Editor’s note: In honor of tonight’s All Star game, Joe Guzzardi’s usual Wednesday post will run one day early this week.
During baseball’s Golden Era, players didn’t have hammies, quads, obliques or menisci. What they had instead was a deeply ingrained desire to play baseball and a respect for the honor of being chosen, in those years chosen by the fans, to represent their team and league in the Mid-Summer Classic.
For the umpteenth year in a row, I didn’t watch either the game or the horrible Home Run Derby. I heard this morning that derby winner Robinson Cano’s father Jose pitched to him. Maybe next year his mother, Claribel Mercedes, can lob the ball into him.
I can’t turn on ESPN without a deep dread that Wendy Nix might start to scream baseball inanities at me. Nix’s credentials seem to be that she was, depending on which Internet version of her personal life you trust, either married to or once married to a Boston Red Sox assistant general manager. Regardless of her marital status, I’d bet lots of money Nix could not answer most baseball questions without a prompter in front of her.
I’ll spare you rehashing which of the “All Stars” thumbed their noses at the fans and why they didn’t show up. You probably already know. If you don’t, chronicling their lame excuses would be too depressing for me to write and for you to read.
Let’s go back in time to a great All Star game, maybe one of the best ever: the July 13, 1954 slugfest at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium won by the American League, 11-9. Sixteen future Hall of Famers played.
The game started as a pitcher’s duel between the Philadelphia Phillies’ Robin Roberts and the New York Yankees’ Whitey Ford. Roberts was the first pitcher to start four consecutive games, 1950-1954. Casey Stengel’s selection of Ford was a surprise, however. The lefty had pitched three innings of relief at Washington on the Sunday before the game (!).
The American League jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third on Al Rosen’s home run blast off Roberts. Another four-bagger by the next batter Ray Boone upped the score to 4-0.
Interesting sidebar about Rosen, especially in light of the 2011’s namby-pambys.
In 1953, Rosen was the American League Most Valuable Player and in the All Star balloting garnered the second most votes behind only Stan Musial. Rosen was playing a new position, first base, to which he agreed so that the Indians could make room for rookie third baseman Rudy Regalado.
On May 25, Rosen fractured his index finger and fell into a deep slump. By All Star game time, Rosen approached Stengel and offered to withdraw. But Stengel, after consulting with Commissioner Ford Frick, left the final decision to Rosen who elected to play.
Said Rosen: “With the bum finger and being in a slump, I was scared to death about being the All Star Game goat. But that strike out [in his first at bat] made me mad and I forgot about my finger.”
Rosen’s line, which included a second home run in the fifth inning that earned him All Star MVP honors: AB 4; R 2; H 3; RBI 5
Another 1954 oddity. The winning pitcher, Washington Senators’ 23-year- old rookie Dean Stone, sent in to face Duke Snider in the top of the eighth, didn’t retire a batter. With the count 1-1, Red Schoendienst broke for home from third. Stone easily threw him out in a play that National League manager Leo Durocher insisted was a balk.