The Major League Baseball Games of the Forties

The American League won five of the first seven Major League Baseball All-Star Games over the National League, from the contest’s inception in 1933, through 1939. As the decade of the Forties began, a span of ten years that would see the world go to war and the nuclear age begin, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game would not go unaffected. Wartime travel restrictions caused baseball to cancel the 1945 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and many stars that would normally be playing in these “midsummer classics” during the war years would be overseas doing their part for their country. What would not change in the Forties would be the American League’s dominance over the National in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

1940- The senior circuit got off on the right foot at least, as their pitching gave them the first shutout in Major League Baseball All-Star Game play. The Reds’ duo of Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters threw the first five innings, and Whit Wyatt, Larry French, and the venerable Carl Hubbell finished the American League off. Only the White Sox Luke Appling did anything of note for the AL batters, going 2 for 3 in the 1940 Major League All-Star Game, which took place on July 9th at Sportsman Park in St. Louis. For the National League, Boston Bees outfielder Max West, in his only Major League Baseball All-Star appearance, hit a three run homer in his only at bat, giving the NL all the runs they would need. West hurt himself in the second inning, as he crashed into the wall chasing an Appling double, and was forced to leave the game.

1941- The Major League Baseball All-Star Game shifted to Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, where on July 8th, 1941, Ted Williams had his greatest single moment in the sport. Playing in his second Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the “Splendid Splinter” came into the fray batting .405; he would go 6 for 8 in a season-ending doubleheader to finish at .406, the last player to eclipse .400. With the National League leading 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, sloppy play did them in. Kenny Keltner of the Indians, who made two great plays at third to help end Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak that season, hit a ball off shortstop Eddie Miller’s glove that was ruled a single with one out. Another single and a walk loaded the bases, but when the Cubs’ Claude Passeau got DiMaggio to hit a perfect double play ball to Miller, it looked like the NL had won the 1941 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. But second baseman Billy Herman’s relay throw to first was errant, and a run scored, bringing Williams to the plate. He proceeded to launch a three-run homer into the upper right field stands, winning the game for the American League. Williams practically danced around the bases, he was so elated. “I’ve never been so happy. Halfway down to first, seeing that ball going out, I stopped running and started leaping and jumping and clapping my hands, and I was so happy I laughed out loud.”

1942- The tenth Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held for the second time at the Polo Grounds in New York, on July 6th. The war had not yet pulled too many players from baseball, and most of the big names were at the game. Cleveland’s Lou Boudreau led off the contest with a home run, and when the Tigers’ Rudy York smoked a two-run round tripper, the American League had a 3-0 advantage. Joe McCarthy, managing the AL nine, stayed with just two pitchers, his own Yankees’ hurler Spud Chandler and Detroit’s Al Benton. Benton allowed only four hits over the final five innings, one a Mickey Owen homer, and the 1942 Major League Baseball All-Star Game went to the American league 3-1. Ironically, Benton would finish the season at 7-13, one of the worst records for any pitcher who played in a Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

1943- The first Major League Baseball All-Star Game played at night, the 1943 version went down on the evening of July 13th at Philly’s Shibe Park. Stan Musial made the first of his record 24 straight Major League Baseball All-Star Game appearances, but the National League, despite getting a homer and a triple from Joe D’s brother, Vince DiMaggio of the Pirates, could not hold down the Americans. Five runs in the first five innings were enough to thwart Vince’s heroics, and the American League won the 1943 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played with many of the game’s best off at war, by a 5-3 count.

1944- In a season where the talent level was so decimated by World War II that the St. Louis Browns actually had one armed Pete Gray play in several games as an outfielder, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game took place at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on July 11th. A four run fifth gave the National League a cushion they would not relinquish, and they waltzed home a 7-1 winner. Rip Sewell of the hometown Pirates, who would go 21-12 in 1944, brought the Major League Baseball All-Star Game crowd of almost 30,000 fans to its feet in the eighth when he lobbed a pair of his famous “ephus” pitches, best described as a high arcing slow ball that came down almost on home plate with amazing regularity, to the Browns’ George McQuinn. Asked by reporters why the unique delivery was called an “ephus” Sewell explained, “An ephus ain’t nothing and that’s what that pitch is – nothing.”

1946- With the return of the players from military service in 1946, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Boston’s Fenway Park on July 9th, was like a huge party, as the nation and baseball rejoiced over the return to normalcy. With the American League leading 8-0 in the eighth, as Bob Feller and Detroit’s Hal Newhouser overpowered the NL side, Rip Sewell came on to pitch. Ted Williams, the fan favorite of the Fenway faithful, had already hit one homer in the tilt and was 3 for 3 when he stepped into the box. Sewell lobbed one of his “ephus” pitches to Williams, who didn’t know what to do with it. By the time Rip threw another one, Willimas had decided on a course of action and deposited it over the fence, for his second memorable Major League Baseball All-Star home run. The American League routed the National 12-0, the most lopsided Major League Baseball All-Star Game ever.

1947- The wind was blowing in at Wrigley Field in Chicago on July 8th, when the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played. The exact opposite of the previous year, this one became a pitcher’s duel as both sides could not do much with the opposing hurlers. The “Big Cat”, Johnny Mize of the Cardinals, accounted for the NL’s lone run with a homer off of the Yankees’ Spec Shea in the fourth. With the game knotted at 1-1 in the seventh, Johnny Sain of the Boston Braves gave up a single to Bobby Doerr of the Red Sox. After Doerr was sacrificed to second, Sain threw the ball away trying to pick him off. With Doerr now on third, Stan Spence knocked him in with a single to provide the American League the winning margin in a 2-1 affair. The highlight of the Senators’ Spence’s career, it gave the AL a 10-4 advantage over the NL in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game standings, causing National League president Ford Frick to bemoan, “This is getting painful”.

1948- On July 13th, 1948, the National League felt it had a great chance to turn their luck around in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, along with hot-hitting George Kell of the Tigers, were all nursing injuries, and the NL had all their big guns, including Musial, Enos Slaughter, Johnny Mize, and Marty Marion. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the American League overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 5-2 lead by the fourth at St. Louis’ Sportsman Park. The “Springfield Rifle”, Vic Raschi of the Yankees, and Joe Coleman of the Philadelphia Athletics shut the door on the National League, allowing just three hits over the last six frames. The American side won the fifteenth Major League All-Star Game by the 5-2 score.

1949- The last Major League All-Star Game of the decade became the first to feature black players. Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in 1947, and he was there to play at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn that July 12th day, along with black teammates Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. Larry Doby of Cleveland was the lone black player on the American League’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game roster. The hitters carried the day, as Stan Musial and Ralph Kiner of the Pirates homered for the National League, who could not overcome an early 4-0 deficit and fell 11-7. Manager Lou Boudreau had decided to add an injured Joe DiMaggio to the American League squad; when asked why he flatly stated, “Joe DiMaggio is Joe DiMaggio” The “Yankee Clipper” rewarded Lou’s faith in him when he went 2 for 4 with a single and double, knocking in three runs for the American League. Jackie Robinson went 1 for 4 but scored three National League runs; the NL didn’t know it at the time, but their Major League All-Star Game fortunes were about to change for the better in the Fifties.

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