As I predicted last week on my television show, Major League Baseball added Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and closer Brad Hand to the American League All-Star Game roster, joining teammate Carlos Santana, who was elected by the fans to be the starting first baseman for the game July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Hand has only failed to get a save in one of his 24 opportunities and might be brought in to close the game if the situation warrants. Cleveland will host the game for a record sixth time, the first four coming at Municipal Stadium.
In 1935, the third All-Star Game took place in Cleveland, without Babe Ruth, the greatest player of all time, who had retired as a member of the Boston Braves in the middle of the season. Nineteen future Hall of Famers did play in that game, won by the American League, 4-1, in front of more than 69,000 fans.
Cleveland Stadium was again selected for the 1954 game – the year the Tribe won 111 games – and three Indians, Al Rosen, Bobby Avila and Larry Doby, were instrumental in an 11-9 AL win, a game that ranks with the best of all time. Rosen hit two homers in the game, matching what Arky Vaughan did in 1941 and Ted Williams did in 1946. Later, Willie McCovey would do the same in 1969 and in 1981, Gary Carter became the game MVP in Cleveland in front of a record 72,086 people.
In a game that lacked big plays, except for those made by Willie Mays, the NL beat the AL 5-3 in Cleveland in 1963. In the previous four years, MLB experimented with two All-Star Games, but discovered a lack of interest by the fans. The game in 1981 was sloppy, as many players were not in game-playing shape (except Carter, obviously), as the NL won 5-4, welcoming baseball back from the strike.
And, of course, there was Sandy Alomar Jr’s two-run home run in 1997 which broke a one-all tie in the seventh, leading to a 3-1 win for the American League. As the All-Star Game MVP award wasn’t introduced until 1962, eliminating Rosen’s chances of winning it in 1954, Alomar became the first player to be named the MVP of the game as a member of the host team.
I am biased about this, but very few people would agree with my choice of a favorite All-Star Game moment. It was a non-memorable moment for a losing team, in 1980 in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. My friend and teammate – or opponent – for 10 years, Steve Stone, took the mound for the American League. In those days, pitchers sometimes pitched two or three innings in the All-Star Game.
Stone played for the Baltimore Orioles that season and had his manager, Earl Weaver, in the dugout for the game, so it must have been OK with the organization. He pitched three perfect innings. Davey Lopes grounded out, Reggie Smith flew out to center and Dave Parker struck out to end the first inning. In the second, Steve Garvey popped out, Johnny Bench grounded out and Dave Kingman struck out. In the third, Ken Reitz grounded out, Bill Russell flew out and pitcher Bob Welsh struck out. Stone ended all three innings with a strikeout and, incredibly, threw only 24 pitches in those three innings.
Stone won the American League Cy Young Award that year with, in my opinion, one of the greatest years turned in by a pitcher. He continues his association with the game as the color analyst for the Chicago White Sox. I’m biased about this, too, but he continues to be one of the best ever in that position.