This day in baseball history

On July 9. 1963, the National League defeated the American League 5-3 in the all-star game, played in Cleveland. It was the only all-star game played that year, Major League Baseball having mercifully ended its four year practice of putting on two per-year.

The NL’s victory ushered in a period in which the Senior Circuit won 19 of 20 all-star games. And with the New York Yankees beginning their decline, the AL would also lose five of the next World Series.

The AL’s line-up for the 1963 contest reflects the League’s sad condition, I think:

Nellie Fox 2B
Albie Pearson CF
Al Kaline RF
Frank Malzone 3B
Leon Wagner LF
Earl Battey C
Joe Pepitone 1B
Zoilo Versalles SS
Ken McBride P

There are only two Hall-of-Famers in the batch, Fox and Kaline, with Fox (lifetime OPS of .714) a decidedly second-tier enshrinee.

The NL line-up, though also including only two Hall-of-Famers, was more impressive, I think:

Tommy Davis LF
Hank Aaron RF
Bill White 1B
Willie Mays CF
Ed Bailey C
Ken Boyer 3B
Dick Groat SS
Julian Javier 2B
Jim O’Toole P

Ten more Hall of Famers played in the game. For the American League, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, and Jim Bunning all came off the bench. The National League used Roberto Clemente, Duke Snider, Stan Musial, Willie McCovey, and Don Drysdale. Ron Santo, who I believe should be in the Hall of Fame also played.

So the fans weren’t deprived of star power, although they were deprived of seeing four additional Hall-of-Famers who were in the NL squad but did not play. That modest list consists of Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda.

The game was close all the way. Mays was the star of stars, scoring two runs, stealing two bases, and driving in the run that broke the 3-3 tie in the fifth inning. Drysdale was the pitching star, throwing two innings of shut-out ball to record the save.

Richardson was goat of the game. His error in the fifth inning set up the unearned run that put the NL on top to stay. Later, he snuffed out potential rallies by hitting into a pair of double plays, following a pair of singles by Brooks Robinson.

If anyone was cheated by the 1963 all-star game, it was fans of the Washington Senators, including yours truly. Forced by rule to select at least one player from each team, AL manager Ralph Houk of the Yankees picked Washington’s catcher Don Leppert.

Leppert had hit three home runs in a game back in mid-April, but only two since then. By the all-star break, he had only 19 RBI to go with a batting average of .262.

To be sure, no one on the Senators deserved all-star status in 1963. But a number of players deserved it considerably more than Leppert — Don Lock, Chuck Hinton, Claude Osteen, Tom Cheney, and Ron Kline come to mind.

But Houk, as I recall, wanted a bullpen catcher. And that, I believe, is where Leppert spent the entire game. Certainly, he did not play in it.

Is it any wonder that I hate the Yankees?

UPDATE: Actually, fans of the Cleveland Indians had even more reason than Senators fans to feel aggrieved. Cleveland, unlike Washington a respectable ball club, had one representative on the AL squad — Jim “Mudcat” Grant. But even though the game was played in Cleveland, Houk did not use Grant. Thus, the hometown fans saw none of their heroes.

Houk also did not use Norm Siebern, the lone representative of the Kansas City Athletics. Houk did play all five Yankees at his disposal — Richardson, Pepitone, Elston Howard, Tom Tresh, and Jim Bouton. All but Pepitone were add-ons to the team, so Houk wasn’t required to play them.

Is it any wonder the American League fans of that era hate the Yankees?


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