Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Dream Game

Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game took place at old Comiskey Park 77 years ago today. The photo above shows the American League team, with Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and manager Connie Mack (in business suit) recognizable on the left side of the back row.

     Arch Ward, sports editor of the Tribune, dreamed up what he called the Dream Game—better known as Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game—as an added attraction for Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition in 1933. A capacity crowd of 47,595 turned out for the inaugural All-Star Game at Comiskey Park. A nationwide poll of fans had selected the American and National League rosters, and the league presidents appointed Connie Mack and John McGraw, respectively, as managers. These choices had sentimental appeal: Mack was in his 33rd year at the helm of the Philadelphia A’s, and McGraw had recently retired due to ill health after three decades with the New York Giants.
     The American Leaguers wore their regular home uniforms, while the National Leaguers were decked out in steel-gray flannels with NATIONAL LEAGUE in blue block letters across their chests. With the home folks cheering him on, the White Sox’ popular third baseman Jimmie Dykes scored the first run in All-Star history. He coaxed a walk in the second inning and came around to score on a single by Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez. Dykes played the entire game for the A.L., going two-for-three and fielding his position flawlessly.
     Appropriately, the first home run in All-Star competition came off the bat of Babe Ruth; it was a two-run shot in the third off Bill Hallahan of the Cardinals. Ruth was 38 and growing more rotund all the time. Yet he showed that he could still rise to the occasion. In the eighth, he made a fine running catch of Chick Hafey’s sinking line drive to end a National League threat.
     The American Leaguers held on to win 4-2. Gomez was the winning pitcher, while Hallahan took the loss. Al Simmons of the White Sox had one hit in four at-bats. For the Cubs, catcher Gabby Hartnett and shortstop Woody English each went 0-for-1, and pitcher Lon Warneke surrendered one run in four innings of work (he also rapped a triple and scored a run). Of the 30 players who appeared in the game, 17 were destined for the Hall of Fame.
     When this first All-Star Game captured the public’s imagination to an extent that hadn’t been anticipated, baseball’s powers decided to make the midsummer classic an annual event. It became an immensely popular fixture over the years, fueling the genuine rivalry between the two leagues.
     Having hit a home run with his idea for baseball’s dream game, Ward inaugurated football’s College All-Star Game the next year. It matched the defending NFL champions against an all-star team of incoming rookies, and was played at Soldier Field every summer from 1934 through 1976.

Reprinted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert

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