July 6, 2007
BASEBALL: 70 Years Ago
Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the worst All-Star Game in National League history. The NL lost 8-3 to an AL lineup with seven Hall of Famers (Gehrig - who drove in 4 runs - DiMaggio, Gehringer, Averill, Cronin, Dickey and Lefty Gomez), but that's not the issue.
First, there was the famous injury to Dizzy Dean. Dean wasn't just one of the two best pitchers in the game (along with Carl Hubbell), averaging 27 wins and 8 saves a year the prior three seasons; he was also, at 27, 7 years younger than Hubbell and the biggest drawing card and outsize personality in the game with the retirement of Babe Ruth. Dean had his toe broken by an Earl Averill line drive in the third inning, tried to come back too quickly, and hurt his arm. By the following year, the once-flamethrowing Dean was a broken-down finesse pitcher wiling his way to a 7-1 record for the Cubs, and that was the last time he was a useful pitcher.
The game's toll didn't end with Dean, though. The hardest thrower in the NL in those days, and its premier strikeout pitcher in 1935-36, wasn't Dean but the eccentric Van Lingle Mungo. Mungo, 26 years old in 1937, hadn't enjoyed Dean's success, but seemed perennially on the verge of a big breakthrough for the struggling Dodgers, winning 16, 18, 16 and 18 games the prior four years (albeit with high loss totals) and posting ERAs well better than the league, including a 2.91 mark in 1937. He led the league in K/9 in 1935, 1936 and 1937, and his 238 K in 1936 was a very high total for his era. Had Mungo stayed healthy long enough to master his control, he may well have become a big star. Instead, he too suffered an injury in the All-Star Game that year, hurting his arm; Mungo went 4-11 the next year and was also effectively done, except for a brief comeback during the war. (Hubbell also had his last star season in 1937, not due to the All-Star Game, but his decline at age 35 made the loss of Dean and Mungo more of a loss for the Senior Circuit).
Remember 1937, next time you see players, particularly pitchers, beg out of the Midsummer Classic.
Crank, you have offered exhibits A & B for why there shouldn't be an All-Star Game. If I was a GM I would sweat bullets watching my best player(s) participate in the All-Star game. BTW, I think it was in the 1968 Game, Harmon Killebrew did the splits stretching for a throw at first and had to be carried from the field. I believe he was out for 6 weeks. Moral of the story is other players can get hurt as well.
Of course, this is sort of like the time George Steinbrenner whined that Dave Winfield had a bad second half because he was tired from playing the whole All-Star Game. It's not like Dizzy Dean couldn't have broken his toe in a regular season game - he exposed himself to roughly 1% more risk than he would have if he'd skipped the game, and just happened to get really unlucky.
I'm with Jerry. It is about dumb luck. With 750 major leaguers and thousands of minors leaguers we hear about goofy accidents every year. A player hurt himself a few years back reacting to a bad dream about spiders. Will we do away with dreams. Guys get hurt in pregame warmups (Casey), while bar-b-q-ing, climbing stairs with groceries (Barmes), etc. Playing one more game in an 162 game season won't increase the chances of injuries that much. If Dizzy Dean got hurt by a line drive it was because he failed to get his glove in front of the ball. Every time I've been hit by more baseballs than I'd like to try counting and every time it was (mostly) my fault.
I agree with Jerry and Bill. ASG injuries just resonate more powerfully because it seems more senseless.
Another famous ASG injury was Ted Williams breaking his wrist (?) trying to catch a Ralph Kiner drive in 1950. He missed time in '51, '52, & '53 due to the Korean War, but in 1950 it was an injury. The 1950 Sox ended up scoring over 1000 runs anyway; imagine what they'd have done with the Thumper in the line-up?
The only ASG injury that gets me riled up was Pete Rose's assault of Ray Fosse. That was unnecessary, and it helped derail a promising career.
Ted broke his elbow in 1950.
The Fosse injury is, arguably, more specifically All-Star related than others, since it may have resulted from Fosse not expecting Rose to come in that hard. All the other cases I can think of of players getting hurt in the game were equally likely in the regular season.
Another thing that has been unsaid so far in the comments is that by not playing in the game you are also adding 3 days of rest in the middle of a 6-month season. Preparing for and playing in a baseball game is a grueling task, both mentally and physically. Knowing that for 3 days you can relax mentally and rest physically is probably the bigger issue in terms of breaking down in the second half compared with the actual injuries sustained during the game.
I know if it was my players I would want them at home resting rather than playing an exhibition game that doesn't help the team at all.
One out of 163 is less than 1%, so yeah, I agree with Jerry. The three day rest theory doesn't hold up either, as the whole thing is one big party and most of the players are in the actual game for less than three innings.