All-Star Rewind 7–Summer of Love, All-Star Game of Shadows

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Hi all.  Here’s part 7 of the All-Star Rewind series.   This time, the theme is the 1967 All-Star game, the first All-Star game to go 15 innings.  Like a game from 2019, it was a game of strikeouts and home runs with the National League coming out on top 2–1.  Considering it went 15 innings, it was briskly played in just under 4 hours.  If Tuesday night’s All-Star game goes 15 innings, it will probably be 2 A.M. Wednesday before it ends. 

  Pitching dominated baseball through much of the sixties.  Nothing had changed by 1967 even with the premature retirement of the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax.  At this remove, it’s hard to imagine that a man could be afraid to use cortisone, but Taking the new medicine was a step farther than Koufax was willing to go.  There would be no shortage of pitchers taking his place when the All-Star game came about.  American music fans were buying the song “San Francisco,” sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips of “The Mamas and the Papas.”  The song peaked at number 4 on July 1 and held that position for a month.  Songs from that year that still get played now and then include the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love,”  “Light my Fire” by the Doors, and “Penny Lane” among other Beatles songs that hit the charts that year.  Among many hit TV shows that year were “Bat Man,” “Star Trek,” “lassie,” and one my mother watched in reruns decades later, “The Fugitive.”  It must have been something about David Janssen. 

  The All-Star game was played at Anaheim Stadium, as the new stadium in Anaheim was then called.  After playing their 1961 home games at tiny Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, (an old Pacific Coast League park) the Angels rented out Dodger Stadium from 1962–65, calling it “Chavez Ravine Stadium” when they played there.  Until an expansion meant for football in 1980, the park held just over 43,000 fans.  With the cream of both leagues in town, they overfilled the seats by over 3300 people.  The managers had been opponents in the last World Series-Walter “Smokey” Alston of the Dodgers against Hank Bauer of the Orioles.  In the series, Bauer’s Baby Birds had bested the Dodgers in 4 games including 3 straight shutouts.  On NBC-TV, the fans heard and saw a Hall of Fame broadcaster and two former Dodgers.  Curt Gowdy handled with play-by-play with  Harold Pee Wee Reese and Sandy Koufax working in color commentary.  Jim Simpson did radio play-by-play of his second All-Star game with Tony Kubek on color.  For one segment of 3 innings, Angels’ play-by-play man Buddy Blattner called the action and got lucky.  He called the only moment the American League hitters would want to remember. 

  With the larger rosters now permitted, teams were more mixed as to future Hall of Famers and All-Stars who wouldn’t be counted among the greatest.  The rosters of 1934 and 1941 counted only 20 men each.  The leagues then each held only 8 teams.  By 1967 each league was up to 10 teams and further expansion was in the works.  Of necessity the All-Star rosters were expanded.  On the NL, 15 men would be inducted as players or coaches.  One was manager Alston along with his ace righty Don Drysdale.  Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal and rookie Tom Seaver were other All-Star pitchers with futures at Cooperstown.  Joe Torre, Ernie Banks, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Mazeroski, Tony Perez, Hank Aaron, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays would be inducted in that small village in upstate New York.  Other All-Stars on Alston’s side included Mike Cuellar (Kway-ar if you use JAWS,) Chris Short and Claude Osteen, Tom Haller, Tim McCarver, Tommy Helms, Dick Allen, Gene Alley, Pete Rose, and two of Cuellar’s teammates Rusty Staub and  Jimmy Wynn of Houston.  

  Across the field, just 7 of manager Bauer’s players would be inducted into Cooperstown.  The only Hall of Fame pitcher on his roster was Catfish Hunter, then pitching for the Kansas City Athletics.  The next season, with his team moved to Oakland, Hunter would fire a perfect game … and barely 6,000 would watch it.  There were two other men named Jim pitching–Lomborg of the Red Sox and McGlothlin of the Indians.  Though neither made Cooperstown, it’s clear that in 1967 you didn’t mess around with Jim.  Dean Chance, Al Downing, Steve Hargan, Joe Horlen and Gary Peters filled out the staff.  Despite the fact that the game went 15, 3 men didn’t pitch–Hargan, Horlen or Lomborg.  The  Hall of Fame position players were Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Carl Yastrzemsky and an injured Frank Robinson who couldn’t appear.  The same went for Al Kaline.  While Bauer had 3 catchers, one of whom was his own man Andy Etchebarren, the Tigers’ Bill Freehan caught all 15 innings.  The other unemployed catcher that night was the Senators’ Paul Casanova.  Filling out the roster were Don Mincher, Max Alvis, Jim Fregosi, Dick McAuliffe, Rico Petrocelli, Tommy Agee (a future Mets’ hero now toiling for the White Sox), Ken Berry, Tony Oliva and Tony Conigliaro.  The Red Sox’ young star would see his career implode 5 weeks later, at Fenway against the Angels’ Jack Hanilton.  He later wrote a book about his comeback called “Seeing It Through” but after 1971 it was clear his eyesight was permanently damaged. 

  While today’s players swing wildly resulting in either home runs or strikeouts, players with 200 strikeouts in a season wouldn’t make the majors in 1967.  The game turned out the way it did because it was played at twilight.  Games in California seldom started anywhere near 4 PM, as this one did.  Night games started at 8 and afternoon games started at 1 or 2.  All World Series games were still played in the afternoon, as the 1959 All-Star game in Los Angeles and the 1961 game in San Francisco had been.  What everybody discovered was, the shadows made it very difficult for even the best hitters in the game to hit, considering the superior quality of the pitching.  The Phillies’ Dick Allen homered leading off the second inning off the starting pitcher, Dean Chance of the Angels.  In the home 6th, facing the Cubs’ Ferguson Jenkins, Brooks Robinson of the Orioles tied the game with his own solo shot.  In years to come, particularly in the 1970 World Series, his glove would be the first thing fans thought about, earning him the nickname “The Human Vacuum Cleaner.”  But he didn’t suck as a hitter, as Jenkins found out the hard way.  With a man gone in the top of the 15th, the Reds’ Tony Perez hit a long one off Catfish Hunter which would prove to be the winning run.  At this point, although Jim Lomborg, a Red Sox hero in the upcoming World Series was available, Hunter was allowed to pitch 5 innings and get the loss.  Manager Alston removed his own man Drysdale after the 14th and trusted the Fresno native Tom Seaver, a rookie to lock the game down in the home 15th.  With the shadows as the pitcher’s allies, the dozen moundsmen struck out 30 men in the 15 innings of play.  Ferguson Jenkins outstripped everybody, striking out 6 men in his 3 innings on the hill.  It would take 41 years until 30 batters struck out again in All-Star play.  That involved another 15-inning affair which is a story for another day.         

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