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Doug's Diggings: All-Star game brings back memories

All-Star baseball fever comes to Minneapolis this weekend, capped by the game itself Tuesday evening, July 15.

Of course, the all-star experience has grown into so much more than just a baseball game. The weekend has various activities, with the first baseball being played Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. with the “All-Star Futures” game at 4 p.m. It is followed by the Celebrity Softball Game at about 7:30 p.m.

Almost bigger than the game itself is the Home Run Derby at 7 p.m. Monday night. The format has changed slightly over the years, but most people may not realize that the modern Home Run Derby had its beginning back in 1985, the last time the game was held in Minneapolis (Metrodome). The winner of that first event was Dave Parker (at the time playing for Cincinnati).

The All-Star game will be played Tuesday, July 15, at 7 p.m.

I will be dating myself, but here it goes. I attended the first two All-Star games that were held in Minnesota. The first was in 1965 at the old Met Stadium and the second in 1985 at the Metrodome. I will NOT, however, be attending next Tuesday’s game.

It is interesting that the baseball All-Star game is the only (of the major sports) one that really attracts attention. Of course, it’s the only one that is played for a reason -- the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series. But, even before that, the baseball classic has always been popular.

The NFL game (held after the season) generates no interest. There has even been talk of eliminating it all together. The NBA and NHL games are played at mid-season, but garner little attention as the games become individual shows with unrealistically high scoring shows.

I was in high school when I attended my first All-Star game at the old Met in 1965 during the afternoon of July 13. I remember sitting in the sun of left field seats. Ironically, I was not a Twins fan in the early days. I grew up being a Milwaukee Brave fan. I wasn’t sure I would recover mentally when they moved to Atlanta in 1966.

In ’65, however, the Braves were still in Milwaukee and I had my eyes glued on the two Braves representatives, outfielder Hank Aaron and catcher Joe Torre. The Twins, of course, had a great team in 1965 and eventually made to the World Series. They had six representatives on the AL squad: first baseman Harmon Killebrew, catcher Earl Battey, pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant, outfielder Jimmie Hall, outfielder Tony Oliva and shortstop Zoilo Versalles.

The National League took a 5-0 lead after the first two innings. Joe Torre hit a two-run homer in the first. Torre went one for four; Aaron batted five times in the game, going one for five (single in the seventh inning). The American League made a furious comeback, however, scoring one in the fourth and four in the fifth to tie the game at 5-5. Harmon Killebrew hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.

The NL scored the winning run in the seventh. Willie Mays walked and Aaron singled. Roberto Clemente hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Aaron out at second. Ron Santo followed with a single, driving in Mays with the eventually winning run. Tony Oliva led off the ninth with a double, but the AL could not push across the tying run against Bob Gibson. Note how deep into the game the stars were still playing! Of course, the rosters were much smaller in those days.

The attendance was 46,706 and with 11 runs and 19 hits, the time of the game was only 2 hours and 45 minutes (compare that with Tuesday night’s game)! I don’t remember how I got a ticket to the game, but it was probably a mail in, or mail-in lottery of some sort. I know I felt pretty lucky to be in the seats that day.

In 1985 I managed to get two tickets through a mail-in lottery system – luckily mine was chosen so I could purchase two tickets. I again sat in left field during an evening game at the Metrodome. The National league dominated, winning 6-1. After 20 years, the Braves were now a distant memory and I was a Twins fan, but also Brewer fan. In 1985, of course, the Brewers were still in the American league.

The Twins were still struggling as they were putting together a team that would win the 1987 World Series; the Brewers were tumbling from their glory days of being the World Series in 1982. Brewers on the AL roster were first baseman Cecil Cooper and third baseman Paul Molitor. The only Twin on the AL roster was outfielder Tom Brunansky. Bert Blyleven was on the roster, but as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He was traded back the Twins later that summer.

The AL’s lone run came in the bottom of the first when Rickey Henderson scored on George Brett’s sacrifice fly. The NL scored single runs in the second and third innings and two runs in the fifth and ninth innings. There were no home runs, Willie McGee and Ozzie Virgil each had two RBIs for the National League. Brunansky batted once in the eighth and grounded to short. Molitor batted once in the seventh and struck out; Cooper batted once in the fifth and walked (stranded at first). Attendance at the dome was 54,960 and the time of the game was 2 hours and 54 minutes.

The 1965 game, of course, was much more exciting than the 1985 contest. Based on the fact that I will not be attending the 2014 All-Star game, maybe the American League can pull one out! They haven’t had much luck in Minnesota.

The All-Star game dates back to 1933. The National League has a slight edge: National League 43, American League 39, 2 ties. In case you are wondering why those numbers don’t add up, it is because the league had two All-Star games for four years. That came in 1959, 1969, 1961 and 1962. There was no game in 1945.

The first Major League All-Star Game was played on July 6, 1933 at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago. It was initiated at the insistence of Arch Ward, a sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, to coincide with the celebration of Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition.

All-Star teams were originally selected by the managers and the fans for the 1933 and 1934 games. From 1935 through 1946, managers selected the entire team for each league. From 1947 to 1957, fans chose the team's starters and the manager chose the pitchers and the remaining players. From 1958 through 1969, managers, players, and coaches made the All-Star Team selections. In 1970, the vote again returned to the fans for the selection of the starters for each team and remains there today.

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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