Looking Back at the Novelty of Two All Star Games in MLB

Updated on August 13, 2019
Andrew Harner profile image

I am a former sports editor and historical baseball aficionado, now making a career in the hospitality industry.

An Idea is Born

Before there were billion dollar television contracts, a billion dollar merchandise industry, and multi-million dollar annual contracts and signing bonuses, Major League Baseball players strongly relied on the league's players' pension fund after retirement. In 1959, the sharp-thinking Robin Roberts formulated a novel idea to help grow that fund, as well as benefit amateur baseball—let's play a second All-Star game. The Midsummer Classic had become quite the hit since its inception in 1933, and Roberts saw a chance for the best players in the game to showcase their skills and mutually help each other for years to come.

His idea was quick to pass muster with the owners and players—perhaps even rushed a bit—but after just a few short years, the second All-Star Game became more of a novelty, leaving MLB with an awkward gap of All-Star history from 1959-1962. It's not to say the games weren't successful, but there was never a well-ironed out plan for how the game should be structured or scheduled, leading it to the annals of history as a mere blip on the screen of All-Star history.

Chicago White Sox pitcher and seven-time All-Star Billy Pierce said it best in 1959: "It has come too sudden and we've heard very little about the details."

It was said by many the players were using the game as a "greedy grab" only to benefit themselves, but as the players' pension fund had been designed since its inception in 1947, the money in the plan was primarily there to attract more players to the game and to take care of those players who had retired and couldn't take advantage of the escalating salaries. Through revisions to the plan, which came about as the television and radio rights for the All-Star game and World Series were sold for higher and higher amounts, the pension plan had become enviable but also needed a boost in funds to maintain itself.

That's where Roberts came in. A second All-Star game wouldn't resolve the pension's financial issues on its own, but it would be a significant annual help, Roberts argued. Still, others wouldn't get on board with his idea, saying a second Midsummer Classic would dilute the product and take away from its uniqueness. Tensions escalated further once the game was played, with players, managers, and executives all lobbing complaints about the way the game was handled. Despite the criticism, the game would last until 1962, when owners and players struck a deal to drop the second game.

'Baseball Can't be Proud'

In the early days of Major League baseball, players truly played out of a love for the game, and the best of the bunch just so happened to be able to make a decent amount of money for it. For many others, however, second jobs in the offseason were the norm to make ends meet. After World War II, however, efforts to turn baseball from just a game to a career began to escalate, especially as players began to see owners' pockets growing deeper while theirs stayed stagnant. Or as the Washington Post's Shirley Povich declared in a column on April 5, 1946: "... (Baseball) can’t be very proud of the protection it extends to its ballplayers. Baseball has no pension fund, no hospital benefits, no welfare program to compare with most other industries.”

Major steps were taken in 1946 to improve those conditions, after Mexican League President Jorge Pasquel began recruiting talent from the big leagues, stealing away several players and pitching lucrative offers to high-level talents such as Stan Musial. The poachings were a tipping point in the business of baseball, and as players aired grievances to owners throughout 1946, the landscape of the game would never be the same.

"What I am interested in is the good of American baseball," said A.B. "Happy" Chandler, the commissioner of baseball from 1945-51, who was unsuccessfully recruited by Pasquel with a five-year offer worth $50,000 to run the Mexican League. "I have a job and I am not looking for another."

While Chandler and many of America's players chose to stay in the United States, the prospect of the lucrative contracts likely helped along unionization efforts that were being put together by Robert Murphy, a Boston-based lawyer on the National Labor Relations Board who created the American Baseball Guild and worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates to try to form a players' union. Among Murphy's chief goals were to raise baseball's minimum salary to $7,500 and lay the foundation for a players' pension fund.

“I told the owners that they’re going to make more money this year than at any time in the history of baseball and now’s the time to give the men who play for them something which should have been granted long ago. Only by dealing generously with their players are the magnates going to combat such as the invasion of Pasquel," Chandler said in August of 1946. "You can’t blame kids for grabbing the big money he’s putting out, but he can’t keep that up and won’t. However, it is our duty to help our players rise above such temptation by providing for them where they really want to play."

Murphy's unionization efforts ultimately failed, but it did get many Major Leaguer players thinking about the business side of the game and resulted in the creation of a new executive council that gave players a voice in the league's business dealings for the first time. These voices would prove critical as the next decade progressed, when television and radio deals became multi-million dollar contracts that directly benefited the players.

Marty Marion of the St. Louis Cardinals presented an outline for a players' pension.
Marty Marion of the St. Louis Cardinals presented an outline for a players' pension. | Source

'All of Us Feel This is the Real Thing'

Many teams came up with propositions to present to club owners that would greatly improve the working and living conditions of ballplayers. Among the most common proposals submitted were:

  • A raise in minimum salary to somewhere between $5,000-$7,500
  • A pension plan for players
  • Revision of the 10-day reverse clause to help protect injured players
  • Expense money and first-class travel during Spring Training
  • Players to receive 10 percent of their sale price
  • Lessened restrictions on barnstorming abilities in the offseason

“All of us feel that this is the real thing," said Johnny Berardino of the St. Louis Browns. "We are going into the meeting serious-minded with a keen interest in bettering the players’ conditions. I believe the owners are of the same mind.”

Arguably the loudest champion for a pension plan was Marty Marion, the St. Louis Cardinals All-Star. Marion put together a detailed plan in July 1946, outlining a scenario that would put $4 million into a pension fund by 1956. To do so, Marion suggested players and owners would each contribute $40,000 each annually, while other yearly contributions would include $50,000 from All-Star game revenue, $100,000 from World Series radio and television revenue, and $160,000 from a series of eight interleague exhibitions held in the middle of the season, which would feature matchups like:

  • Browns against the Cardinals in St. Louis
  • Red Sox against the Braves in Boston
  • White Sox against the Cubs in Chicago
  • Athletics against the Phillies in Philadelphia
  • Yankees against the Dodgers or Giants in New York
  • Indians against the Reds in Ohio

"The Baseball Players Benevolent Association administers funds from All-Star games for players who are in need, but from what members of our clubs have learned, an old player must be flat broke to get anything out of it," Marion said. "What we’re proposing is a dignified and conservative pension plan for a comparatively short-time profession. We propose limiting it now to major leaguers chiefly because only big league club owners have asked for expressions of players’ desires.”

By September, agreements were in place, giving the players a minimum salary of $5,000, a 30-day reverse clause, expanded barnstorming rules, and Spring Training expenses of $25 per week. Additionally, no player could have his salary cut by more than 25 percent, and it was agreed the 1947 regular-season schedule would increase to 168 games (though that never happened). Funding for and payouts of the pension plan would be disclosed at a later date.

It was a big win for players in the labor relations of baseball. Players would see more victories but also watched relations become sour on several occasions over the next 50 years, but one thing was certain—baseball was a business now, and a lucrative one that would only get richer and richer.

Carl Erskine, the Los Angeles Dodgers player representative, saw many ways in which to divide the new pension money received from the 1956 television and radio rights contract.
Carl Erskine, the Los Angeles Dodgers player representative, saw many ways in which to divide the new pension money received from the 1956 television and radio rights contract. | Source

'I Want it to go the Proper Places'

By February 1947, the details of the new pension plan had been decided, and it would go into effect for all players, coaches, and trainers on the Opening Day rosters of the 1947 season—which wouldn't be the only big story in baseball that year. Once those individuals turned 50, they could start to draw from the pension. For a five-year man, the payout would be $50 per month, and that would increase by $10 per month for every additional year of service time, up to a maximum of $100 for anyone who played 10 years or longer. Players who served in the military could count service time as years played, if they already had three years of Major League service time. According to the plan's underwriter, the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, contributions of $675,000 each year would be required to maintain these payouts.

Players became eligible for the plan if at least 75 percent of players in his league were contributing to the plan and at least 60 percent of his teammates were contributing to the plan. To participate in the plan, players had to contribute $45.45 their first year in the plan, $90.90 their second year, and on up to $454.75 in their 10th year. Once a total contribution of $2,500 was reached, payments fell to $250 annually. Any player enrolled in the plan who didn't reach the five-year threshold would have all contributed money returned upon retirement from baseball. Owners paid a flat rate of $250 for each player enrolled in the plan. For at least one of those owners, however, the plan was flawed.

"How can they blanket all of these high-paid stars into a pension fund? They’re not the needy cases and the money they will draw from the pension plan is money that the truly worthy cases won’t receive," said Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith after noting some players make almost $80,000 per year. "There ought to be some kind of discrimination, instead of a hard rule that every big league player gets a share. Some of these ballplayers are going out of baseball as rich men, and ought to be ashamed to take a piddling $100-a-month pension when other less successful players may be in greater need. ... I’ll pay (my $250 share per player) willingly. But I want it to go to the proper places, not into the pockets of already-rich ballplayers who will be even wealthier before they retire. … There are 7,000 players in the minor leagues who should come first in any pension plan. They’re the fellows who never get into the big money, but they’re just as much a part of baseball as the big leaguers and their needs should be taken care of before we contribute to the men who have been drawing big league salaries for a number of years.”

Griffith's sentiments never fell into mainstream thinking, however, and the plan continued as set forth. Its first major revision came in 1956, when a new television and radio contract would be signed for the World Series and All-Star game broadcast rights. Now with a vested interest in that terms of that contract with 60 percent of the money going into the pension plan, players asked for a voice in the contract negotiations, which was expected to rise from $1.25 million annually to near $3 million per year, netting the players $1.8 million each of the next five years.

Ford Frick, who took over as baseball's commissioner in 1951, did even better, securing a five-year deal with the National Broadcasting Company and the Gillette Razor Company worth $3.25 million per season. The big jump in value was contributed to a rise of estimated televisions in the United States from 10.5 million in 1951 to 38.5 million in 1956, and the players would reap the benefits to the tune of $1.95 million per year.

Naturally, with that jump in revenue, it was argued there should be a jump in benefits, which would in part lead to the invention of the second All-Star game in 1959. With 601 players vested in the plan (209 active and 392 retired), and another 200-plus who were enrolled but not yet to the five-year mark, the question became whether to expand the pool of players eligible to receive benefits under the $3.25 million contract or develop a fresh set of rules. The challenge of that was addressed by Los Angeles Dodgers player representative Carl Erskine to the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s a great responsibility to have to decide the future of our players," Erskine said. "There are several schools of thought on which players to include in the new benefits. Some believe we should include all players eligible since the pension plan originated in 1946. Others think we should go back to 1951 when the second five-year pact was signed, guaranteeing the players 60 percent of the World Series and Al-Star radio-TV rights. Still others maintain we ought to start from scratch, including only those on the opening day 1957 rosters of the clubs.”

“It’s a situation of our time. Those other players are of another era, income tax-wise for one thing. They kept most of their big salaries. The present players don’t. Another thing is this: The more players you include, the lower the amount. By the same token, the higher the benefits, the more attractive is the inducement for a better crowd of boys to enter baseball," Erskine added. "I’d like to make baseball so attractive that mothers and fathers will encourage their children to become major league baseball players, just as they encourage them to become doctors and lawyers.”

Ultimately, the players decided to include everyone currently enrolled in the plan under a new structure that significantly raised monthly payouts, but still did not include players retired before 1947, minor league players, managers, or umpires. In addition to payouts—which in some case almost tripled (see table below)—starting on April 1, 1957, all players would receive disability benefits, hospitalization, and medical benefits for all family members, and those with at least 60 days of service time were eligible for life insurance benefits worth between $6,000-$20,000.

Tenure
Old Plan
New Plan
Increase
5 Years
$50/month
$88/month
76%
10 Years
$100/month
$175/month
75%
15 Years
$100/month
$225/month
125%
20 Years
$100/month
$275/month
175%

'I'd Call it Smart Business'

Twelve years into the pension plan, it became clear there was a deficit that came from the inclusion of all players active in 1947 onward, even those who retired that year and barely played but would have been vested. Paying off benefits to those "back service" members would take almost two decades, and it was the belief of Philadelphia Phillies player representative Robin Roberts that a second All-Star game could generate enough revenue to knock a year or two off those payments.

"In setting up the original pension plan, great care was taken to make sure that men who were near the end of their careers were extended every right that accrued to young players coming under the plan," said Roberts, who didn't make his Major League debut until 1948. "This involved an obligation amounting to several millions of dollars and it is this obligation that comes first in the minds of the representatives and pension committee members."

Or as Baltimore's Bob Nieman stated: "In 1956, when the pension plan was revised, a $12,000,000 fund deficit was created when we agreed to make the new plan retroactive to include players active as far back at (1947). We were good guys when we agreed to include all the players back as far as ('47) in the new plan. But that created a deficit of $12,000,000, which we must pay off in 18 years. So, we decided to play a second All-Star game to help make up that deficit, and we are criticized all over the country and called 'money-grabbers.' I can't see where taking care of players who are no longer active by playing two games is 'money-grabbing' at all. I'd call it smart business, that's all. So we play a few extra All-Star games to try to knock down this deficit. What's wrong with that?"

According to some within the game, the answer to Nieman's question was simple—a lot.

With players already set to draw from a pension plan called as good as any around, it was misunderstood by the public and many prominent sportswriters that a second game was nothing more than a "greedy grab" to add more funds to an already "juicy" pension. Take Shirley Povich, a longtime sports writer for the Washington Post. He was a regular critic of the second All-Star game, writing the owners were "taking the fans into partnership in financing the players' pensions" and the large capacity of the Los Angeles Coliseum—where the second All-Star game would be held in 1959—was an "inevitable temptation to the owners and their addiction to counting the house." Misunderstandings of the game's purpose such as Povich's, however, severely damaged the public perception of what the game was funding, but that didn't stop players and even Frick from speaking positively about the benefits of the game to try to persuade the public to see its positives.

"It's not their intention, I'm sure, to pad their own pension fund so they could give themselves unrealistic benefits like $1,000 a month—to fix a ridiculous figure," Frick said of current players. "There are other demands on the funds available to the players, particularly from the old-timers association. You know if they were sending an old-timer $50 a month a few years ago, they'd have to double that—or more—today.

"The players also are vitally interested in helping out amateur baseball leagues, especially involving youngsters," Frick said, noting some of the areas the owners' share of proceeds from the second All-Star game would be spent. "For many years, the Major Leagues have been helping the American Legion program with funds from the commissioner's office. The players say they would like to help some of the other organizations."

Still, others rallied against the idea, and criticized how the proceeds were being spent. Had the game not been rushed into existence, maybe some of the alternate proposals which were suggested could have been given consideration. Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee was critical of Frick's decision to allow the game to be played without given any credence to the umpires, writing, "A strong commissioner of baseball would have put his foot down long since. ... (I)f no way of financing such a (pension) plan for the umpires had been found up to now, he would have insisted that only by such inclusion would he approve a second All-Star game." Frick later on said including the umpires in a pension plan would have had negative implications to their taxation situation.

Another popular complaint was that minor league players would not benefit from the new revenue stream. Said Baltimore pitcher Whitey Lockman: "No. 1, I'm against it. No. 2, if it's gotta be played, it ought to be played for some baseball benefit other than for the Major League players. The minor leagues should get some consideration." Even today, minor league players are not eligible for pensions because they don't fall under the Major League Baseball Players Association, which was formed in 1966.

Robin Roberts, the Philadelphia Phillies pitcher who proposed there be two All-Star games in one season to benefit the players' pension fund.
Robin Roberts, the Philadelphia Phillies pitcher who proposed there be two All-Star games in one season to benefit the players' pension fund. | Source

'An Interesting Experiment'

Though the earliest versions of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game weren't the most popular among players, clubs, and officials, the annual Midsummer Classic proved to be a popular mainstay among fans. Eventually, players and the like began to see prestige and honor in the game, with the national showcase of the best talent in the American and National Leagues turning into a must-see rivalry every July. So when Robin Roberts proposed a second All-Star game in 1959, it was no surprise that an overwhelming divide was quickly driven through the concept—with players, executives, and fans all chiming in, debating whether the benefits of a second game truly outweighed the deeply rooted traditions that had grown over the first 25 All-Star games.

Roberts pitched the idea to the Major League Executive Council on May 1, and it gained traction among those involved immediately, setting in motion plans for National League President Warren Giles and American League President Joe Cronin to poll the owners and Frank Scott, the newly appointed central office player representative, to poll players on the idea. Those snap decisions, however, would lead to some controversy once the game was played, but with nearly a combined $500,000 at stake for the players and owners, there was a strong push to force the second game into a knothole on the regular-season schedule.

"A second game may be played this year, if a date can be found for it, which would have to be later in the season," said baseball Commissioner Ford Frick after Roberts presented the idea. "It couldn't be played during the three-day break we now have, in addition to the regular game."

"This should be done very quickly," Frick added. "If everybody approves we'll make the effort to play the second game this year on a date and at a city to be selected later."

Like any radical change to a sport's tradition, a trial and error period is best route to take to determine how well those involved adjust to the change, as are prolonged meetings between the vested parties. For the second All-Star game, however, this is where Major League Baseball had it right and wrong. No one went into the game saying it was a foregone conclusion the tradition would continue, but by catering to greed and rushing the prototype of the game, baseball may have ruined its chance to display a longer summer parade of its best stars. As television and other technologies advanced, more and more of the baseball fan base was able to begin seeing the marquee players on a consistent basis, so an All-Star doubleheader would have become obsolete eventually, but had the second All-Star game been crafted correctly in the beginning, it certainly could have lasted more than four seasons.

Just over a month after Roberts pitched his original proposal, a date and location was set for the second All-Star Game—Aug. 3 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, giving the West Coast fans a chance to see all of baseball's biggest names for the first time ever, just one year after the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles and the New York Giants relocated to San Francisco. But with just two months to plan the game, could baseball put on a successful game that would lay the foundation to a regular contribution to the players' pension, especially considering all 16 teams were scheduled for action on Aug. 2 and Aug. 4? With television and radio rights sold for $250,000 and a crowd size estimated at 80,000, all efforts would be made (the player pension fund received $239,000 from the gate at the 1958 All-Star game in Baltimore, with an attendance of 48,829).

"Another All-Star Game will dilute the main project, but we will gladly go along with the will of the majority," Kansas City Athletics General Manager Parke Carroll said of what would be the 27th annual All-Star game. "After all, if the players want a second All-Star game, we should try it and see what happens.

"It could prove an interesting experiment."

Managers of the 1959 All-Star Game
Managers of the 1959 All-Star Game | Source

'Wonderful for the Fans'

An experiment it was.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the longest running display of superstars among the major sports (the National Basketball Association first held its All-Star game in 1951, the National Football League introduced the Pro Bowl in 1950, and the National Hockey League's inaugural All-Star game was in 1947), so it was natural baseball would be the first sport to try to tinker with the format.

"We favor the playing of two All-Star games and will continue to do so until it can be shown that such procedure is contrary to the best interests of baseball," said Baltimore Orioles President Jim Keelty, who stepped down from his post following the 1959 season and whose comments ran afoul of his manager's opinion of the game.

Giving the game to Los Angeles was a brilliant decision by baseball—not only from a financial point of view, but also when considering the desires of the fans. Baseball on the West Coast was not a new concept. For years, the Pacific Coast League produced superstar players (some notables include Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams), so the game was popular among those in California, Oregon and Washington. The PCL unsuccessful tried to gain an equal status with the American and National Leagues in the early 1950s, and the entrance of the Dodgers and Giants to California killed any chance of the PCL becoming much more than it was. But to have a minor league with enough talent to even consider rivaling the Majors showed there was a love for baseball out West.

To California, however, American League baseball was still a mystery (it wasn't until 1961 that the Los Angeles Angels came into the western fold as an expansion team), so giving the state's fans a chance to see players like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Al Kaline, and the young Harmon Killebrew was a special treat. Meanwhile, MLB would also cash in on the sweet taste of cash by using the expansive Los Angeles Coliseum as the backdrop for the showdown.

"Regardless of what some ball players think of it, I think it's a wonderful thing for the fans. And after all, the game is being played for their enjoyment," said Boston Red Sox Bobby Avila, himself a three-time All-Star and 1971 Hall of Fame inductee. "But let's consider the situation in Boston. When is the last time Boston fans saw a live All-Star game? (It was 16 years prior in 1946).

"Under the one-game system, a city could wait 16 years to see the stars of the game. ... Nobody stays around for 16 years anymore," Avila said. "A man does well to make it for 10 years. Consequently, with just one All-Star game, some cities are never to see the standout players of that era."

Boston did not host another All-Star game until the second contest in 1961. Among the players in that game, Stan Musial was the only man to have also appeared in the 1946 All-Star game. In the case of Los Angeles, another All-Star game wouldn't be hosted by the Dodgers until 1980, but by that time, the Major Leagues had expanded from 16 teams to 26, so while the rotation of cities had grown wider, more fans had more opportunities to watch the best players on television or in person.

"At the risk of being adjudged a mental nobody, a rating which has been tossed in my direction long before this, I wish to go on record as saying I heartily endorse the local replay of the original," long-time Los Angeles Times sports writer Braven Dyer wrote in his "Sports Parade" column on June 14. "... It's my feeling that the fans of Southern California want the second game. And why not? Most of them never have seen the stars of the American League and never will without such a setup as has now been arranged."

Dyer also called those opposed to the game "mostly oldsters hidebound by tradition," but being the hometown writer, his opinion certainly was swayed and did go against what many other prominent sports writers of the time were opining. Still, his point was valid. Yes, many of Los Angeles' baseball fans had a chance to see the New York Yankees earlier in 1959 during an exhibition game that doubled as a benefit for Roy Campanella, the Dodger catcher who was paralyzed after an automobile accident in 1958, but players from cities like Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., were just names in the newspaper to most of Los Angeles.

"Why not have two, at least as a trial? It's an over-exposure, yeah, but people want to see the game, and it'll make money," said Baltimore Orioles star Gus Triandos, whose final All-Star selection came in 1959, but he couldn't play in Los Angeles due to injury. "If it don't work, they can drop it."

Early Wynn, the Chicago White Sox pitcher who was among the loudest voices against the second All-Star game.
Early Wynn, the Chicago White Sox pitcher who was among the loudest voices against the second All-Star game. | Source

Baseball's 'Phoniest Front'

It were up to some, however, there wouldn't have been a trial or anything to drop.

Despite the clear financial benefits to the owners and players, many came out against the second All-Star game—some opposing the idea almost as soon as it was proposed.

"It's the phoniest front baseball has put up in 20 years. They'll get a pot full of money out of it this year. But wait until the novelty wears off," said Early Wynn, the White Sox pitcher who was a perennial All-Star at the time and would win the 1959 American League Cy Young Award. "The game's value is in its uniqueness. Two games a year will cheapen it in the long run."

Cheapen the game, and make the greedy greener. Those were popular opinions of the "pension-happy" players, who were said to be putting on the game as a "greedy grab." Truthfully, however, the proceeds from the extra game were benefiting the past and future players of the game. Not only would a stronger pension plan make the sport more appealing as a career, the owners' 40 percent share of the profits were earmarked for the benefit of amateur baseball (American Legion, Little League, Babe Ruth League) and a pension for old-time ballplayers who played prior to 1947.

Arthur Daley, a sports writer for the New York Times for almost 50 years wrote in his "Sports of the Times" column on June 5, "... greed has driven the baseball folks to plot an anticlimactic game to follow the real one in Pittsburgh on July 7. It's overdoing it, because it means diluting the original product. Eventually, it could become unrecognizable. If two games are twice as good as one, ten games would be ten times as good in a reductio ad absurdum."

Daley's criticism, however, went astray from the game's purpose. No one was saying two games were better than one. No one was even formally suggesting a third All-Star game to break a tie if each league won one of the two games. As baseball was making moves toward becoming less of a game and more of a business, the sport would change in the ensuing decades far more than anyone could have predicted in 1959. Greed, it could be argued, was the driving force for many of the changes that would occur in baseball over the next 30 years, but the originators of the second All-Star game did not have greed on the brain when proposing the idea.

Still, the game continued to take its hits. Cleveland General Manager Frank Lane said the two games made "as much sense as two Kentucky Derbies or two World Series;" White Sox infielder Billy Goodman, who hadn't been an All-Star since 1953, said those in favor of two games "are trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. And once they lost it, they'll never regain it;" and White Sox manager Al Lopez suggested a second game would "take some of the glamour out of it."

The All-Star game had become a prestigious spectacle each season, so it's natural the proposed change was met by opposition. The game was rooted in a promotion hosted by the Chicago Tribune in 1933, and the idea of an All-Star game was resisted by baseball in its earliest years. In 1959, the Tribune fired back, with David Condon writing on the paper's behalf: "In 1933, this newspaper created, promoted, and underwrote the first game between outstanding players of the National and American Leagues. ... So it is with more than ordinary feeling that this corner joins the protest against Monday's (June 8) official announcement that two All-Star Games will be played this season and very likely in 1960 and 1961—and very likely until the greedy players who influenced the announcement have succeeded in relegating to exhibition status one of the sport's great competitions. ... After successfully establishing one of sport's premier events, The Chicago Tribune entrusted it to baseball for perpetuation. This is the first instance where there has been concern about that trust."

'I'd go for that'

With a date and a site in place, however, the focus returned to the "actual" All-Star game, which was played in Pittsburgh on July 7 and saw the National League take a 5-4 victory over its American League counterparts. Dodgers standout Don Drysdale faced off against White Sox hurler Early Wynn in the game, but late scoring for both teams led to the pitchers of record coming out of the bullpen, with the Giants' Johnny Antonelli picking up the victory and the Yankees ' Whitey Ford taking the loss. Many of the same players would face off again in Los Angeles, with only slight changes to the roster construction, including the addition of three extra players (possibly players who hit a hot streak between July 7 and Aug. 3) and a new set of pitchers. The pitching rule, however, wasn't all that relevant in 1959, given the gap between the games, but with the idea to eventually play both games in the same week, two sets of pitchers would be required.

Some of those rules held a handful of baseball men in limbo between whether the second game was a good idea or a bad one. All in all, the only way to determine the best course was to wait.

"When they hold it, I'm gonna advocate two Christmases," said Baltimore manager Paul Richards, who later had some major issues regarding the handling of the second game once it was played. "Now, if they'd hold both games within a week and give everybody a week off—I'd go for that."

The Los Angeles Coliseum, pictured here hosting the 1959 World Series, was not built for baseball, but could house a crowd of over 90,000 at full capacity.
The Los Angeles Coliseum, pictured here hosting the 1959 World Series, was not built for baseball, but could house a crowd of over 90,000 at full capacity. | Source

'Like Asking a Kid to Pay a Buck for a Lollipop'

The idea that players and owners were greedy was not helped along by the pricing of tickets for the second All-Star game. After 93,103 fans paid to watch the Yankees and Dodgers play at the Roy Campanella benefit game, many speculated, the second All-Star game might draw the biggest crowd in All-Star history. Tickets topped out at $8 for the 18,000 box seats (roughly a $70 value in 2019), and dropped to $6 for 16,000 reserved seats, $4 for 55,000 general admission seats, and $2 for 5,400 bleacher seats. A sellout of all 94,000 seats would bring in $470,000, but since the Coliseum wasn't built for baseball, not all of those 94,000 seats provided a particularly good view of the game. This was emphasized by a prominent Dodgers fan named Dan Jenkins, who had his letter shared by Los Angeles Times sports writer Frank Finch on June 24.

"I had written Harold Parrott (LA's business manager) as early as May 7 asking him to put me on the list for three box seats, an application I promptly asked him to tear up the day the price scale was announced. In my view, briefly, the average poor slob of a baseball fan is getting an extremely raw deal on this one, especially when you consider that only about 30,000 people can really get a decent view of the game in the outlandish Coliseum. To peg general admission seats at ($4) is like asking a kid to pay a buck for a lollipop," Jenkins wrote, later adding. "The game would draw 90,000 at the regularly established prices—and when was the last time any well-paid ballplayer came up to your office and paid $8 for the privilege of watching you work? ... In what other business, for heaven's sake, is the public baldly asked to pay a premium price for a product just to fatten the pension fund of the employees who turn out the product? And how many employees of how many other businesses are as well paid as major league ballplayers, who have all winter in which to cash in on their name value and set themselves up in all sorts of lifetime enterprises?"

But despite the criticism from Jenkins, all 18,000 of those $8 tickets were gobbled up prior to public sales, leading those in Los Angeles to speculate the game could draw up to 80,000, which easily would smash the record for All-Star game attendance of 69,812, a mark set by Cleveland in 1935. That's because the price wasn't exorbitant, and was well worth it for passionate baseball fans who didn't know when the next chance to see those standout American League players would come.

"The Dodgers didn't set the scale. Neither did Commissioner Ford Frick," Parrott said. "These prices have been in vogue for years; in fact tops was $8.80 in Pittsburgh because of a local tax. For that matter, fans get to see more stars in the All-Star Game than they do in the World Series, where tickets go as high as $10.50—and everything sells out."

'Our League Races are not so Important'

By rushing the second All-Star game into play, it threatened the integrity of the pennant races. Going into the game, the San Francisco Giants led the National League with a 59-45 record, but half a game out were the Los Angeles Dodgers (60-47) and a game and a half out were the Milwaukee Braves (57-45), while the Chicago Cubs (50-53) and Pittsburgh Pirates (50-55) were still within striking distance. The American League was a less intriguing battle, as the Chicago White Sox (62-40) led the Cleveland Indians (60-44) by three games in the standings, while the Baltimore Orioles (53-53) and Kansas City Athletics (51-51) were 11 games off the pace.

The National League race stayed tight through season's end, with the Dodgers and Braves both closing out the regular season at 86-68, forcing a best-of-three tie-breaking series for the league crown. The Dodgers won 3-2 in Game 1 and then scored three in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings before prevailing 6-5 in 12 frames in Game 2 to advance to the World Series, which they would win. The Giants finished the year three games in back, while the Pirates were eight games off the pace and the Cubs closed the year 12 games behind. In the American League, the White Sox continued dominating, winning the title with an MLB-best record of 94-60, leaving them five games in front of the Indians. The Orioles and Athletics slumped horribly in the second half, finishing 20 and 28 games behind, respectively.

"The need for a second All-Star Game in the middle of the pennant races, or the wisdom of it, is vague," wrote Shirley Povich in his June 5 "This Morning ..." column for the Washington Post. "One of the charms of the contest in the 25 years it has been staged has been that it is the only one of its kind. Two games will serve only to dilute fan interest in the whole business."

One day after the All-Star game, a pair of pivotal series began, with Milwaukee traveling to San Francisco, and the White Sox heading to Baltimore. Despite the outcry from Baltimore manager Paul Richards about pitching use, the game didn't seem to hinder his Orioles, who won two games and tied another during the series but then lost at least three games in a row five more times to fall out of contention for good. The Braves seemed fine right out of the All-Star game, too, but after that first win, they lost eight of the next 11. As for the top two AL teams, the Indians couldn't catch up to the White Sox after twice dropping four straight and twice losing three in a row over the final six weeks of the season. Hardly the result of an All-Star game. Even a poorly timed one.

"It is evident that the whole scheme is solely for the purpose of raising money even if not in the best interests of the pennant races, which are now being interrupted ...," said Cleveland General Manager Frank Lane. "What we have said to the fans in effect is, 'Our league races are not so important that we can't break into them to raise a few bucks.'"

If any teams had a legitimate gripe about the timing of the game, it was the Red Sox and Athletics, who were scheduled for a day-night doubleheader in Boston the next day. Because of the Los Angeles heat, the All-Star game didn't start until 4 p.m. local time, there wasn't much time for the Red Sox and Athletics to catch a flight to Boston for the next day's matchups. Many other teams had similar issues, as "the ballplayers moved like sleepwalkers through their routines," according to a report from the Washington Post's Bob Addie.

"Boy, I'm beat. You know what I did? When I got back to the hotel, I just dropped on the bed and corked off," said Ted Williams, the Red Sox legend who acknowledged he nearly missed the flight back to Boston due to fatigue.

'I've Got to be Against the Way it was Staged'

The first All-Star game to be played outside the month of July, the second game was another tight ballgame that saw the American League come on top in a 5-3 win. Don Drysdale once again started for the National League, facing off against Baltimore's Jerry Walker, who was making his first All-Star game appearance as one of the new players added on by Manager Casey Stengel. Walker picked up the victory, getting backed by home runs from Frank Malzone, Yogi Berra and Rocky Colavito, while Drysdale was stuck with the loss after allowing three runs over the first three innings.

After the game, controversy was raised over the use of the pitchers in the game, and not surprisingly, criticism was again hurled about the tight scheduling. Still, a handful of players found the positives.

"This game has been badly presented to the pubic. It's for a great cause. ... This game is not for the players of today and certainly doesn't mean any money for the owners," said Drysdale, who was slightly misguided in his remarks. "It's for the players' pension fund—and not, mind you, the young players of today but the old players."

Said Baltimore's Bob Nieman: "I'll tell you this about the staging of Monday's game. The players originally wanted the second game to begin in 1960, but the owners steam-rollered it in this season—not the players. They saw a chance to pack that Los Angeles bowl with maybe 90,000 people. Don't forget, the owners get 40 percent of the gate."

On the other side, however, was a louder contingent of players and executives. A critic from the start, Chicago's Early Wynn said he had "no reason to alter my opposition to playing two All-Star games in one year," after the game in Los Angeles, adding "such stupidity is going to foul up baseball and the pension plan." For Baltimore's Sherman Lollar, his complaints fell more into how the game was played, than simply because it was a second game. "Playing two such games resolves itself into a question of weighing the cause against the detraction of a second game. ... Even for this good cause, though, I've got to be against the way it was staged." The players with a negative impression can't be blamed. In the hottest month of the year and during a critical time of the season, pushing a select number of players to an exhausting stretch of days definitely hurt the already-fragile reputation of the second All-Star game. American League manager Casey Stengel of the New York Yankees didn't help polish that reputation either.

An editorial cartoon previewing the second All-Star game held in Los Angeles in 1959.
An editorial cartoon previewing the second All-Star game held in Los Angeles in 1959. | Source

'Thinly Veiled, Damned Dirty Trick'

The controversy all started when Stengel named Baltimore youngster Jerry Walker as the All-Star replacement for Gus Triandos, who suffered an injury between the two games, and then decided Walker would start the Monday night exhibition. These decisions drew the ire of Baltimore manager Paul Richards, who was sharply critical of Stengel's antics before the game.

"You would think the pennant race is more important than the result of a second exhibition game. Yet we plan our pitching so we have Walker to open Tuesday night against Chicago, and now, with no warning whatsoever, we are supposed to look for somebody else," Richards said on Sunday, Aug. 2. "We already know we can't figure on (Billy) O'Dell. He's in the game, too. That means we won't have our best pitchers ready for the league leaders Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday."

The main pitchers in question were Walker and O'Dell, and Cleveland's Cal McLish. Walker had pitched one inning the day before against Cleveland and wouldn't pitch again until four days after tossing three innings to open the All-Star game. For O'Dell, he had pitched in relief in both games of a doubleheader the day before, but had only accounted for 1 1/3 innings of work, though he did face seven batters. McLish, meanwhile, had tossed eight innings the day prior to the All-Star game. Because of that, Richards was strongly backed by Cleveland General Manager Frank Lane after the game. Lane called Stengel's use of pitchers in the All-Star game as a "thinly veiled, damned dirty trick," noting that Stengel's own Ryne Duren never appeared in the game after firing 3 1/3 innings the day before. To make matters worse, Stengel was quoted the day before the game as saying Duren was "very doubtful" because of how much he pitched the day before.

"(Richards) has a right to be angry as all get-out. I back him 100 percent," Lane said. "What right had Stengel to use Billy O'Dell, who pitched both games for the Orioles on Sunday? What right had he to use McLish, who never even had a chance to take his clothes off? McLish pitched in Cleveland Sunday, then flew all night to get into Los Angeles yesterday, only to wind up back on the mound again. I leave it to the public to judge Stengel's motive."

O'Dell pitched the seventh inning of the game, while McLish fired the final two innings to pick up the save. Meanwhile, the witty Stengel answered his critics with a simple retort.

"All the managers must have forgot to mark down the All-Star game on their calendars because they used six of the All-Star pitchers on Sunday," he said. "Why, in order to get a man to start the game, I had to pick a guy who wasn't even on the (original) squad."

All told, the players took in over three-quarters of a million dollars for their pension between the two All-Star games, giving the group incentive to continue the game while payments lagged behind. Three hundred thousand was picked up from the radio and television rights of each game, and then players took in $194,303 from gate receipts for the Pittsburgh game and $262,336 from gate receipts for the Los Angeles game, which saw an attendance of 54,982, giving players a total of $756,639.

"Yes, we (the Yankees) voted for it, else we wouldn't be out here. It's for a good cause," said New York's Yogi Berra, the game's Most Valuable Player. "But if we have another one, I'd like to see both games played in a space of five days. Then everything wouldn't be crammed into such short notice like this one."

Added American League President Joe Cronin of that idea: "It's the only way. This was a fine game and a good crowd. But the playing personnel was jumbled because of lack of off days. As far as the American League is concerned, a second All-Star game each year is up to the players. The American League owners will do whatever the players want."

1960: 'A Watering Stop on the All-Star Caravan'

The controversy cooled as it was accepted there would be two All-Star games in 1960, but once again, when the games rolled around, there were logistical issues that had many clamoring once again about whether two games were truly necessary. Because of how the games were spaced apart—the first being on July 11 in Kansas City and the second being on July 13 at Yankee Stadium in New York—roster size for the games were raised to 30 players and it was required for both league's to have two sets of pitchers, who weren't permitted to throw more than three innings unless extra innings were required.

Problems first arose when players got to Kansas City on a scorching afternoon. As temperatures pushed toward 100 degrees, players certainly were thinking about how worn out they would be after playing in such conditions—then it would hit them they also had to quickly catch a flight to New York. That quick turnaround also left the city of Kansas City feeling a little left out of the All-Star game. Because players had to depart so quickly, there wasn't as much of a celebration of All-Stars in the city as there could have been, especially considering it was the first game hosted there.

"Kansas City has long been awaiting its turn but this year the glamor (sic) is gone," wrote Bob Addie of the Washington Post. "The reason is the two-platoon setup which insures double profits to keep feeding insurance premium into the hungry maw of the pension plan."

Addie continued to explain that because there was a full slate of games on July 10, players only arrived in Kansas City for the day of the game and then left right away to get to New York. He noted there was a big economic loss for the city, and quoted a sports writing friend of his from the city as saying, "The way it is, we're only going to be a watering stop for the All-Star caravan." Wrote Arthur Daley of the New York Times: "The result seems to be an alarming watering down of the entire business, a deglamorization of the idea that originally inspired the so-called dream game."

In the actual game, the National League rode strong pitching and three hits from Willie Mays to a 5-3 victory. Bob Friend of the Pirates picked up the victory, while the American League's Bill Monbouquette struggled over the first two innings to take the loss in front of 30,619 fans. Two days later in New York, the National League made it a clean sweep, rolling to a 6-0 win at Yankee Stadium. Mays once again collected three hits to pace the senior circuit's offense and back winning pitcher Vern Law. The American League's starter—this time hometown favorite Whitey Ford—again struggled early to take the loss. A disappointing crowd of 38,362 showed up for the game (see the empty seats in the highlight video above), re-opening the conversation about the necessity of the second game.

"The idea of two All-Star games was given a trial last year and this year as an experiment," said Frank Slocum of the commissioner's office shortly after the All-Star break. "So far, the Major Leagues have only a commitment for one All-Star game in 1961 in San Francisco, whether there will be one or two remains to be seen.”

Players, however, did vote to keep the All-Star doubleheader for 1961, but changed their minds on how they wanted it staged., going back to a system that spread out the two games. The first would be played in San Francisco on July 11 and the second on Aug. 8 in Boston. Of the 16 teams, four voted against the proposal—Cleveland, Washington, Philadelphia, and San Francisco—and commissioner Ford Frick also seemed to be tiring of the idea.

"It is the feeling of the clubs and many of the players that after 1961 the schedule should revert to the old plan of one All-Star game per year," Frick said. "In 1962 and thereafter, the new and increased TV contract will be in effect, and with that increased income there seems little need for a second All-Star game.”

1961-62: The All-Star Doubleheader's Demise

Amid all the controversy surrounding the All-Star doubleheader after essential failures in 1959 and 1960, Judge Robert Cannon, the new player legal representative, provided a solution to put some flair back into the All-Star game, essentially suggesting going back to a single-game system but also one that would continue to help benefit players on a larger scale.

"The entertainment dollar can’t stretch to cover every recreational activity. Baseball should realize it is now in competition for this entertainment dollar and must make the game attractive to the public and to the prospective players. It is my opinion that the All-Star games aren’t exploited enough by the owners. Many of the owners started off by thinking of the All-Star game as a necessary evil. In the past years, of course, it has been tied to the pension fund," Cannon said. "Perhaps what baseball needs is an organized campaign to sell itself. Just think of the attractions there are in the game for young men. I would urge every young man to finish college first of all. Then, if he has any ability, I would suggest he try to make the big leagues.

"The advantages of playing big league ball today are tremendous. During the period an athlete is active, he can be building up his contacts on the outside and preparing for the day he retires. It could be something like the recruiting posters of a few years back which urged you to ‘join the Navy and see the world.’ Join a big league team after your college education and make your future secure," he said. "Baseball has a lot to offer a young man today. It’s still one of the most fascinating games ever invented for the spectator, but it should be made more attractive to the future players who in turn can perform on a reasonably talented level for the discriminating public.”

The 1961 All-Star doubleheader made it three years in a row with problems—this time Mother Nature intruded. After a fascinating opening game at Candlestick Park in front of 44,115, which saw the National League rally with RBI hits by Willie Mays and Robert Clemente in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-4 victory, the second game at Fenway Park ended in a 1-1 tie due to rain in front of 31,851. It was another disappointing chapter in the legacy of the two-game structure, but once again, it was decided two games would be the plan for 1962, with the first game on July 10 in Washington, D.C., and a second game on July 30 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the American League stated it was finished with the two-game structure after 1962, flatly announcing it “will not entertain any requests thereafter for a second All-Star game.” The National League said it was unanimous "without reservation" in its decision, but only for the 1962 season.

Players remained divided.

"How can we be criticized for working toward a good pension in a few years limited to the average ball player? Critics usually point out that a 20-year man at the age of 65 gets $550 a month. That’s just part of the story. A player who remained in the majors only a few years get $88 a month," said Billy Pierce of the White Sox. "Beyond the pension question, I’m convinced the fans want two All-Star games a year. Isn’t it good sense to give New England an opportunity to see National League stars in action? I think yesterday’s crowd proves the point.”

Countered Bobby Richardson of the Yankees: "I think we should play just one game, but that game should be staged so that it really means something. Like the first one we play now, there should be a day open for travel after the Sunday games. Also, managers should be made to agree not to use any of the selected All-Star pitchers later than Saturday. That would assure each pitcher of at least two full days of rest and make this game what it should be, a real test of the best in the two leagues.”

Rest time and scheduling of pitchers had been a struggle since the doubleheader's inception in 1959, and that would continue in 1962. Going into the second All-Star game on a Monday, there were six doubleheaders scheduled the day before and more than half the pitchers in the game pitched that day, with most others throwing innings on Saturday. Still, the games went on, with the National League again winning the first game before a crowd of 45,480. This time, it was a 3-1 victory on the power of three hits from Clemente and strong pitching from starter Don Drysdale and winning pitcher Juan Marichal. In Chicago, the American League picked up a 9-4 victory behind three home runs and three hits from Leon Wagner in front of 38,359 fans.

Despite the obvious opposition from several sources, the players again wanted to keep the tradition going forward.

"I have been authorized unanimous vote of the players to ask that two games be played again next year. I intend to do that at the major league meetings," Cannon said. "… The players have not consented to our conceding anything. At the major league meetings, we’ll sit down with the owners and administrators of baseball and discuss what’s best for the game and everybody concerned.”

The owners countered with suggestions such as an East vs. West game, interleague games, or exhibitions between teams equal in the standings in each league—as in first place vs. first place, second place vs. second place, and on down. Neither proposal was accepted, however, with owners instead agreeing to give players 95 percent of the television and radio receipts, as well as the gate receipt, in exchange for a return to the one-game system. The change only cost the players about $50,000.

"We didn't want to buck the press and the public by pushing two All-Star games down their throats any longer," said Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and National League player representative Bob Friend. "We originally put in the two games only to meet our pension fund payments, and now that we are able to meet the obligations another way, we are perfectly happy with the compromise."

A Noble Experiment

It's hard to pinpoint blame on why the All-Star doubleheader failed. Was the game just rushed into existence too quickly? Were the players actually too greedy and too inconsistent with their demands for when to play the games? Did the owners promote the game the wrong way? Did the sportswriters, players, and executives against the idea paint the game too negatively? Realistically, it was a cavalcade of all these things.

As mentioned earlier, with the advent of technology, an All-Star doubleheader would have become obsolete eventually, but done right, the doubleheader would have probably continued into the 1970s or 1980s. Where I believe Major League Baseball missed the mark was just having two All-Star games. Had the regular All-Star game remained the way it was and an East vs. West interleague exhibition been added to the schedule to benefit the pension, the complaints would have been far fewer—if not almost non-existent—and the attendance almost certainly would have been a sellout in any stadium.

Kudos do have to be awarded to Robin Roberts for proposing a fairly radical idea for the time and to Major League Baseball for allowing the experiment to be carried out.

Editor's note: Thank you for reading! Research is continuing into this topic. Additional updates, clarifications, and additions may be added periodically as more history is uncovered.

Works cited

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Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Andrew Harner

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      • Andrew Harner profile imageAUTHOR

        Andrew Harner 

        31 hours ago from Ohio

        Thanks, CJ. This whole thing came from Googling if there had ever been an All-Star Game postponed by rain, which resulted in me finding out about the rain-shortened second game. I was like, "Second game?" Then, research led me into the pension discussion and beyond.

        I am personally still a big fan of the All-Star Game, so I agree that a second one would be awesome. However, I can't envision today's players and executives finding much incentive to get on board with such an idea.

      • lions44 profile image

        CJ Kelly 

        2 days ago from Auburn, WA

        How did I miss this? Great piece. I actually think 2 All Star games would work today...make it a "Series."

      working

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