The All-Star Game, also known as the ‘Mid-Summer Classic’, is set to be played at Citi Field on July 16 between the American and National League teams. This year marks the 80th year the All-Star Game has been played and it’s easy to forget about the first All-Star Game ever played. This year’s game will be the 84th one played and the National League leads the American League 43-38-2 overall.
What you may not know about the All-Star Game is that there were actually two games played each year from 1959 to 1962, but that idea was quickly scrapped and the event itself was only ever meant to be a one-time thing. An event held at Comiskey Park in Chicago during the Chicago World’s Fair to help lift the spirits of the people who were hurting due to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
That first All-Star Game had players such as Chuck Klein, who won the 1932 NL MVP Award when he led the NL in home runs with 38 and also in hits with 226. His 1933 season saw him lead his league in home runs, with 28, hits with 223, 44 doubles, 120 RBI, and his batting line was also tops across the board at .368/.422/.602.
The National League team also had one of the only players to have hit .400 or better in a season during his career when ‘Memphis’ Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930 and led the league in hits with 254. It’s amazing some of the nicknames these players had back then. My favorite of the NL team has to be Gabby Hartnett’s nickname of ‘Old Tomato Face’. I’m certain that if everyone had a nickname like that the world would be a better place.
What’s interesting about the NL team, however, is the fact that Hall of Fame Manager John McGraw decided to start, arguably, the worst pitcher on his roster in ‘Wild’ Bill Hallahan to start the game for the NL instead of guys who were having far superior seasons and the better track records.
Hallahan led the league in walks in 1930, 1931, and also 1933 so it’s no real surprise that in his two innings of work during the All-Star Game he walked five batters while giving up three runs on two hits and a home run.
If there’s one thing that the American League team had that the NL team lacked it was name recognition. Led by Hall of Fame Manager Connie Mack, who was managing at the ripe old age of 70, this team had it all. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove are some of the most recognizable names on the roster at first glance.
I’m sure many fans at first glance at this roster would automatically assume that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the best two players on this team, but that assumption would be an inaccurate one. Ruth was on his way out of the game at 38 years of age and while Gehrig was still at the top of his game at the age of 30, both of those guys were eclipsed by the emerging superstar Jimmie Foxx.
Foxx led the AL in home runs with 48, after having challenged Ruth’s record of 59 the year before with 58 at just 24 years old, and he also led the league in RBI (163), as well as batting average (.356), and slugging (.703). Foxx, however, was not the big star or hero of the game as that distinction went to none other than ‘The Great Bambino’ himself.
Ruth hit the first home run in All-Star Game history with one on in the bottom of the third inning off Callahan. It was a shot to deep right field and helped lead the AL team to a 4-2 victory.
Of all the players, managers, and umpires that took part in this event there are 27 of them (two umpires, five coaches/managers, and 20 players) in the Hall of Fame. Since this first game fans have been able to look forward to and enjoy this sporting event every summer between the two leagues.