Hi friends. Last summer, I wrote a 10-part series of themes on great All-Star games. Some were by request, some were games of my own choosing. One went unrequested at that time, so no theme for it has been written.
For the benefit of members of my Facebook group also called Baseball as I See It, I took requests to share entire All-Star game broadcasts this week. There have been 4 up to now, with one each available Friday and Saturday, and two All-Star games on Sunday. This time, the 1966 All-Star game was requested by Loren Wakefield, a serious Cardinals’ fan. It was a 2–1 win in 10 innings for the National League. Friday afternoon, I will share that game in my group. I thought I’d write the theme for it now.
The All-Star game that year was played on July 12, 1966. It was played two months to the day after Busch Memorial Stadium opened. While the Cardinals had been playing in “Busch Stadium,” since 1953, that was a case of an old flame with a new name. It had been Sportsman’s Park, and the name had been changed when the team was sold. The new stadium was a long way from the rusting box that Sportsman’s Park had been. Busch Memorial Stadium was the third new stadium to open in 3 years–Shea Stadium in 1964 and the Astrodome in 1965 were the others. Like them, Busch was built for both football and baseball. They didn’t initially put in AstroTurf, and on the day of the All-Star game, it’s a good thing they didn’t. It was a savage hot day, with a temperature of 103 at game time. As hot as I’ve been way down in Columbus, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina, if any place can be hotter than that, I’m told St. Louis can manage it. Just over 49,000 people braved the heat and humidity on that July afternoon. Around the country, the game was broadcast by NBC radio and TV. On the TV side, curt Gowdy and Harold “Pee Wee” Reese described the action. On radio, it was the team of Jim Simpson and Tony Kubek, a rookie broadcaster who would last until 1989 on NBC.
The managers had faced each other in the 1965 World Series-the Twins’ Sam Mele (pronounced Mealy) and the Dodgers’ Walter Alston. Mele’s roster included 6 future Hall of Famers: Jim Catfish Hunter, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Pitcher Jim Kaat was also on the All-Star team and in my opinion belongs in Cooperstown. On the National League side, 14 of them would reach Cooperstown as a player or otherwise. They included starting pitcher Sandy Koufax, injured pitcher Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Joe Torre (who got there as a manager), Willie McCovey, an injured Joe Morgan, Ron Santo (who would die before he was elected to Cooperstown), Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Willie Mays, and manager Alston himself. On the American League side, two All-Stars would have been long forgotten now except for Jim Bouton’s amazing book, “Ball Four,” which would come out in 1970. Those two were pitchers Steve Barber and Gary Bell, both Bouton’s teammates on the ill-fated Seattle Pilots whose ownership went bankrupt before the team became the Milwaukee Brewers. The Indians’ Sudden Sam McDowell had been named an All-Star but was injured and replaced by teammate Sonny Siebert. Just a month earlier, at the Mistake on the Lake, Siebert had fired a no-hitter at the Washington Senators. Denny McClain, the American League’s starter that day, would one day find himself in a federal prison. The Yankees, dreadful as they were, had to have at least one All-Star, and Mel Stottlemyre was one of the two who were chosen. Earl Battey, Andy Etchebarren and Bill Freehan were the 3 chosen catchers, one each from the Twins, Orioles and Tigers. Of the 3, Freehan was the starter and caught the full game. George Scott was the starting first baseman, with the Tigers’ Norm Cash backing up the Boomer. the Angels Bobby Knoop (pronounced KuhNopp), who was having the year of his life started at second over Bobby Richardson, another Yankee but one approaching his “sell by” date. Dick McAuliffe was the starting shortstop with Knoop’s teammate Jim Fregosi as backup. Tommie Agee and Rocky Colovito were two All-Star outfielders along with Tony Oliva. The other outfielders were listed above among the Hall of Famers. One of their coaches, Hank Bauer would find himself managing against Walter Alston in the World Series 3 months down the road.
In the opposing dugout, the National League had formidable performers to go along with their Hall of Famers. Jim Bunning had authored a perfect game just two years earlier. The Dodgers’ Phil Regan was on his way to an amazing year and was named as Bob Gibson’s replacement. The rest of the pitchers weren’t as familiar: the Reds’ Billy McCool, the Astros’ Claude Raymond and the Pirates’ Bob Veale. When he broke in some years earlier, radio broadcasters were saying his name, “Veale” to rhyme with “Really!” That would never fly today. Tom Haller and Tim Mccarver were Joe Torre’s backup catchers. Torre was still with the Braves and was some years away from moving to St. Louis. Felipe Alou was backing up Willie McCovey on first. Jim LeFebvre of the Dodgers started at second with the Mets’ Ron Hunt as his backup. The Giants’ Jim Ray Hart was Santo’s backup at third. Maury Wills and Leo Cardenas were the two shortstops, with Cardenas the starter. Dick Allen and Curt Flood were the only two NL outfielders who would never be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Between the amazing talent of the opposing pitchers and the insane heat, each team only managed 6 hits in what turned out to be a 10-inning contest. Brooks Robinson tripled in the second and scored on a wild pitch by Koufax. Now, Brooks Robinson was many things, but amazingly fleet of feet, he wasn’t. It happened, the gap he hit the ball into was 386 feet to the outfield fence. The gaps would be shortened to 372 feet eventually, with the center field fence moved in from 414 to 402 feet.
The National League scored the tying run in the home half of the 4th inning. It took 3 singles, by Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Ron Santo off the Twins’ Jim Kaat. The game would remain a 1-1 stalemate until the 10th, although I’m happy to say, the extra inning didn’t begin with a runner on second base. Gaylord Perry had to get out of a jam as it was. With two men aboard and one out, he induced a pop fly off Richardson’s bat and struck out Freehan. That brought the National League to the dish. The last American league pitcher was the Senators’ Pete Richert who would make a name in a few years with the Orioles. On this day, he gave up a single to McCarver. Ron Hunt sacrificed McCarver to second, and Maury Wills drove him home with a single to center field.
Brooks Robinson was voted the MVP of the game, as he had gotten 3 of his team’s 6 hits. Hot as it was, he played the entire 10 innings, an unthinkable feat in the modern version of the All-Star game. Nobody on either side made an error. Gaylord Perry was the winning pitcher in his first All-Star appearance. He would be chosen 4 more times between 1970 and 1979.0