Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, July 10.
Though you couldn’t find out about it on your I-Phone, the All-Star futures game took place yesterday in Miami with the US team holding off the World team 7-6. Clayton Kershaw won his 14th game of 2017 with the break looming. And with no MLB game taking place today I thought I’d write about the 1934 All-Star game, the second of its kind and the first true MidSummer Classic (as it was once called.)
I spent a good chunk of yesterday in the Apple store locating and activating an I-Phone. As we walked through the steps to activate it I kept asking the usually knowledgeable phone for any info on the All-Star Futures game. I never got an answer of any kind-not when I asked what time the game was, what channel it would be on or who was winning. Nice job of marketing, MLB. (note sarcasm) It turned out the game was played at 4 PM Eastern and shown on the MLB Network. Once it got going Team U.S. jumped out to a 7-0 advantage and held off a furious rally for a 7-6 win. Remember this name: Brent Honeywell, the Rays’ second-best prospect. He started the game and struck out 4 men while giving up just one hit in his 2 innings on the hill. This earned him the game MVP award which has never been given to a pitcher before. The Georgia native turned 22 as the season began. Today’s media could be excused calling him the New Georgia Peach as he hails from Royston, Georgia-the home town of the real Georgia Peach, Tyrus Raymond Cobb. While Cobb was once sold from team to team for $25.00 (the price of a mule) Honeywell, drafted in round 2 in 2014 signed for considerably more than that. He’s been toiling for AAA Durham up to now. At first glance It would seem he still has some maturing to do, as he sports a 6-4 AAA record and an ERA just under 5. However His 119 K’s in 92 innings make him stand out from the herd and yesterday’s performance is a feather in his cap. Derek Fisher, an Astros’ farm hand had 2 RBIs and five others drove in runs early on for the American side. The Mets’ Tomas Nido-a catching prospect-drove in two runs for the World team. The US lead was 7-4 in the 9th. After the Indians’ Triston McKenzie got the first out, his manager Charles Johnson turned it over to A.J. Puk, a former Florida Gator now in the Oakland organization. Puk who pitched poorly in the 2016 College World Series continued not performing on the big stage, giving up 2 runs and nearly blowing the game. He finally closed the deal when the Brewers’ Maauricio Dubon grounded to third to end things. With the game taking place in Miami, Johnson seemed a natural choice to manage the U.S. squad. He had played college ball at University of Miami and was the starting catcher for the Marlins from 1994–98. Before his career ended in 2005 he was an All-Star twice with 4 consecutive gold gloves from 1995–98.
The Dodgers completed a sweep of the Royals Sunday with a 5-2 win as Clayton Kershaw picked up his 14th win-a good season for 99% of today’s pitchers in a time when 20-game winners are becoming extinct. All-Star Justin Turner homered twice which he hasn’t done in a single game going back to last July. The home team has a 26-4 record and a full season mark of 61-29 with the break at hand. Knowing he couldn’t pitch in the All-Star game Kershaw took it out on the visiting Royals, striking out 13 in his first complete game this year. He did it with 99 pitches. No man in all the great history of the game has struck out 13 without throwing 100 pitches. He hasn’t taken a loss since May 6 and is 10-0 since then. As Koufax had Drysdale, Kershaw has Alex Wood who is on the year of his life at 10-0 with a Kershaw-like 1.67 ERA. As 2017 began he was a subpar 27-30 for his career. That being said he’s a 2017 All-Star and may pitch tomorrow night while the perennially dominant Kershaw is ineligible. Common sense? MLB? They don’t know each other.
On this day, July 10 1934, the second baseball All-Star Game of all time was held at the Polo Grounds in New York. At the time it was a cause for great excitement in a land where excitement was in desperately short supply. The first All-Star game, played in 1933 at Comiskey Park drew so well in spite of the Great Depression that it was decided the game would be played yearly from then on. The idea for the first game came from the brain of Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward. He was also creator of the first Golden Gloves boxing tournament that grew into a national institution. The All-Star game was initially held to raise money for indigent ball players. Salaries had been cruelly low for ball players even before the stock market crash of 1929 and with the Depression covering the land Ward thought a fund should be raised for the many needy former players. The Polo Grounds had a far larger seating capacity than Comiskey Park, and some 48,000 fans filled the stands on that July afternoon 83 years ago today. There were but 16 teams then, none west of St. Louis. 6 decades would pass before the first interleague game that wasn’t the World Series or All-Star game. So this was a chance for New Yorkers and fans who could reach the city to see in person players they only read about in their newspapers. Regular season radio at that time existed in Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Boston and nobody broadcast away games. Games in segregated Washington weren’t broadcast at all. While the first ever game had been heard by a chosen few on KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pirates games were still years away from being aired regularly. Broadcasts in Philadelphia were few and far between. Ty Tyson was just beginning his broadcasts in Detroit where he called his listeners “Boys and girls.” The 3 New York teams made a deal never to allow regular season games to be aired. The compact between the 3 owners in the Big Apple would end as 1939 began. In sum, this new event called the All-Star game was a rare chance for listeners from Maine to California to hear the deeds of their favorite players broadcast.
Even before the first player’s name is mentioned some facts are worth knowing. This game is the first one to survive in recorded form. Any baseball audio from before this date has to be either a small fragment or a re-creation. Both national radio networks CBS and NBC carried the game live. Mutual would begin operations a year later and carry the 1935 All-Star game, then known as the MidSummer Classic. On this day Tom Manning of WTAM in Cleveland manned the NBC broadcast booth while St. Louis voice France Laux (pronounced Lox) called the action for CBS. The broadcasts were as different as the men behind them. The redheaded Manning was as fiery as Laux was dull. Manning was a cheerleader, not unlike current Indians’ broadcaster Tom Hamilton. Laux was the reporter Judge Landis wanted all baseball radio broadcasters to be. A year later Red Barber would show the world how to be a reporter without being dull, a difficult art which would be refined by his star student Vin Scully. Laux never got the bulletin and would lose listeners after World War II to Harry Caray.
Whether or not either Manning or Laux had access to stats is lost to history. What is known is neither man used stats once the game got underway. In both cases the broadcasters said what they felt needed saying and let the roar of the crowd compete with the roar of the static which marred all early radio broadcasts. The enormous crowd had plenty to roar about even more than they had in Chicago in 1933. Almost every player among the 20 men on each side would reach the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown which would open in 1939. The two starting pitchers were as good as you could want-the Yankees Lefty Gomez and the Dodgers King Carl Hubbell. Red Barber would later write that if his life were at stake and he needed a pitcher to pitch for it Hubbell would be his choice. Hubbell was never better than on this day. After Charlie Gehringer singled and Heinie Manush walked, he struck out the next five men he saw-Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Those 7 batters, plus catcher Bill Dickey and Gomez-all would be Hall of Famers. With Hubbell’s reign unquestioned the National Leaguers built a 4-0 lead behind a leadoff solo home run by Frankie Frisch and a third-inning 3-run blast by Joe Medwick. Starting pitchers went 3 innings then and no American Leaguer scored with King Carl opposing them. When he left the junior circuit struck for a pair in the 4th and 6 in the 5th. That made it 8-4 until the National League responded with 3 in the last of the fifth. Amazingly, the last run to score would be an American League run in the top of the 6th. While Hubbell’s feat is best remembered, the true hero is a pitcher who never made Cooperstown. With the National League on the rampage and the Americans’ pitching in shambles Mel Harder of the Indians took to the hill and restored law and order. He was allowed to go the rest of the way and got the win. Harder was then a 24-year-old righty from Nebraska in his 7th big league season. This was his first of 4 consecutive All-Star game appearances. Forgotten now, he had been second in ERA in his league for 1933. Before turning to coaching after 1947 he would appear in an amazing 582 games, still an Indians record. He worked through shoulder and elbow trouble from 1938 on. The 1934 All-Star game would cement the game’s place in baseball’s future and it would be the 1980’s before it would begin to decay into the circus it has become.