcher, Lefty Gomez singled up the middle to score Dykes. They added two more in the third when Gehringer walked and the Babe hit a long homer to right to make it 3-0.
It stayed 3-0 until the Nationals sixth. The New York Giants’ Lefty O’Doul hit for Wilson and grounded out to second. Lon Warneke, the Chicago pitcher, who had relieved Hallahan in the fourth, then tripled to right and scored when Martin grounded to third. Frisch then hit a solo homer to right and it was 3-2, American. ( Those of you as old as I will remember Warneke who became a Major League umpire after his playing career. )
The American League got one back in the last of the sixth on a single to center by Cronin, who was then sacrificed to second by Rick Ferrell and scored on Cleveland’s pinch hitter Earl Averill’s single to center field, making it 4-2.
Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove came on to pitch the seventh for the American League and gave up a single to Bill Terry, who was forced at second on a grounder to short by Berger. Pittsburgh’s Pie Traynor, batting for Bartell, then doubled to center putting the tying runs in scoring position with one out. Grove then struck out Chicago’s Gabby Hartnett and got Chicago’s Woody English to fly to center to end the threat and strand the runners.
In the Nationals’ eighth, Frisch got an infield single with one out but was stranded there as Grove got Klein and Hafey to fly out. Grove got the Nationals 1-2-3 in the ninth and the American League had won the first All Star Game.
Lefty Gomez, who went three innings and shut out the Nationals on two hits, was the winning pitcher and Bill Hallahan, who gave up three runs on two hits in two innings, took the loss. Warnecke pitched the third through sixth innings giving up just one run for the Nationals. Washington’s General Crowder pitched the middle three for the American, giving up two runs on three hits. New York’s Carl Hubbell pitched the last two scoreless innings for the National and Grove held the National League scoreless for the last three to earn the save.
Although it was expected to be just a one time happening, of course it evolved from that one game, that took two hours and five minutes to play, into the three day affair it has become today.
One of the major differences in the first All Star game and that of today is the use of pitchers. Each team used only three pitchers in the nine inning game. Today’s All Stars are generally limited to a maximum of two innings but most just pitch one.
Three of those six pitchers, Hubbell, Gomez and Grove, are in the Hall of Fame. The nicknames of the six pitchers are worth mentioning. On the National League side, Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell, remembered today as ‘King Carl’ was also called ‘Meal Ticket’, Lon Warneke was called ‘The Arkansas Hummingbird’ and Bill Hallahan, ‘Wild Bill’. Lefty Gomez, the American League’s winning pitcher, was known as ‘Goofy’, Alvin Crowder’s, nickname was General, because of his military service, and Robert Moses Grove, who was credited with the save, was ‘Lefty’.
Some of those nicknames would probably be offensive in the climate in this country today but they are just another indicator of how colorful baseball could and can be. The nicknames of today may not be as colorful but the players are bigger, stronger and more talented than ever and the All Star Game, with or without Mike Trout, will be a spectacular event, perhaps made more spectacular by having this year’s MVP, Mookie Betts, in Trout’s spot in the lineup.
(This column is, in part, an excerpt from Volume II of my series ‘ The Baseball Buff’s Bathroom Book, Volume II ‘.)