Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 6, 1933: The Star of Stars

CHICAGO - There was more talent on that field than had ever been assembled before on a single baseball diamond. Twenty men who would later be named Hall of Famers were in the two dugouts. The two managers, Philadelphia's Connie Mack and New York's John McGraw, still rank number 1 and 2 on the all-time wins chart in baseball history. Even two of the four umpires were Hall of Famers.

Yet despite all the star power, the true attraction of the first All Star game was, naturally, Babe Ruth. Though he was a few years past his prime, and had an ever-expanding waistline, Ruth was the star of stars, the man everybody wanted to see. The National League players who hadn't gotten to face Ruth in the past were awed by his presence, honored to be able to be on the same field as him. And with seven future Hall of Famers in the American League starting lineup, it was Ruth whose name was penciled in to the third spot in the batting order.

Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, came up with the idea for the All Star Game. It was intended that the game would be a one-time occurrence, all of baseball's stars gathering in Comiskey Park in Chicago for one memorable afternoon. With 49,200 people in the stands, it quickly became apparent that this should be an annual event.

The attendance, the location, the founding, the players involved - those are all details. The story of this game was Ruth, stealing the spotlight from the rest of Major League Baseball just as he had been doing since being sold to the Yankees 14 years before. In the third inning, Ruth hit the first home run in All Star Game history, driving in fellow Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer to put the A.L. up 3-0. With his league holding a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning, Ruth came up big again, reaching over the right-field wall to rob Chick Hafey of a game-tying home run.

There was no All Star Game MVP awarded in those days, but Ruth certainly would have won the award. The game would be revived the next year and continues to this day, the longest-running all star game in American sports.

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