All-Star Rewind 4: How Far Back Can we go?

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 Hi all.  here’s the 4th of 10 All-Star game profiles I will write before the next All-Star game is played on July 9, in Cleveland.  We’re taking the “Way Back Machine” as far back as baseball audio goes, to the second All-Star game which was played in New York in 1934.  I know I’ve written a theme about this game in this forum in summers past, but like reading “A Christmas Carole”,  listening to and writing about this classic game is a joy that never tires.  With a ton of early offense and gutsy pitching late, the American League held on to beat the National 9–7. 

  The first All-Star game had been played a year before at Comiskey Park, the home of the White Sox.  Arch Ward, a Chicago journalist conceived the idea as a charitable game to raise money for former ball players in dire need.  The country was in the depths of the Depression, and only a visionary baseball journalist had the idea to spare a dime for men who had no pension and few resources. 

  While the country sang “Brother, can you Spare a Dime?” plans were laid for the 1934 All-Star game considering how successful the game had been a year ago.  This time it was held at the Polo Grounds in New York. The park in Washington Heights had begun its life as “Brotherhood Park” in 1890, and was called “Brush Stadium from 1911-1919.  When the Yankee Stadium went up right across the river with its gigantic capacity of 62,000, the Giants’ ownership boosted theirs from 34,000 to 56,000. On a weekday afternoon with unemployment spreading like Spanish flu, 48,363 wheedled and cajoled until they found the means to enter the stadium. 

    The 1933 game had been broadcast on radio, but no part of it has survived the generations.  This game would be preserved in its entirety and is the oldest known baseball game to be fully recorded and preserved.  Radio was in its adolescence and only a few scientists knew that “television” was a future reality.  The two radio networks on the air flexed their muscle, sending their best announcers to the Polo Grounds.  NBC, the older of the two networks opened the broadcast with Graham McNamee who had broadcast political conventions, boxing, football and baseball in a career that had just a year left to run.  After he gave his commentary, the play-by-play was handled by the former voice of the Indians, Tom Manning.  The jovial redheaded Manning was a cheerleader broadcaster relying more on “ra ra” than on hard stats. His color man was Ford Bond.  The Louisville native had done boxing with McNamee and would be around for the upcoming World Series with his two All-Star game colleagues.  Down the dial on CBS (which still used its full Columbia Broadcasting System name more than its initials) the broadcast was a somewhat more low-key affair. Ted Husing let the audience feel his excitement without the open cheering of Manning on NBC.  When it came time for play-by-play, CBS turned to Franz Laux (pronounced Locks) with Husing providing color commentary between innings. Laux hadn’t said a word into a microphone before he was 30 in 1927.  7 years later, his native Oklahoma drawl could still be heard in his delivery. He covered the Cardinals and Browns starting in 1929.  After World War II, Harry Caray would browbeat the Browns into giving him a chance by criticizing Laux.  Laux certainly wasn’t the cheerleader Caray would be or the cheerleader Manning was for the rival network.  Broadcast booths as we know them were ages away, so the four network announcers and their technicians took up positions in the upper deck.  The deep reaches of the outfield required the use of binoculars, or “field glasses” as they were more connonly known at the time. 

  The All-Star rosters only had 20 men on each team in 1934, far fewer than MLB allows today.  For this reason, much more thought had to go into who was selected.  of the 40, it would be almost easier to say who wasn’t_ a future Hall of Famer than who was. Every single AL starter would go to Cooperstown-Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, Heinie Manush and Babe Ruth.  From the All-Star bull pen, Red Ruffing was bound for Cooperstown while Mel Harder, Jack Russell and Tommy Bridges weren’t. Both backup catchers Rick Farrell of Boston and the Tigers’ Mickey Cochrane would have their day in spite of a beaning that impaired Cochrane through his older years. Two who were All-Stars but not HOF’ers were the White Sox’ Jimmy Dykes and Michael “Pinky” Higgins of the Philadelphia Athletics. Two more were the Yankees’ Ben Chapman and the Browns’ Sam West.  A hero off the bench, Washington’s Earl Averill would join the Hall of Fame decades later. Washington’s Joe Cronin managed the All-Stars as he had managed the Senators to victory in the last World Series.  His rival manager was the Giants’ Bill Terry who Cronin had faced down the previous October.  Terry, the NL’s last .400 hitter had the impossible task of replacing legendary Giants manager John “Mugsy” McGraw.  In another better world, when I would pull my hat as low as it could go in frightfully cold weather, my wife would call me Mugsy, as in Mugsy McGraw.  Since she was a southpaw I called her Lefty if her hat was pulled low, the way mine was.  We would pretend we were 1930’s-era gangsters, not just two people trying to get from point A to point B before they froze.         

  Manager Terry had his own siege guns on his squad of 20 All-Stars.  Only his center fielder, Wally Berger of Boston would need to buy a ticket to see Cooperstown.  The rest of Terry’s starters number among the immortals: his lefty starter Carl Hubbell, his catcher Leo “Gabby” Hartnett of the Cubs, Terry, Frankie Frisch, Pie Traynor and Travis Jackson on the infield, Joe Medwick in left and Kiki (Rhyme it with my My) Cuyler.  A native of Waldo, Arkansas, Cuyler died too soon for the “Where’s Waldo” game in the 1990’s. Of manager Terry’s pitchers behind starter Hubbell, Dizzy Dean went into the Hall in spite of a career marred by injuries. Other pitchers at Terry’s disposal were Fred Frankhouse of the Braves, the Cubs’ Lon Warneke and the colorful Van Lingle Mungo.  In later years Mungo supposedly had to be smuggled out of Cuba to avoid the wrath of a local man whose anger the former pitcher had provoked.  Terry’s reserves included Hall of Famer’s Mel Ott, Paul Waner, catcher Al Lopez and second baseman Billy herman of the Cubs.  Third baseman Pepper Martin, shortstop Arky Vaughn, outfielder Chuck Klein and outfielder JoJo Moore of his Giants were available to Terry.  Both sides had hitters that could provide serious fireworks which is what the crowd got to see while millions across the country got as close to their radios as they could. 

     The first two innings of this All-Star game are still talked about by lovers of baseball’s glorious past.  The National League opened with King Carl Hubbell on the hill.  He threw the “screwball” which Christy Mathewson had called the “fadeaway” 30 years earlier while pitching at the same stadium.  Hubbell got himself in trouble right off the bat. The first two hitters reached on a single by Charlie Gehringer and a walk to Henry Emmett “Heinie”  Manush (pronounced MaNoosh.)    Now Hubbell seemed in for it.  He only had to face Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx with two runners aboard.  At the peak of his powers he struck out all 3 hitters.  The recordings are incredibly hard to understand due to the ravages of time, but Tom Manning’s excitement on NBC can be heard through the roar of static.   In the home half, the cardinals’ manager and second baseman Frankie Frisch homered.  Then Hubbell returned to the mound.  In the home second he struck out Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, making 5 consecutive strikeouts of 5 of the greatest hitters the game would ever know. 

  Regulations then decreed that the starters should go 3 innings which Hubbell did.  His team built a 4–0 lead thanks to a mighty 3-run clout by New Jersey native Joe Medwick.  He was a Cardinal and as such would be a controversial figure in the upcoming World Series. Without Hubbell, the AL cut the lead in half in the 4th off the Cubs’ Lon Warneke. With one out, two of Hubbell’s earlier victims struck for the first AL run.  Al Simmins doubled, followed by a sharp single off the bat of Boston’s player-manager Joe Cronin. Pinch-hitter Earl Averill of the Senators then tripled home Cronin.   The junior circuit followed that up with a 6-run barrage in the 5th off Warneke and the Dodgers pitcher with the musical sounding name, Van Lingle Mungo. 35 years later a folk song called simply “Van Lingle Mungo” would be played on the radio.  On this July day in 1934, Mungo had less luck than Warneke had. Ruth and Gehrig walked off Warneke sending him to the showers and bringing Mungo in. The South Carolina native gave up a single to Foxx for an RBI as Ruth lumbered across the plate. Al Simmons then singled to tie the game. After a walk to Bill Dickey that loaded the bases, Earl Averill put up his second extra base wallop, a 2-run double making it 6–4 American League.  That was shortly followed by a 2-run single off the bat of Charlie “Red” Ruffing, the Yankee pitcher hitting for himself. The National League rallied strongly in their half of the 5th.  First up was Pepper Martin hitting for Mungo.  Martin, the Cardinals’ “Wild Horse of the Osage” walked. After Frisch singled him to third, the Pirates’ Pie Traynor singled Martin home. Pinch-hitting for Medwick, the Phillies’ Chuck Klein singled home Frisch, the Fordham Flash.  That put the score at 8-6 in favor of the American League.  Their next pitcher was the Indians’ Mel Harder replacing Ruffing.  The NL found it would be harder to hit going forward.  After a force play put Traynor on third, he and the Giants’ Mel Ott pulled off a double steal making it 8–7.  That remains the only time anybody stole home in an All-Star game. Facing Dizzy Dean in the 6th, Simmons and Cronin both doubled.  When Simmons scored the AL was ahead 9–7 and there the score would remain.  Mel Harder pitched brilliantly the rest of the way. The last NL pitcher was Fred Frankhouse of the Boston Braves who didn’t give any ground to the AL hitters, but the damage was done.  When the dust had settled, the game had taken nearly 3 hours to complete, an unusually long time in 1934 but barely 6 innings today.  It would be nearly a decade before an All-Star game as exciting as this one would be played. When you see All-Star Rewind 5, I will profile that game, the last peacetime All-Star game before the United States were thrust into World War II.                 

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