Thursday, July 12, 2012

The All-Time All-Star Game, Part I

See what I did there? I found a picture of Hank Aaron, who figures prominently in this Part I, wearing a special National League uniform from a Cracker Jack Old-Timers Game in the 1980s.

Anyway, here we go...

Home plate umpire Doug Harvey yells, "Play ball!"

The other umpires are: 1st base, Bill Klem; 2nd base, Bill McGowan; 3rd base, Billy Evans; left field, Nestor Chylak; right field, Jocko Conlan. Three from each League: National, Harvey, Klem and Conlan; American, McGowan, Evans and Chylak.

Sandy Koufax begins the game on the mound for the National League.  Eddie Collins leads off for the American League.

Top of the 1st: Koufax's 1st delivery is a letter-high fastball, and Collins smacks it up the middle. Right into the action. The NL's shortstop makes a diving stop and a brilliant throw to nail the speedy Collins by the step. Except the shortstop isn't the graceful Ozzie Smith, but the ungainly-looking Honus Wagner. Considering Wagner's bat and his glove, it's doubtful Ozzie will take the field this fine, warm but breezy Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn.

Joe DiMaggio is up next, and laces a clean single to left. Man on 1st, 1 out, with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams coming up. True, Koufax is a lefty, but any of those lefties can take a pitcher downtown.

But the Babe gets greedy, and Koufax strikes him out on three pitches. Gehrig just gets under a pitch and flies to right, where Hank Aaron has an easy catch.

Williams steps up with DiMaggio on 1st and 2 out. Ted Williams vs. Sandy Koufax. This is a matchup that never really happened, as Williams won his only Pennant when Koufax was in grade school ,and Koufax didn't reach his 1st All-Star Game until after Williams retired. It's a dream matchup: Perhaps the most knowledgeable hitter ever against perhaps the most knowledgeable pitcher ever.

Ted yells, "You gonna strike me out, Sandy? Jesus H. Christ himself couldn't strike me out!"

Sandy, being Jewish, is unimpressed with this particular piece of trash talk.

Koufax throws a curve on the inside corner. Harvey calls strike 1. Williams glares at him. Koufax throws a curve on the outside corner. Harvey calls strike 2.

"Doug," Williams says, "if either of those pitches was a strike, Ol' T.S.W. would have swung at it."

"Ted," Harvey says, "shut up and bat."

Catcher Johnny Bench calls time, walks out to the mound. "Hell with it, Sandy," he says. "What's the worst that can happen? With this lineup, we can come back from 2-0 down. Throw the heat."

Koufax does. Williams' eyes pop out like Rodney Dangerfield's. He swings... and it's deep to center field. DiMaggio turns around...

...and sees Willie Mays tracking it with little apparent effort, just like he would have. Joe says, "No," but runs to 3rd anyway, because there are 2 outs, and you never know. Mays calmly stands on the warning track and catches it. No runs.

Bottom of the 1st: Walter Johnson is on the mound, the Big Train. Wagner leads off. Another matchup that should have happened way back when, but didn't, as Wagner won no Pennants after 1909, Johnson never won one until 1924, and there was no All-Star Game until 1933. Wagner pounds one into the ground, a Baltimore chop. Appropriately enough, it is Cal Ripken who runs for it -- but he boots it. The Flying Dutchman is on with an error.

Stan Musial up. He tries to go to the opposite field, but can only ground to 3rd. Alex Rodriguez gets the force at 2nd, but there will be no play at 1st.

Next up is Rogers Hornsby. Johnson knows of Hornsby's famous eyesight, so pitches carefully. Perhaps a little too carefully: Base hit to center.

What happens when a man with 3,508 strikeouts faces a man with 3,771 hits -- 755 of them home runs? We are about to find out, as Aaron comes up. Williams had warned Johnson, who died before Aaron reached the majors: "Hank Aaron can rip a fastball." And Johnson, as great as it was, had only a fastball. Walking him to load the bases would be no good, as Mays is up next.

Johnson tries to jam Aaron. It doesn't work: Aaron smacks a line drive that goes off the left-field wall. Williams relays it back as best he can, but Musial scores. Hornsby on 3rd, Aaron on 2nd, still only 1 out.

Mays flies to right. The Babe used to be a pitcher, but his great arm can't stop Hornsby from turning this into a sacrifice fly.

Johnson strikes out Albert Pujols, but damage has been done. At the end of the 1st innning, NL 2, AL 0.

Top of the 2nd: Koufax gets A-Rod to pop up, Yogi to ground to 2nd, and Cal to pop up.

Bottom of the 2nd: AL Manager Casey Stengel takes no chances, as he sends Bob Feller out to pitch in relief of Johnson. Feller strikes out Mike Schmidt, and gets Bench to fly to left. Having seen that Koufax has retired 6 men in a row, NL manager John McGraw sends up a pinch-hitter. Since Feller is righthanded, he needs a lefty. He chooses Duke Snider, and the Brooklyn crowd goes wild. But they go silent as Feller guns him down on 3 pitches.  At the end of the 2nd inning, NL 2, AL 0.

Top of the 3rd: The new NL pitcher is McGraw's favorite, Christy Mathewson. Feller was a bad hitter even by pitchers' standards, so Stengel sends up the lefthanded Ty Cobb to face Matty. Big Six tries to sneak a screwball past Cobb, but the Georgia Peach isn't having it: He rips it up the gap in left-center. He's got 2nd easily, and goes for 3rd. But Mays throws it in, A-Rod gets it, and is ready to slap the tag on Cobb. Tyrus sees what's going to happen: He's going to be denied this base because of the throw of a black man and the tag of a Latino. "What the hell," he thinks, "I'm not staying in the game anyway." He goes spikes high, and kicks the ball out of A-Rod's glove, and cuts his arm.

"Safe!" yells umpire Evans, who then calls crew chief Harvey over to enforce discipline. "I saw that, Cobb," the umpire nicknamed "God" says. "Yer out of the game!"

"Big deal," Cobb says. "I got the damn Yankee."

Casey sends Rod Carew to pinch-run. This is a bit of whimsy on the Ol' Perfesser's part: Aside from Cobb himself, and Jackie Robinson, no player is more known for stealing home plate than Carew.

Collins comes up, but Mathewson gets him to ground to 3rd. Carew can't advance. Next up is DiMaggio, who flies to center, but it's enough, as Carew scores easily. 2-1.

Mathewson vs. Ruth.  What a concept. But Ruth is, for the most part, unfamiliar with the pitch Mathewson called the fadeaway and most later observers called the screwball. He can't get his bat on it, and strikes out.

Bottom of the 3rd: Casey pulls a double-switch, leaving Carew in the game at 2nd base, batting 9th; his new pitcher, slated to bat in the 1st position, is Cy Young, who was a decent-hitting pitcher.

Up comes Wagner. Honus vs. Cy did happen, in the 1st World Series, in 1903. In 15 plate appearances against the Cyclone, the Flying Dutchman went a weak 2-for-12, but with that came a double, 2 walks, a hit-by-pitch and 2 RBIs. Wagner hits a fastball hard to center, but DiMaggio tracks it well and catches it.

Musial singles to right. But Hornsby can't handle Young's curve, and grounds in a Ripken-to-Collins-to-Gehrig double play. At the end of the 3rd inning, it's the National League 2, and the American League 1.

Part II will follow.

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