Major League Baseball held its first All-Star Game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. A determined sports editor conjured up the idea of improving the sport’s reputation during some of the darkest years of the Great Depression. While the original idea was to have the game be a one-time “Game of the Century,” MLB decided to turn it into a permanent annual event. Dating back to July 6, 1933, the American League holds a 46-43 lead with two games ending in ties.
Creation of the MLB All-Star Game
From 1930 through 1933, Major League Baseball suffered from poor attendance. While attendance had skyrocketed during the 1920s, the beginning of the 1930s saw numbers diminish by about 40%. Those fans who could afford to attend games ended up purchasing tickets for the cheaper bleacher seats rather than expensive box seats.
As a result, owners scrambled to cut costs by reducing the number of players on their rosters, cutting players, and firing coaches. Some teams also toyed around with discounts to entice fans to attend, and these included free admission for women and grocery giveaways.
However, one major promotional event took place during this time: the All-Star Game. This game came about from several people who had no direct correlation to baseball. The city of Chicago hosted the 1933 World’s Fair, which was also known as the Century of Progress International Exposition. The event was a way to celebrate the city’s centennial while providing a sense of optimism during the Great Depression.
Newly elected mayor Edward Kelly desperately wanted to make the fair a huge success, so he approached Colonel Robert McCormick, who was the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, with the idea of hosting a monumental sporting event. McCormick took that idea to Arch Ward, who was the sports editor of the newspaper. He suggested a Game of the Century held at Comiskey Park that would have the best players from the American League face off against the best players of the National League.
Fans would have the opportunity to select which players would participate. Ward was completely convinced that this game would be a huge success, and he told McCormick to take any monetary losses from the event out of his paycheck. He took the idea to the presidents of both leagues and several team owners and assured them this event would bring baseball out of its slump.
Ward also suggested the league donate all proceeds of the event to a charity for retired players, and this move would show the country that MLB understood fans were suffering financially and didn’t necessarily want to give their hard-earned money to the league. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was the league’s commissioner, agreed and set the game for July 6, 1933.
When that date inched closer, Ward wrote a story in the newspaper about the game and encouraged people to attend. Newspapers scattered across the country printed ballots so fans could cast their votes. Babe Ruth received more than 100,000 votes, and other players such as Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Joe Cronin received thousands of votes.
First MLB All-Star Game
On that July date, 47,595 fans flocked to Chicago to watch this special game. The American League ended up winning the game 4-2 and featured some remarkable plays. New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez won the game while St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bill Hallahan took the loss. Gomez also drove in the game’s first run with a single that scored Jimmy Dykes. However, the star of the game was Ruth, who hit the first home run with a two-run shot during the bottom of the third inning.
Other firsts of the game included Cincinnati Reds star, Chick Hafey, who hit the game’s first single with a bloop shot in the bottom of the second inning. Cardinals batter Frankie Frisch had the first home run for the National League. During the fifth inning, the official American League baseball used was replaced by an official National League baseball. It was also during that time that a National League home plate umpire replaced the American League home plate umpire.
Of the 36 players who participated in this inaugural event, 20 of them went on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. These players signed 60 baseballs, which were given out before the game. Managers Connie Mack and John McGraw as well as umpires Bill McGowan and Bill Klem would also later enter the Hall of fame.
Future MLB All-Star Games
The game that featured all these MLB stars was so popular that organizers wanted to hold another “midsummer classic” the following year. As a result, the All-Star Game began as an annual event that featured the league’s most talented players. The game occurred every year except for 1945, when it was canceled because of wartime travel restrictions, and in 2020, due to the pandemic.
From 1959 through 1962, MLB decided that players would participate in a second All-Star Game. For the 1962 All-Star Game, MLB decided to hand out a Most Valuable Player Award with Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the first recipient of this award. Another Dodgers player, Leon Wagner, won the award for the second game.
The home team was traditionally decided where the game was held. For instance, if the game took place at a National League stadium, the National League was the home team. In 2003, MLB announced that whatever league won the game would receive a home-field advantage for the World Series. Before this declaration, home-field advantage alternated between the leagues. In December 2016, as part of the collective bargaining agreement, MLB announced the winning league would no longer receive a home-field advantage.
However, in 2016, even though the game was held at the home of the San Diego Padres, MLB decided that the American League would be the home team. The reason for this decision was that Miami Marlins were hosting the 2017 All-Star Game, which would make it the third consecutive year a National League team would host.
Today’s All-Star Selection Process
To determine who the managers of the All-Star Game are, all you need to do is look at who managed the two teams that made it to the World Series the previous year. These managers are rewarded for their efforts in making it to the championship by receiving an invitation to manage these two teams for the All-Star Game.
The players don’t just earn a spot on the All-Star team. Instead, fans vote for who they want to see play. Each team has a 32-person roster, and this includes 20 position players and 12 pitchers. This number is down from the 34 before 2017. The player ballots take up 16 players in the National League and 17 in the American League. This number accounts for eight pitchers, including five starters and three relievers, as well as a backup player for each position.
Fans vote for the starting positions during the Phase 1 voting round. Before 2019, fans selected the top vote-getter at each position during a single voting period, and this player advanced straight to the starting lineup. However, now the top three vote-getters in each position and the top nine in the outfield in each league advance from Phase 1 to Phase 2. Once Phase 2 begins, the tallies reset. Whatever votes the players received in the first round don’t carry over. The winners from Phase 2 are chosen as starters for the All-Star Game.
The reason the MLB opted for a two-phase process was to improve the overall fan experience when it comes to the summer showcase. This option also helps players whose play improved closer to the middle of the season since final votes occur closer to the July game.
Once the fans vote for players, the Commissioner’s Office chooses eight players from the National League, which includes four pitchers and four position players, and six American League players, which includes four pitchers and two position players. It’s during this stage that MLB ensures every club has at least one player representative. If a starter cannot participate, the reserve player who received the most votes for that particular position gets the start. The Commissioner’s Office also selects the replacement players.
2022 MLB All-Star Game
The 2022 MLB All-Star Game, scheduled for July 19, marks the fourth time the Dodgers will host the annual event. The city was originally selected to host the game in 2020, but that year it was canceled. It’s the third time the game takes place in Los Angeles and the second at Dodger Stadium. The last time it occurred at Dodger Stadium was in 1980. Before this date, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum held the game in 1959, and Ebbets Field in New York hosted the 1949 All-Star Game.
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