The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
MLB's All-Star Games Filled With Memorable Moments

The 89th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington, D. C.  The Midsummer Classic, as it’s often referred to, is really the only competitive showcase of all-stars of the three major U. S. sports.  Of course I’m biased, but can anyone remember specific highlights of an NFL or NBA all-star game?  Some of baseball’s greatest moments have come in All-Star Games.

The first MLB All-Star Game was conceived by Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward as a one-time promotional event associated with the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the sport’ biggest stars participating, it turned out to be such a success that it evolved into an annual contest.  With the exception of 1945, when commercial travel restrictions were in place during World War II, the game has been played every year since 1933.  During 1959 to 1962, Major League Baseball hosted two games each season.

As the National Football League and National Basketball Association gained popularity in the 1950s, they, too, instituted all-star games to showcase their talent.  However, both of those sports’ events have evolved into perfunctory games in which the defensive elements have become practically non-existent.  The NFL Pro Bowl Game now strongly resembles amateur flag football, while the NBA All-Star Game is dominated by uncontested dunks and three-point shots.  The National Hockey League All-Star Game actually does a better job of resembling its competitive regular season games than the NBA and NFL.

Of course, one of the factors that makes all the sports’ all-star games attractive is the involvement of their fans to select certain members of the teams.  MLB started this practice for its first all-star game in 1933.  Before the advent of the internet, all-star voting ballots could be obtained by attending a game in a major-league stadium.  Nowadays, on-line voting is by far the predominant method of fan voting.  Ballot stuffing through internet-based voting is a problem the MLB has to guard against.

But even in the old days of paper ballots, the Cincinnati Reds fans cast enough ballots in 1957 to vote seven of their eight starting lineup of position players to the National League All-Star team.  The situation caused MLB Commissioner Ford Frick to step in and replace two of the Reds players on the National League all-star squad.  As a result, fan voting was discontinued and not re-instated until 1970.

Following are just a few of the unforgettable all-star game performance over the years.

In the first All-Star Game in 1933, it was only fitting that Babe Ruth hit the first home run.  The 38-year-old Sultan of Swat was winding down his outstanding career by then, but he still had enough pop to homer off Wild Bill Hallahan in the bottom of the third inning of the American League’s 4-2 victory.

In 1934 National League starting pitcher Carl Hubbell wowed baseball fans by striking out five consecutive American League all-stars that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin.  However, the AL team wound up scoring six runs in the fifth inning to win 9-7.

Not known for his home-run hitting, St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Red Schoendienst smacked a homer off Ted Gray in the 14th inning to propel the National League to a 4-3 victory in the 1950 classic.

Stan Musial hit a walk-off home run off Frank Sullivan in the 12th inning of the 1955 All-Star Game to give the National League a 6-5 win.  Musial would ultimately appear in 24 All-Star Game classics.

The 1967 contest was the longest in All-Star Game history to that point.  Cincinnati Reds third baseman Tony Perez broke up a 1-1 tie in the top of the 15th inning with a dramatic home run off Catfish Hunter to give the National League a victory.  In 2008, there was another 15-inning game won by the American League, 4-3, when Michael Young drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly off pitcher Brad Lidge.

Reggie Jackson hit what is remembered as the longest home run in the 1971 All-Star Game.  The A’s slugger hit a mammoth shot off Dock Ellis at Tiger Stadium.  The ball hit a light tower on the roof above of the second deck and was estimated to travel 532 feet.  The American League’s victory broke an eight-game winning streak by the National League.

The 2002 All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings, when both teams ran out of available pitchers.  Beginning in 2003, the MLB Commissioner’s Office declared that the winning league of the All-Star Game would be awarded home-field advantage in the World Series, to prevent future tie-game results.  It was further evidence that MLB All-Star Games were considered more than just casual exhibition games.

Before interleague play began in 1997, the annual All-Star Game was seen as a marquee event that facilitated the matchup of baseball’s best hitters and pitchers from both leagues for the first times in their careers.  For example, it was a rare opportunity in the 1950s for fans to see a Whitey Ford facing off with an Ernie Banks in a classic confrontation where neither player is holding back his effort to get the best of his opponent.  Now, even with interleague play, it’s a treat to see a showdown between Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout in an All-Star Game scenario.

Of course, the MLB All-Star Game has had its share of unforgettable quirky events, too.

Diminutive San Francisco Giants pitcher Stu Miller is most remembered for a balk he committed in the 1961 All-Star Game, when his delivery on the mound was interrupted by a big gust of wind at Candlestick Park.

When Randy Johnson’s fastball flew behind the back of batter John Kruk in the 1993 All-Star Game, Kruk was so intimidated by Johnson he merely waved his bat at his next pitches, making for an easy strikeout.

I’ll be glued to the TV on Tuesday night to see what this year’s game will bring.

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