Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Worst All-Star Game Ever

TRIVIA QUESTION:   While the 1968 All-Star Game in Houston was a washout when it came to excitement the highlight of game was not. In the year of the pitcher, who was named MVP of the game?  

In 1969 Jim Wynn, the Toy Cannon, whiffed and walked a lot. He walked 148 and struck out 142 times which means he came to the plate 290 times and did not put the ball in play. That is a season for most players today. 

If there was ever a year fans would vote an all-star game as the worst, it would have to be the 1968 game played in Houston. It not only was the year of the pitcher and the game proved the fact, it almost cost one of the great Hall of Fame players the rest of his career.

In 1968 pitching was king. Bob Gibson broke out with a new best ERA (1.12) not seen since the days of Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1.22 in 1915, and Denny McLain won 31 games for Detroit. The first time in 34 years a pitcher broke the 30 win mark (Dizzy Dean in 1934). It hasn't been done since and probably never will be seen again. It was also the year Don Drysdale pitched 58 consecutive scoreless innings.

The batting title in the American League was won by Carl Yastrzemski at .301. Make no mistake about it, pitching was king. So much so, the following year the mound was actually lowered to give hitters an added advantage and we've never seen a year off the mound like 1968 again.

When it came to voting for the mid-summer classic the line-up was filled by favorites of the fans, not the best players in the game. To prove a point; Harmon Killebrew was barely batting over .200 at the break and was named as the AL first baseman. It almost doomed his career.

Willie Mays was a last minute substitute to the starting line-up and was inserted into the lead off position. Mays was definitely at the end of his career and while he did hang on for a couple more seasons, his best was behind him at 37.

The game for the NL squad started off with Mays hitting a single to left off starter Luis Tiant. When Tiant tried to pick Mays off first base, Killebrew couldn't get to it and Mays ended up on second. When Tiant uncorked a wild pitch to Curt Flood, Mays took third. Flood eventually walked and Willie McCovey banged into a double play which scored Mays. 

That was it. It was the only time during the game a runner would cross home plate. NL wins it 1-0. The National Leaguers only had five hits,  the AL only three. Drysdale pitched three hitless innings to start it off. Drysdale got the win, Tiant the loss and to show you how weak the hitting was; No earned runs came across the plate. The only run was scored because of two errors and a double play ball. Now that's boring. Batters struck out a combined 20 times.

The other problem was Killebrew. In the third inning he stretched for a throw and tore  his hamstring and missed the next two months of the season. He did rebound the following year and was named MVP. But in 1968 he finished with .210 and 17 home runs.

The game featured many quirks including Pete Rose breaking his thumb in pre-game warm ups which is why Mays was inserted in the lead-off spot, Brooks Robinson injuring his back and lots of other stuff. Perhaps the most unusual thing was the ticket for the first All-Star Game in the Astrodome. The ticket was marked with a "Rain Check." Not likely it was going to be rained out, inside the Dome.

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