Pittsburgh Pirates: When The Burgh Hosted The Mid-Summer Classic


Aug 24, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A general view of the 2015 All Star Game logo during the eighth inning in the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Braves 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s Major League Baseball game is set for July 14 and will be played in the ballpark of the Cincinnati Reds, the Great American Ball Park.

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For the city of Pittsburgh, the last time they hosted baseball’s biggest mid-summer event was back in 2006 when PNC Park was the venue for the American League’s 3-2 victory. It was the younger league’s 40th victory in the series of All-Star games that began in 1933.

The event began as an idea from the then Sports Editor of the Chicago Tribune, Arch Ward who’s novel all-star affair for professional baseball was originally intended to be a one-and-done event. But the popularity of it soared and the game has continued every year since with the exception of 1`945 when it was cancelled because of World War II.

From 1959 to 1962, there were actually two All-Star games held in the same season for those years and since 1933, 85 All-Star games have been held.

The National League has won 43 of those contests and two of the games ended in a tie. While the difference in victories between the two leagues is close, there have been stretches of dominance by one circuit or the other. From the first game until 1949, the American League came out on top 12 of 16 times.

But from 1950 through 1987, the N.L. was the winner 33 of 42 times with one of those two deadlocked games coming in that stretch. The older league also lost just one game between 1963 and 1982. However, for the last 16 years, the A.L. has taken 20 of 27 and in that period the other tie game occurred.

Aside from that game in Pittsburgh in 2006 that took place on July 11, MLB’s All-Star game has been played in the ‘Burgh four other times. Two took place at old Forbes Field, and the other two in the defunct Three Rivers Stadium.

The first game for the city of Pittsburgh was played on July 11, 1944 as the National League spanked the A.L. by a score of 7-1. There was no Most Valuable Player named as that process did not begin until the 1962 All-Star game. In 1944, Ken Raffensberger of the Philadelphia Phillies earned the victory while Boston’s Tex Hughson was tagged with the loss. 29,589 fans were in attendance at Forbes Field that day.

Pirates fans got to see some of their own players as Rip Sewell, Bob Elliott, Vince DiMaggio were on the N.L. roster. For batting practice, Pittsburgh’s Max Butcher and Cookie Cuccurullo were selected as pitchers as well as Spud Davis being named batting practice catcher. As an honorary coach, Honus Wagner was tabbed for that role, marking the first time MLB had picked someone to be honored as such in an All-Star game.

Pittsburgh Pirates
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Pittsburgh Pirates

15 years later, the game returned to Pittsburgh, again at Forbes Field. This time 35,277 came to the ball park and watched the National League win again, this time by a 5-4 final. This was the first of two All-Star games played that year, the second coming on August 3 when the American League evened that year’s series with a 5-3 victory.

In that first game in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were represented by Bill Mazeroski, Smokey Burgess, Dick Groat, and Elroy Face. Maz had one hit in his only at bat and knocked in a run with it, while Face surrendered three runs in 1 2/3 innings of work, walking two and giving up three hits.

Once again, 15 years later this time in 1974, the annual All-Star game came to the Steel City. Now with Three Rivers Stadium in their fifth year, Pittsburgh would be holding it’s third All-Star game on July 23.

As a matter of deja vu, the N.L. won again. Three games held in the ‘Burgh and all won by the host city’s league. In 1974 it was a 7-2 margin and now with M.V.P’s being named, Steve Garvey of the Los Angeles Dodgers was so named. The winning pitcher for that game was the Pirates’ own Ken Brett. Luis Tiant took the loss. Dave Cash was Pittsburgh’s only other representative. In the fairly new Three Rivers Stadium, the attendance soared to 50,706. That was nowhere near a sellout of the 59,000 seat venue.

July 12, 1994 was the next stop in Pittsburgh for Major League Baseball’s traveling road show called the All-Star Game. For the fourth straight time, Pittsburgh’s league took the game and on this night, it was close. Going 10 innings, the Nationals prevailed 8-7.

It was over when Moises Alou doubled home the late Tony Gwynn who had singled. Interestingly enough, Alou’s uncle Matty once played for the Pirates in the 1960s until 1970. For this All-Star game, only Doug Drabek was in the dugout wearing a Pirates uniform. Fred McGriff was the M.V.P. And Doug Jones the winning pitcher as Jason Bere took the loss.

Finally, there is that 2006 game at PNC Park that the American League won. The final score was 3-2 and 38,904 were there to witness it. B.J. Ryan from the Toronto Bluejays was the winning pitcher and Trevor Hoffman of the Padres took the loss. Michael Young playing for the Texas Rangers was the Most Valuable Player. For the Pirates, only Jason Bey and Freddie Sanchez were representatives of Pittsburgh’s baseball team. Bey went 1 for 3 and struck out twice. Sanchez at second base went hitless in two at bats.

In 2015 the All Star game returns to the National League where since 2003, the winner of the game gets home field advantage in the World Series. Perhaps that rule was put into place because there appeared to be a lackadaisical attitude by the players in trying to win the game that had no foothold in the season standings. But gone are the days of when fans could enter a stadium, grab an all-star ballot, fill in the little squares for their favorite players, and have a say in the voting.

Now with the use of the internet, fans can sit at home and vote for their choices as many times as they wish although the Commissioner’s office as indicated they have taken precautions to avoid “ballot box stuffing” as was the case in 1957.

That year, it was discovered that the Cincinnati Enquirer had pre-marked ballots printed leading up to the game and handed placed them in their Sunday newspaper so that fans could easily submit them to get as many Reds into the All Star game as possible.

The ploy worked as seven Cincinnati Reds players were elected to start. Then Commissioner Ford Frick discovered the cheating and had Willie Mays and Hank Aaron replace Gus Bell and Wally Post who were two of the Cincinnati players starting. From that year until 1968, managers and coaches were then assigned to pick the players until fan voting was restored a year later.

Next: WATCH: Back end of rotation critical to Pirates' success

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