All-Star Rewind 8: The Game’s Best HIT_ the Upper Midwest

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  Hi all.  Today I present the 8th episode in the All-Star Rewind series.  This time it’s the 1965 Mid-Summer classic, played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota.   Like the 1934 game, there was serious offense early, but a run in the 7th locked down a 6–5 win for the NL, their third of what would become 8 All-Star wins in a row. 

  1965 saw the beginnings of the violence   both here and abroad which would escalate in the years to follow.  The craziness that had begun with the assassination of President Kennedy continued in February when black activist Malcolm X was gunned down.  In the summer, vicious rioting broke out in the Watts section of Los Angeles.  The first labels began to appear on cigarette packs warning of the evil the deadly things could do.  For millions of veteran smokers like my dad, it was already too late.  A loaf of bread cost 21 cents back then, 10 times less than what I pay for it.  If any youngsters are reading it, gas didn’t always cost nearly 3 bucks a gallon (higher in some states.)  In 1965 it could be had for 31 cents a gallon.  In the fall, the St. Louis Gateway Arch was completed.  A month after that, on a freezing November night, large parts of the East Coast and parts of Ontario went dark.  Power didn’t come back for as much as 13 hours.  One excellent result of that power failure was, it became the topic for the Bee Gees’ song “Massachusetts.”  Both “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” were hit movies that year. In June, as part of the Gemini IV mission, astronaut Ed White made the first space walk.  Reluctantly, he returned to the spacecraft when his colleague James McDivitt sharply said “The flight director says get back in.”  Their words from space were picked up by national radio and TV.  If they had waited a month, they might have cast about in space looking for some of the home runs hit during the All-Star game.  As early as 1962, Mets’ announcer Bob Murphy would say of massive home runs, “He hit that one into orbit.”  There were some no-doubters hit on July 13, 1965. 

  The old Washington Senators of Clark Griffith fame had moved to Minnesota when his son Calvin made it so.  A new team began play in Washington in 1961, as did the Los Angeles Angels.  Metropolitan Stadium was the Twins’ home.  Sadly, the Mall of America stands where the old stadium did. 

   If you’ve never been to the frozen tundra, Bloomington is just outside both of the twin cities, so it’s neither in Minneapolis or St. Paul.  It opened as an 18,000-seat minor league facility in 1956.  Willie Mays’ former team, the Minneapolis Millers moved there from Nicollet Park where you might  well see rats in the clubhouse.  Year by year, more seats were added until by 1965, 45,000 could fit in the stadium.  Another 1700 resourceful and tolerant fans bulged the stadium beyond its legal limit when the game’s best made their first trip to the upper Midwest.  I have no idea how this happened, but for game 7 of the 1965 World Series with the Twins facing Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, more than 50,000 shoe-horned their way in.  Even when the Beatles came to town during 1965 they didn’t draw 50,000.  While the Twins outdrew everybody in their league from 1961 to 1970, they never had another crowd of 50,000.  Even the football Vikings could never draw such a crowd.  Particularly for baseball, there wasn’t a bad siteline at the Met, as the stadium was called.

  In at least one way, the park was conducive to home run hitting.  The left center field power alley was 365 feet from home plate.  By contrast, at Yankee Stadium, the same gap was 457 feet and known as Death Valley.  The other power alley in right center was a reasonably short 370 feet, compared to 407 feet at the House that Ruth Built.  High-scoring games were common while the stadium stood, and an offensive display was delivered by the top hitters in the land on the afternoon of the second Tuesday in July. 

  This was the last All-Star game where NBC did not use their own employees to handle the broadcasts.  On TV, the game was carried by Jack Buck of the Cardinals and Joe Garagiola of the Yankees.  On the radio side, the country got to hear Herb Carneal, the voice of the Twins, and the Pirates’ Bob Prince.  “The Gunner” as Prince was called in Pittsburgh had a gravel voice and a homespun sense of humor.  Of a close play he would say  “He got him out by a gnat’s eyelash,” an expression I’ve borrowed for close calls in my own life.  I’m usually late for almost everything, but if I happen to be in time for my ride, I might say “I just made my ride by a gnat’s eyelash.”  If the Pirates barely won a tightly contested game, at the end he would say “We had ’em all the way.”  This was his first taste of national radio.  He would get another in the 1966 World Series, working with the Orioles’ Chuck Thompson.  Carneal wasn’t so lucky.  When the Twins made it to the World Series, NBC went with Byrum Saam and Mel Allen, leaving Carneal literally out in the cold.  I met Herb Carneal almost 35 years after the 1965 All-Star game.  Even as he approached 80, he was amazing to listen to.  If the microphone wasn’t turned on, he sounded every bit as old as he was.  But when the microphone went hot, somehow 20 years dropped away from Carneal’s voice. 

  The managing situation was different in 1965.  The managers of the two teams in 1964 had both lost their jobs.  It was decided that the two second-place managers should guide the All-Stars.  As such, the Phillies’ Gene Mauch and the White Sox’ Al Lopez managed their charges. 

  The NL as usual had its share of future Hall of Famers, 13 in number. Among the pitchers was the starter and game MVP, Juan Marichal of the Giants.  Roger Angell described him as “a deadly farm implement” when Marichal made his delivery.   The Dodgers’ twin nightmares-Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were All-Stars along with Bob Gibson.  Pitchers who were All-Stars but not HOF’ers were the Reds’ Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney, the Astros’ Turk Farrell and Bob Veale of Pittsburgh.  Future Hall of Famer Joe Torre was still a catcher in 1965, still years away from moving to third base where I first heard of him in 1971.  Other All-Stars with Hall of Fame futures were Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Hank Aaron, Billy Williams of the Cubs, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Frank Robinson who would be traded in the coming winter for American League starter Milt Pappas.  Other NL All-Stars included the Reds’ Johnny Edwards, the Mets’ Edd Kranepool, Cookie Rojas and Dick Allen of the Phillies,  Pete Rose and Leo Cardenas of the Reds, the Dodgers’ Maury Wills and Johnny Callison of the Phillies.  The  year before, when Shea Stadium was still new enough to gawk at, Callison had ended the All-Star game with a 3-run home run in the home 9th inning.   

  On the American League squad, just 6 had Cooperstown in their futures.  Not one of these was a pitcher.  The six included manager Al Lopez, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle (who was injured) and Carl Yastrzemski.  The All-Star pitchers on Lopez’s squad were as a group the least known among All-Star pitchers.  They included the White Sox’ knuckleballer Eddie Fisher, the Twins’ Mudcat Grant, the Angels’ Bob Lee, Sam McDowell of Cleveland, John O’Donoghue of the Kansas City A’s, the Orioles’ Milt Pappas, Washington’s Pete Richert and the Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre.  Their position players included Earl batty, Zoilo Versalles, Jimmy Hall and Tony Oliva of the Twins, Detroit’s Bill Freehan, the Yankees’ Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and Joe Pepitone,  Felix Mantilla of Boston, the Indians’ Max Alvis, Vic Davalillo and Rocky Colovito, and the Tigers’ Dick McAuliffe and Willie Horton. 

          The fans had barely gotten to their seats before the NL grabbed a 3–0 lead.  Facing the Orioles’ Milt Pappas, Willie Mays hit a leadoff homer over the fence in left center field.  Willie Stargell then singled, followed by a 2-run 4-bagger off the bat of Joe Torre.  Pappas was chosen to start as he was the one AL pitcher with past All-Star experience.  Going against convention, manager Lopez pulled Pappas after an inning and inserted the Twins’ Jim Mudcat Grant.  The usual at that time was for the starter to last 3 innings, and that would continue to be the norm for at least another decade.  Grant was greeted by a 2-run blast off the bat of the Pirates’ Willie Stargell.  Prince, a homer to the bone, didn’t pretend partiality when the great Stargell put a charge into one.  While he stood in against Grant, Prince described in loving detail a recent game in which Stargell hit 3 home runs, one completely out of Dodger Stadium and nearly missed a 4th in a park that was notoriously stingy about home runs.  Then Stargell unleashed his shot toward the scoreboard in right center, making it 5–0 National League. 

  The game remained where it was, at 5–0 NL until the AL got their bats going.  They put up a run in the 4th and tied the game with 4 in the fifth. The NL brought on the Reds’ Jim Maloney, who a month earlier barely missed pitching a no-hitter against the lowly Mets and ended by losing the game.  This afternoon he just didn’t have it.  In the 4th,  Dick McAuliffe singled and following a walk, he was driven home on a sharp single by Rocky Colovito.  In the 5th, Maloney gave up a 2-run home run to the Tigers’ McAuliffe.  His shot went some 420 feet to right center.  Even the great Willie Mays who had hauled in longer drives than that in years past knew this one wouldn’t be brought down.   After Brooks Robinson tapped an infield single, the home town hero, Harmon Killebrew struck one that stayed hit and tied the game.  This 4-bagger went the other way, over the fence and into the stands in left.   All 4 of the Al runs scored after Maloney had retired the first 2 men in the 5th.  In a rare All-Star game move, manager Mauch pulled Maloney immediately after Killebrew’s wallop and turned the job over to Don Drysdale.  The Dodgers’ star righty shut the American Leaguers down and they didn’t hit much for the rest of the day.  Meantime in the 7th, the National League scored what would prove to be the winning run.  In sharp contrast to the 4 home runs hit earlier in the day, the NL hitters manufactured their last run off the Indians’ Sam McDowell.  He walked Mays, gave up a single to Henry Aaron.  With two on, Ron Santo put up an infield hit driving Mays across.  Bob Gibson held the fort for the NL in the 9th.  Tony Oliva got into scoring position with a double, but Gibson struck out Killebrew and the Yankees’ Joe Pepitone to end things. 

  The Twins would barely lose the 1965 World Series to the Dodgers in 7 games, 4 of which were played at Metropolitan Stadium.  They would win the AL western division in 1969 and 1970, the first two years the AL West existed.  They chased Oakland for the next 5 years and Kansas City for the 5 after that.  By the end of 1981, the Twins had to move into the Metrodome.  The NFL required the Vikings to move into a bigger facility, leaving the Twins with little choice.  The All-Star game would return to Minnesota in the Metrodome in 1985 and at Target Field in 2014.            

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