TBT Baseball: Star Struck

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    Updated: July 9, 2014
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    The Midsummer Classic is almost upon us and, as it seems to happen every year, I find my excitement steadily waning as the day approaches. Maybe it’s the fact that Bud Selig tried to hang meaning on this exhibition game after embarrassingly ending the 2002 All-Star Game in a tie. Or maybe it’s why that game had to end in a tie, with managers trying to get each player into the game at least once. Most likely it has something to do with how little I can take Chris Berman endlessly screaming “Back, back, back, back, back!” during the incredibly overhyped and way too drawn out Homerun Derby.

    Even though there are things that the All-Star Game needs to improve, there’s one aspect I certainly can’t fault: the players. While there are inevitable snubs and misguided selections every year, it really is a showcase of talent. Yes, the fact that every team has to have a representative has led to some sad selections (from 2006 to 2012, the Royals sent Mark Redman, Nick Swartz, Gil Meche, Joakim Soria, Trey Hillman, Zack Greinke, and Aaron Crow to the All-Star game – if you can eliminate which of those guys is a trainer and a coach respectively, without looking it up, I’ll be impressed), but for the most part, we’re still seeing the best of what the league has to offer.

    This got me thinking – how often are we seeing the best of what history has to offer? The Hall of Fame is made up of 211 former Major League players and the All-Star Game has been played every year since 1933 (except 1945 - but it was also played twice a year during 1959-1962). Not surprisingly, every All-Star Game up to and including 2001 featured at least one Hall of Famer in the starting lineup. Since then, there’s usually been a future Hall of Famer (like Jeter), or a guy who was an all-time great but PED use has taken him out of the debate (Clemens, Bonds, etc.).

    Based on all those facts, I started thinking about how many stacked starting lineups have been featured in the All-Star Game, “stacked” being defined as a lineup that featured five or more Hall of Famers. Of the 144 lineups put together between 1933 and 2001, 62 of them (43%) have been stacked, with the most recent being the AL in 1994. There have been 13 stacked games over that time, where both teams ran out five or more HOFers in their starting lineups: 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1959 (both games), 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1984, and 1986. Let’s take a look at the top 3 stacked games, but first, a little honorable mention (Hall of Famers in bold):

    1985:

    You’ll notice this wasn’t listed as one of the stacked games, but that’s only because the NL didn’t represent the same way the AL did. The American League managed to have seven Hall of Famers in the starting lineup for this game, marking the first time since 1940 that any team featured that many players bound for the Hall. The lineup that year:

    1. Rickey Henderson, CF
    2. Lou Whitaker, 2B
    3. George Brett, 3B
    4. Eddie Murray, 1B
    5. Cal Ripken, SS
    6. Dave Winfield, RF
    7. Jim Rice, LF
    8. Carlton Fisk, C
    9. Jack Morris, P

    What boggles my mind about this lineup is that while it’s heavy on Hall of Famers, it’s short on all-time greats. Henderson’s speed puts him in an elite category, and Murray is one of the best switch-hitters of all time, but nobody else on this list was overpowering. This count could even go up to eight with Morris being the perennial “should we or shouldn’t we” guy, stepping into that role after Hall of Fame voters begrudgingly said, “we should” for Rice. To add insult to injury, this lineup lost to the NL 6-1.

    1940:

    • AL:
    1. Cecil Travis, 3B
    2. Ted Williams, LF
    3. Charlie Keller, RF
    4. Joe DiMaggio, CF
    5. Jimmie Foxx, 1B
    6. Luke Appling, SS
    7. Bill Dickey, C
    8. Joe Gordon, 2B
    9. Red Ruffing, P
    • NL:
    1. Arky Vaugh, SS
    2. Billy Herman, 2B
    3. Max West, RF
    4. Johnny Mize, 1B
    5. Ernie Lombardi, C
    6. Joe Medwick, LF
    7. Cookie Lavagetto, 3B
    8. Terry Moore, CF
    9. Paul Derringer, P

    Now this is a little more like it. Twelve combined HOFers between the two teams, and the last All-Star Game to feature a starter named after a baked good (at least to my knowledge). The crazy thing about this game is that, between all these guys (and the subs), both sides only managed 10 hits combined. In fact, Ruffing gave up a leadoff single to Vaughn, Herman followed that with another single, and then West homered and that was essentially all she wrote. The AL side got 3-hit by Paul Derringer and crew (among the five NL pitchers only Carl Hubbell, who came in for the save, would go on to the Hall), losing 4-0.

    Oh, and those three hits the AL side managed? Two by Luke Appling and one by Bobo Newsom – the pitcher that relieved Ruffing.

    1937:

    • AL:
    1. Red Rolfe, 3B
    2. Charlier Gehringer, 2B
    3. Joe DiMaggio, RF
    4. Lou Gehrig, 1B
    5. Earl Averill, CF
    6. Joe Cronin, SS
    7. Bill Dickey, C
    8. Sam West, LF
    9. Lefty Gomez, P
    • NL:
    1. Paul Waner, RF
    2. Billy Herman, 2B
    3. Arky Vaughn, 3B
    4. Joe Medwick, LF
    5. Frank Demaree, CF
    6. Johnny Mize, 1B
    7. Gabby Hartnett, C
    8. Dick Bartell, SS
    9. Dizzy Dean, P

    This season was no joke, with a total of fourteen Hall of Famers starting the All-Star Game. Gehrig hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third off Dean, scoring DiMaggio (how cool is that?), and in the bottom of the fourth it was off to the races against Carl Hubbell, when Red Rolfe (side note: when are people going to start naming their kids Red again?) hit a triple – knocking in Dickey and West – and then Gehringer drove in Rolfe with a single. The AL would go on to win 8-3, with each team tallying 13 hits.

    1934:

    • AL:
    1. Charlie Gehringer, 2B
    2. Heinie Manush, LF
    3. Babe Ruth, RF
    4. Lou Gehrig, 1B
    5. Jimmie Foxx, 3B
    6. Al Simmons, CF
    7. Joe Cronin, SS
    8. Bill Dickey, C
    9. Lefty Gomez, P
    • NL:
    1. Frankie Frisch, 2B
    2. Pie Traynor, 3B
    3. Joe Medwick, LF
    4. Kiki Cuyler, RF
    5. Wally Berger, CF
    6. Bill Terry, 1B
    7. Travis Jackson, SS
    8. Gabby Hartnett, C
    9. Carl Hubbell, P

    All-Star Games do not get better than this – or at least they haven’t. If not for Wally Berger, this would have been a perfect 9 on 9. Poor Wally; a star in his own right (he finished his career with a slash of .300/.359/.522), a shoulder injury derailed his career after seven seasons in 1936 and he never got in a full season after that. Up until that point, he was averaging 28 HRs a year and completely deserving of his place on this team. And while this NL may be lacking in name recognition, the players on it are no joke. Only Jackson and Hartnett had lifetime averages under .300, and they were .291 and .297 respectively.

    Then again, all of the AL’s position players had better than a .300 average lifetime, and 1934 was a monster year for everyone on the AL roster (except for Ruth). Gehrig won the Triple Crown, leading the MLB in average, HRs, and RBIs, Gomez had a 2.33 ERA and won 26 games, Foxx was exactly what you expected in the prime of his career, Gehringer hit .356, Manush hit .349, and the Babe, much like Jeter 80 years later, was mostly on the team because of who he was. He still had 22 homers that year, but he only hit .288 (though he did manage a .448 OPB). Even with Ruth’s declining abilities, this team still showcases the scariest 3-4-5 ever conceived of.

    Season stats aside, the game was a barnburner with the AL edging the NL 9-7 and both teams combining for 22 hits. Carl Hubbell started the game by giving up a leadoff single to Gehringer and then walking Manush before striking out Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx in order to end the inning – incredible.

    Gomez got tagged for three runs in the first three Innings, but the AL responded by absolutely lighting up Van Mungo, who relieved Lon Warneke, tagging the pair for six runs in the top of the 5th. The NL would continue to threaten, but those eight runs were all the AL would need (along with five innings of scoreless relief by Mel Harder).

    So were these the three greatest All-Star Games of all time? I’m sure they weren’t; they might not have even featured the best lineups of players in regards to where they were in their career. But they’re important in that they represent the greatest assembly of historically significant players for a single game – and that’s why I keep watching. The game may not be what it used to, but you never know when you’re going to get to witness the best of the best of the best (sir).

    Follow Jade on Twitter: JadeRothman

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