The Major League Baseball All-Star Games of the Seventies

If it seemed that the National League now owned the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which it took over in the Sixties, it is because they did. Again, just like the decade that had passed, the AL would win but one Major League Baseball All-Star Game during this ten year period. They would lose the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in every conceivable manner; the first one of the Seventies on an infamous home plate collision, the last one would feature a pair of remarkable throws. The only Major League Baseball All-Star game the American League would emerge victorious from was one in which the public became of aware of Mr. October, ironically in the month of July.

1970- Had James “Catfish” Hunter been able to hold onto the 4-1 lead the AL had handed him, powered by three hit pitching over the first eight frames by Jim Palmer, Jim Perry, and “Sudden” Sam McDowell, the most famous home plate collision in the history of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and probably all of baseball, would never had occurred. But Hunter gave up a homer to start the ninth and then one single after another. By the time the smoke cleared, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game of 1970, being played on July 14th at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, was all tied up at 4-4. In the 12th, Pete Rose was on second when the Cubs’ Jim Hickman lined a single to center. The Royals’ Amos Otis charged the ball and threw it home, where Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse awaited the ball, straddling the line. Rose and the ball arrived together; Fosse didn’t catch the ball, but his shoulder caught the brunt of Rose’s jarring persona, as Pete ran the budding star over to score the winning run. Rose, who once declared that he would “walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball”, has been taken to task over the years for his hard nosed play in an “exhibition game”, as his collision with Fosse injured the youthful backstop’s shoulder so severely that his career never came close to being what it should have. Despite Rose’s exploits, it was Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski who took MVP honors with his four hits. “Charlie Hustle” wishes that this Major League Baseball All-Star Game moment was the only blot on his legacy.

1971- Detroit’s Tiger Stadium was the site, on July 13th, of what would prove to be the American League’s first triumph after nine losses in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Things did not start well though, as Oakland phenom Vida Blue was touched up for three early runs, putting his team behind the eight ball. In the bottom of the third, up to the plate stepped Reginald Martinez Jackson. Reggie always felt that “when you take a pitch and line it somewhere, it’s like you’ve thought of something and put it there with beautiful clarity”, drilled a Dock Ellis offering off of a light tower on the Tiger Stadium roof with such clarity that it was clear to everyone present they had just witnessed something special. The ball traveled 520 feet, and was the first of many memorable Reggie blasts. When the eventual Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP Frank Robinson homered later in the inning, the deficit was erased and the AL was on its way to a 6-4 Major League Baseball All-Star Game win. Home runs were poled in the contest by Jackson, Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente; all six would one day have a plaque hanging in the Hall of Fame.

1972- On July 25th, at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, the AL once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Despite a two run homer from Henry Aaron, the AL led 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, thanks to Cookie Rojas and his pinch-hit homer in the eighth. Knuckle baler Wilbur Wood could not hold the advantage, and once more the Major League baseball All-Star Game was headed to extra innings, never good news for the American squad. They were already 0-6 when this occurred; when Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP Joe Morgan of the Reds singled in the game-winner off of Baltimore’s Dave McNally, it was 0-7. The NL was now 24-18-1 in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game series, at one point they had been 4-12.

1973- “Perhaps the greatest all-round performer in(Major League Baseball) All-Star Game history, he hit .307, had 23 hits, including three home runs, three triples and two doubles – not to mention a variety of spectacular defensive plays.” This is how The Sporting News described Willie Mays, who was playing in his final one on July 24th in Kansas City at the Beautiful Royals’ Stadium. The 40th anniversary of the very first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was observed, and then Bobby Bonds, who would be named the MVP, blew the game open with a two run homer in the fifth as the NL pasted the AL by a 7-1 count. Bonds played with the pressure of being the “next Willie Mays’, a moniker nobody could live up to; strangely enough it would be his son Barry Bonds that would one day create perhaps even bigger footsteps to follow in.

1974- Yogi Berra, by virtue of having piloted the Mets to the pennant in 1973, was the skipper for the National League at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 23rd at Pittsburgh. Yogi amazed everyone when he selected five pitchers with no previous Major League Baseball All-Star Game experience to toe the mound against the AL. However, the NL could have thrown position players onto the hill at this point; such was their supremacy in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game; they won this one 7-2. It didn’t hurt that such stalwarts as Johnny Bench, Lou Brock, Jimmy Wynn, and Steve Garvey, making his first Major League Baseball All-Star Game showing as a write-in starter, were also on the NL roster at Yogi’s disposal. Garvey would become the MVP as he went 2 for 4 with a double, and Berra’s five pitchers would throttle the American League on only four hits, proving the “Ol Professor”, Casey Stengal, correct when he once said of Yogi, “He could fall into a sewer and come out with a gold watch.”

1975- There were co-MVPs of this particular Major League Baseball All-Star Game, at Milwaukee on July 15th. They both played huge roles in the National League’s 6-3 win. The game was knotted at 3-3 going into the late innings. The Mets’ Jon Matlack threw a scoreless eighth and ninth to keep the game even and the senior circuit won their fourth Major League Baseball All-Star Game in a row when the Pirates’ Bill Madlock singled in two runs in the top of the last inning. Matlack and Madlock’s efforts contributed mightily to the American League’s lack of Major League Baseball All-Star success, and assured that the National League would keep a lock on the series.

1976- Holding the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Philadelphia, on July 13th, during the year of America’s Bicentennial celebration, did nothing to change the American League’s luck. George Foster of the Reds and Cesar Cedeno of Houston would hit round trippers, and the AL could score only once (a Fred Lynn home run) on five measly hits. Tom Seaver gave up Lynn’s dinger, a minor blemish on his Hhall of Fame career. Reggie Jackson praised Tom terrific once with this gem. “Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch.” Detroit’s Mark “the Bird” Fidrych was the starter and loser for the American side; even his magical 1976 season could not rub off on the AL in this Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

1977- The American League could not recover from a four run NL first inning, as they dropped the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 19th, 7-5. The Orioles’ Jim Palmer was rocked for a leadoff homer by Joe Morgan and a three run job off the bat of the “Bull”, Greg Luzinski of the Phillies. When Billy Martin, the AL skipper came to get him after Steve Garvey hit another long ball leading off the third, Palmer quipped, “What took you so long?” Trailing 5-0, a familiar Major league All-Star Game feeling for the Americans, they rallied behind a Richie Zisk double and Willie Randoplh single to get to within 5-3. But Martin’s own fireman, Sparky Lyle, who would win the Cy Young Award that year, came on late and surrendered a pair of runs, making George “Boomer” Scott’s two run homer in the last of the ninth a moot point. Dodger hurler Don Sutton’s three innings of one hit ball was enough to send him home with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP Award.

1978- Almost like the movie “Groundhog Day” in which Bill Murray’s character finds himself reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it right, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game kept coming up with the same result, this time in San Diego on July 11th. This time it was the AL that jumped to the front, 3-0, only to see the NL score three times off of Jim Palmer, who did not save his best pitching for these events. The score was stuck at 3-3 until Billy martin was once again done in managing the Major league Baseball All-Star Game by one of his own relievers. This time the arsonist was Rich “Goose” Gossage, who fell apart in the top of the ninth, an inning that featured a Steve Garvey triple and a two-run Bob Boone base hit. Garvey collected another MVP trophy for his mantle. Martin was not a fan of trying to get everyone that was selected into the game, saying “I’ve got a solution. Extend the (Major League Baseball) All-Star Game to 68 innings and we’ll play everybody.” The NL’s 7-3 win extended the American League’s misery; they would have one more chance to “get it right” before the decade ended.

1979- Almost every player that played there would agree the highlight of Seattle’s Kingdome’s existence was its demolition. But the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played there on July 17th, and although the NL did not demolish the American League, it beat them in a more painful way. The see- saw affair went into the seventh with the AL clinging to a one run lead. Boston’s fearsome slugger, Jim Rice, led off the bottom of the seventh with a pop fly that Joe Morgan and Pittsburgh’s Dave parker could not come up with. When Rice got too greedy and tried to turn his gift double into a triple, Parker picked up the ball and threw a laser to third to get Rice. It turns out that Parker was only warming up his arm for bigger and better things, and a Major league Baseball All-Star Game award. The Mets’ Lee Mazzilli homered to open the eighth, and in the bottom of the eighth Parker cemented his hold on the MVP. With the Angels’ Brian Downing on second, New York Yankees’ third sacker Graig Nettles singled to right. Parker charged the ball and uncorked another throw that arrived in time to nail Downing at home, preserving the tie. When Mazzilli was walked by Yankee ace Ron Guidry with the bases loaded, forcing in the eventual winning tally in the top of the ninth, the NL had another Major League Baseball All-Star Game victory in the 50th game of the series, and a 31-18-1 lead in the standings. The first half of the Eighties would bring more of the same, but by the time they were over, so was the National League’s hold on the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

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