History Flashback takes a look at historical “found footage” of all kinds—newsreels, instructional films, even cartoons—to give us a glimpse into how much things have changed, and how much has remained the same.
It was a hot, sunny evening on July 12, 1955 and the new County Stadium in Milwaukee was packed. The All-Star Game had just passed the three hour mark, and 45,314 attendees watched with baited breath to see which team would break the tied game first. At the bottom of the twelfth inning, National League first baseman Stan Musial, on loan from the St. Louis Cardinals, walked up to the plate.
“He swung at the first pitch,” The New York Timesreported the next day. “The resounding crack of the bat was engulfed in the roar of the crowd. Through the shadows, which were setting over the field, shot the ball. Then it shone in glistening white resplendency as it burst into the sunshine, headed for the bleachers. It was a home run.”
With that stunning homer, the 22nd All-Star Game would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
An All-Star Game Is Born
The All-Star Game is now a Major League Baseball institution, but it was born from a somewhat unlikely source. The idea to create one massive sporting event that would pit the best in the American League versus the best in the National League came from Chicago Tribune sports writer Arch Ward.
America was in the depths of the Great Depression in 1933 and the sport was struggling to attract fans. Since 1930, attendance at major league games had dropped 40 percent, and the ripple effects had been deeply felt. Owners were thinning out their rosters and firing coaches. Those players skilled enough to stay employed had to settle for slashed wages. The game itself seemed in peril.
When Ward suggested hosting a “Game of the Century” to coincide with Chicago’s centennial and the World’s Fair taking place in the city that year, the baseball establishment agreed to make it happen. The game would boost the league’s reputation and the visibility of the sport, and at the very least pull in some much needed cash. It was agreed that all profits from the epic battle would go to support retired players in need.
The Inaugural Battle Begins
On July 6, 1933, 47,595 fans gathered at Chicago’s Comiskey Park to watch the first ever battle between the leagues. They had invested a lot in the game. Not only had the attendees shelled out their hard-earned cash to be present, but fans around the country had been able to participate by casting ballots that determined who would play in the day’s game. Babe Ruth was a shoo-in.
“From the start, the spectacle was just about perfection,” the Evening Starreported. “Perfect base ball weather with not a cloud in the sky, a huge, happy crowd, John McGraw and Connie Mack matched against each other probably for the last time, and a lot of high-class base ball made it that.”
Hitting two of his iconic home runs in the national spotlight, Ruth solidified his legacy that day. Meanwhile, baseball claimed its throne as the “great American pastime,” according to Bleacher Report. From that year on, the All-Star Game, which was originally intended as a one-time spectacle, became an annual tradition.
Take Me Out To the 22nd Ballgame
In addition to entertaining viewers with Musial’s “storybook finish,” as The New York Timesdescribed it, the 1955 All-Star game was notable for the sheer number of Hall of Famers who played that July day. Nineteen of the game’s participants would go on to be inducted to the high church of baseball. The game itself was very good too, becoming only the second to be won in extra innings.
But that wasn’t the only noteworthy aspect of the 1955 Midsummer Classic. Three days before the first pitch was set to be thrown, Arch Ward, the godfather of the All-Star Game, died of a heart attack at the age of 58. As players began to stream into the National and American League dugouts and fans filled the stadium on July 12, Ward was being buried in Chicago. While mourners paid their respects at his funeral, less than 100 miles away, his legacy was being honored as the first pitch was thrown out in the 22nd All-Star Game.