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A.J. Hinch is the latest pennant winner who won’t manage the MLB All-Star Game

A history of All-Star Game managerial upheaval.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch in an Astros All-Star Game uniform jogging on the field.

The 2020 MLB All-Star Game will be played at Dodger Stadium on July 14. Dave Martinez of the champion Nationals will manage the National League All-Stars. What we don’t know yet is who will manage the American League.

The midsummer classic traditionally puts the prior season’s pennant-winning managers in charge, but the defending AL champion Astros are without a manager at the moment after A.J. Hinch was suspended by Major League Baseball for the season, then fired for allowing a widespread electronic sign-stealing scheme to take place under his watch.

While it may seem logical that the Astros’ next managerial hire will step in for Hinch, replacing an All-Star Game manager is not that simple. To understand what goes into the decision, we must delve into the game’s history.

The first All-Star Game

We were still 64 years away from interleague play in 1933, when the American League and National League would only square off once a year, in the World Series. But that was between just two teams. The thought of corralling the best (white) players in baseball for one game was an intoxicating idea at the time, so much so that this was the headline in The Sporting News in advance of the game:

Headline regarding the first MLB All-Star Game from The Sporting News on July 6, 1933.

But instead of tabbing the managers of the previous World Series between the Yankees and Cubs, the All-Star Game pit the Giants’ John McGraw for the National League against the A’s Connie Mack for the American League. Heading into 1933, they were the two winningest managers in baseball history, each with 1,000 more victories than any other manager at the time, and they are still the top two in managerial wins to this day. McGraw and Mack would be facing off for the fourth time, having met in three World Series more than two decades prior.

McGraw actually retired midway through the 1932 season, but was brought back for the exhibition. Mack, who also owned the A’s, would manage for 17 more seasons to finish with an unfathomable 53 years working as a manager.

After that first All-Star game, however, the tradition of selecting the managers of the previous year’s World Series began. In 1934, Joe Cronin of the Senators faced off against Bill Terry of the Giants, a managerial rematch of the 1933 World Series.

Since then, there have been just 11 instances in which a pennant winner from the previous year didn’t manage the next All-Star team.

(There are three instances of a pennant-winning manager who was no longer with that team getting to manage the All-Stars anyway. Dick Williams won the World Series with the A’s in 1973 but was fired. He managed the 1974 All-Star Game while representing the Angels. In 2003, Dusty Baker wore a Cubs uniform while managing the NL All-Stars after winning a pennant with the Giants. Tony LaRussa retired after winning the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals, but returned to the dugout for the All-Star Game in Kansas City.)

For the most part, these All-Star managerial oddities fall into two camps — the same team sending a different manager than the previous year’s pennant winner, or a manager from a different team altogether.

Same team, different manager

Year All-Star manager Previous pennant winner Team
Year All-Star manager Previous pennant winner Team
1948 Leo Durocher Burt Shotton Dodgers
1954 Walt Alston Chuck Dressen Dodgers
1961 Ralph Houk Casey Stengel Yankees
1979 Bob Lemon Billy Martin Yankees
2017 Brad Mills Terry Francona Indians

Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was suspended for the 1947 season for “association with known gamblers,” and Burt Shotton guided Brooklyn to the NL pennant. But with Durocher back in the manager seat in 1948, he managed the National League All-Stars in St. Louis.

Another Dodgers managerial switch happened after the 1953 season, when reigning pennant winner Chuck Dressen left Brooklyn after a contract dispute. Walt Alston took the reins in 1954, and managed the NL All-Star team.

Casey Stengel was fired by the Yankees after having the audacity to lose the 1960 World Series, so his replacement Ralph Houk managed the AL All-Stars as well. Stengel won 10 pennants and seven championships in his 12 seasons in The Bronx, and his nine All-Star Games managed is a record.

Indians manager Terry Francona was recovering from heart surgery in 2017, so his bench coach Brad Mills piloted the American League All-Stars in Miami.

Different team altogether

Year All-Star manager Team Previous pennant winner Team
Year All-Star manager Team Previous pennant winner Team
1936 Joe McCarthy Yankees Mickey Cochrane Tigers
1940 Joe Cronin Red Sox Joe McCarthy Yankees
1964 Al Lopez White Sox Ralph Houk Yankees
1965 Al Lopez White Sox Yogi Berra Yankees
1965 Gene Mauch Phillies Johnny Keane Cardinals
1982 Billy Martin A's Bob Lemon Yankees

All of these instances involve the previous season’s pennant runner-up filling in as manager for the reigning winner.

Mickey Cochrane won the World Series in 1935 as player-manager of the Tigers, but missed six weeks in the middle of the 1936 season after a nervous breakdown. Taking his place was Joe McCarthy of the Yankees. McCarthy won four straight World Series with the Yankees from 1936-39 and managed four straight midsummer classics, but he took the All-Star break off in 1940, leaving duties to Joe Cronin of the Red Sox.

Al Lopez of the White Sox got to manage the AL All-Stars in both 1964 and 1965, despite not winning pennants in either of the two preceding seasons. Houk had to step aside from All-Star duties after being promoted to general manager by the Yankees after the 1963 season. And after 1964, Yogi Berra was fired by New York after losing the World Series.

“I would be proud and pleased to have any of our present 10 managers fill in for Houk, but I feel that Lopez earned the honor through his fine job last season,” AL president Joe Cronin said in 1964. (1)

All-Star Game decisions were the purview of league presidents back then, but come from the commissioner’s office now.

The 1965 All-Star Game is especially notable because both managers from the 1964 World Series were canned. Johnny Keane was let go by the Cardinals, so Gene Mauch of the Phillies stepped in to manage the NL All-Stars.

A merry-go-round in New York

You might have noticed a couple names appearing in both lists of All-Star managerial maneuvering. Billy Martin and Bob Lemon took turns for a few years managing the Yankees, each taking over for the other at some point. In the process, each replaced the other in an All-Star Game.

The tumult began on Sunday, July 23, 1978, when Martin was managing the Yankees after a championship and two pennants in the two years prior. At the time, he was once again feuding with outfielder Reggie Jackson. As the Yankees were waiting to board a plane to Kansas City from O’Hare Airport after a series again the White Sox, the cantankerous Martin groused to reporters about his star player and his bombastic owner, George Steinbrenner.

“The two men deserve each other,” Martin said. “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.”

As it turned out, referencing his boss’s 1974 conviction for illegal campaign contributions was not the best job-keeping technique, and on Monday, Martin resigned.

Amazingly, a mere five days after his resignation, Martin was introduced at the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day. And during the introduction, legendary Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard revealed that Martin would be back to manage the team in 1980. Martin’s Yankees tenure was as glorious as it was intermittent. He won more than 59 percent of his games in New York, including a championship among two World Series berths. But the eight seasons he managed the Yankees were spread across 14 years, and he resigned or was fired five different times, including once for fighting with a marshmallow salesman.

New York Yankees

All Lemon did in 1978 was lead the Yankees to a historic divisional comeback to catch Boston, followed by a second straight World Series for New York. But a slow start in 1979 led to Lemon’s dismissal on June 17.

His replacement was Martin, his promised 1980 return hastened under the circumstances.

Lemon by this point had a stellar baseball resumé. He pitched in two World Series with the Indians, winning one, and was named an All-Star seven times before being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1976. As a manager, he won 85 games in the Royals’ third season, making them the fastest expansion team to post a winning record. Lemon also won 90 games with the White Sox in 1977 before winning a World Series in New York one year later.

Even though the 1979 All-Star Game took place a month after he was fired, Lemon got to manage the American League as the reigning pennant winner.

“I’ve done everything else,” Lemon said in 1979. “That’s the one thing left to cap off my career.” (2)

Lemon got a second tenure with the Yankees, managing the final 25 games of a strike-shortened 1981 season, then led New York to its fourth pennant in a six-year stretch. This tenure was short lived, however, as Steinbrenner canned Lemon just 14 games into the 1982 season.

This time, it wasn’t the reigning pennant winner Lemon who got to manage the AL All-Stars, but Martin, whose A’s lost to the Yankees in the previous season’s ALCS.

In that four-year span, Martin and Lemon combined for four different managing stints with the Yankees, and they each managed one All-Star Game.

What now?

With Hinch fired in Houston and suspended for the season, he won’t manage the American League All-Stars this July in Los Angeles. No matter whether his replacement is the yet-to-be-named manager of the Astros, or Aaron Boone of the 2019 ALCS runner-up Yankees, there’s a precedent.

  1. The Sporting News, June 20, 1964
  2. Phil Pepe, Lemon Steps Down With Dignity, Class, The Sporting News, July 7, 1979