50th Anniversary: The 1959 All-Star Game

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the 1959 MLB All-Star games. That’s right – plural. 1959 was the first of three straight years in which MLB, attempting to boost interest in the Midsummer Classic, scheduled an All-Star doubleheader, with the first game played on July 7 and the second on August 3. ↵

↵Fan voting for All-Star starters had been abolished due to the great Cincinnati scandal of 1957, in which Cincy fans stuffed the ballot boxes and elected Reds to seven of the eight starting field positions. Once it was revealed that over half the total ballots cast had come from Cincinnati, Commissioner Ford Frick stepped in and decreed that Willie Mays and Hank Aaron would start in the outfield instead of the Reds’ Gus Bell and Wally Post. Not a lot of arguments there. In 1958, voting for the All-Star teams was restricted to managers, players and coaches, a policy that survived until 1970. ↵

↵

↵But during the doubleheader All-Star era, the general public was allowed back into the picture, as fans were allowed to choose the starting teams for the first game from the already selected All-Star rosters. Here’s what they came up with (listed in the eventual starting batting orders): ↵

↵

↵A.L.
↵1. Minnie Minoso (Indians) – OF
↵2. Nellie Fox (White Sox) – 2B
↵3. Al Kaline (Tigers) – OF
↵4. Bill Skowron (Yankees) – 1B
↵5. Rocky Colavito (Indians) – OF
↵6. Gus Triandos (Orioles) – C
↵7. Harmon Killebrew (Senators) – 3B
↵8. Luis Aparicio (White Sox) – SS
↵9. Early Wynn (White Sox) – P ↵

↵

↵N.L.
↵1. Johnny Temple (Reds) – 2B
↵2. Eddie Mathews (Braves) – 3B
↵3. Hank Aaron (Braves) – OF
↵4. Willie Mays (Giants) – OF
↵5. Ernie Banks (Cubs) – SS
↵6. Orlando Cepeda (Giants) – 1B
↵7. Wally Moon (Dodgers) – OF
↵8. Del Crandall (Braves) – C
↵9. Don Drysdale (Dodgers) – P ↵

↵

↵A quick scan of the lineup card shows a definite edge to the N.L. side. Two through six they’re just stacked, all Hall-of-Famers, and the heart of the order of Aaron, Mays and Banks could bring tears to your eyes. On the mound, it’s almost a push, but not quite. As great as Early Wynn was, you have to give the nod to Drysdale. Not that your starting pitcher matters all that much in the All-Star situation, but still. ↵

↵

↵The first game was played at the dearly departed Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. It was a thriller. The N.L. got off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an Eddie Mathews dinger, and so long as Drysdale was on the mound, it looked like one run was all they’d need. Making his first of eight All-Star appearances, the 22-year-old Drysdale was completely awesome, pitching three perfect innings and striking out four. ↵

↵

↵Lew Burdette replaced Drysdale on the N.L mound in the fourth, and promptly yielded a long ball to Al Kaline to knot the score at one apiece. That’s how it stayed until the bottom of the seventh, when the N.L. scored two to go up 3-1 on consecutive singles from Del Crandall and Bill Mazeroski. In the top of the eighth, however, the A.L. saw the Nats' two-spot and raised them a run, scoring three on big hits from Vic Power and Gus Triandos (and those, my friends, are some seriously manly baseball names right there). ↵

↵

↵But in the bottom of the eighth, down 4-3, the N.L. sealed the deal, as Aaron and Mays went about their dastardly business against the great Whitey Ford. Ken Boyer led off with a single and moved to second on a bunt by the Bucs’ Dick Groat. Aaron promptly singled him home, and then Mays followed with the game-winning RBI, tripling home Aaron to make the score 5-4 for the N.L. Cubs' relief specialist Don Elston (making the only All-Star appearance of his career) closed out the A.L. in the top of the ninth, and that was all she wrote. ↵

↵

↵Although it wasn’t, of course. There was another game to be played. The second All-Star Game of 1959 was played at the L.A. Coliseum on August 3, and in that one the managers were given full reign over their starting lineups. On the strength of home runs from Frank Malzone, Rocky Colavito and a two-run bomb from Yogi Berra, the A.L. won 5-3, making the 1959 All-Star Game officially ... a tie. Not exactly the most satisfying conclusion, as Bud Selig would learn some 43 years later. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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