Jim Bunning (Trading Card DB)

August 5, 1957: A harbinger of things to come: Metropolitan Stadium hosts Reds-Tigers exhibition

This article was written by Joel Rippel

Jim Bunning (Trading Card DB)Before the Minneapolis Millers’ inaugural game in Metropolitan Stadium in 1956, New York Giants President Horace Stoneham was asked if he agreed that the ballpark was a good facility for minor-league baseball.

“Minor league nothing,” Stoneham replied. “This is a real major league park, and you’ll have major league ball here in the near future.”1

A major-league tenant was still four years in the future but in August 1957, the ballpark moved closer to that result when it played host to two major-league teams for the first time. In the first two seasons in Bloomington, the Millers had played four exhibition games against major-league teams (the New York Giants in 1956 and 1957, the Cleveland Indians in 1956, and the Milwaukee Braves in April 1957).

In a harbinger of things to come, the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers visited Met Stadium in August 1957 for the first game in twentieth-century Minnesota featuring two major-league teams.

The Reds and Tigers each came to town as fourth-place teams. The Reds (58-46), who were 4½ games behind the National League-leading St. Louis Cardinals, had played a doubleheader with the New York Giants at home the previous day. The Giants won the first game, 7-6, in 14 innings before the Reds salvaged a split with a 3-2 victory in the second game.

The Tigers (50-52), who were a distant 18½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees, had lost to the Washington Senators, 8-4, in Washington the previous day.

After the doubleheader split, the Reds were 4-5 in their last nine games and the Tigers had lost three straight and five of seven heading into the exhibition.

A Minneapolis columnist wrote before the game, “While both will receive tidy guarantees for their efforts, they were reluctant to take on an exhibition game at this important stage of their pennant races.”2

But the two teams made a favorable impression on the crowd of 21,689 – a record for a baseball game played in Minnesota – as the Tigers, managed by Jack Tighe, outlasted the Reds, managed by Birdie Tebbetts, 6-5.

The game featured 10 players who had played in the All-Star Game the previous July 9 in St. Louis, won by the American League, 6-5. Tigers pitcher Jim Bunning was the winning pitcher.

“Too often, major league clubs in exhibitions just go through the motions of playing the game, taking the public’s money and giving the minimum in effort. Not Detroit and Cincinnati. They went all out. The two managers got every player of note into action before the nine innings were up,” observed a sportswriter.3

The Reds opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Rookie outfielder Joe Taylor doubled off Tigers starter Billy Hoeft and scored on Don Hoak’s two-out single. The Reds wouldn’t score again until the ninth inning as Tigers relievers Duke Maas and Al Aber limited the. to two hits over the next six innings.

Reds starter Art Fowler, a one-time Miller, held the Tigers hitless into the fifth before running into trouble. With one out in the fifth the Tigers tied the score on consecutive singles by Red Wilson and future Twins Bill Tuttle and Reno Bertoia.

The Tigers were just getting started. They had 11 hits in their final four at-bats. The Tigers chased Fowler in the sixth inning with six consecutive singles, which delivered three runs and gave them a 4-1 lead.

The Tigers extended their lead to 6-1 with two runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Harvey Kuenn and a two-out single by John Groth.

A Reds comeback in the bottom of the ninth fell one run short.

Pinch-hitter Ed Bailey drew a walk from Aber, who was beginning his fifth inning of relief. Jerry Lynch’s double scored Bailey. After Wally Post lined out for the first out, Lynch scored on Pete Whisenant’s single to make it 6-3. George Crowe followed with a two-run home run and pulled the Reds to within 6-5.

Frank Lary relieved Aber and ended the threat by striking out Smoky Burgess and retiring Alex Grammas on a fly to left.

“I knew Detroit’s 6-1 lead wasn’t safe against our club,” said Tebbetts. “We can explode any time. I thought we’d win it until Lary got Smoky Burgess, a really tough hitter, on that curveball in the ninth.”4

Groth had three hits and Kuenn had two for the Tigers, who outhit the Reds 14-7. All of the Tigers’ hits were singles. Seven players each had one hit for the Reds.

Minneapolis Tribune columnist Dick Cullum wrote, “There was only one reason why the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Redlegs accepted the invitation to play a midseason game in Minneapolis. They wanted to do something for baseball.”5

The Tigers also did something for their themselves during their one-day stay in town. They signed University of Minnesota shortstop George Thomas. Thomas, who was a sophomore for the Gophers in 1957, agreed to a $25,000 bonus, which would be paid over the next three years.

The Tigers told Thomas, the younger brother of Jerry Thomas, who was a key member of the Gophers pitching staff when they won their first College World Series title in 1956, that he would be placed on their active roster on September 1. Commissioner Ford Frick had recently issued a directive that bonus signees didn’t have to join their clubs immediately (as former Gopher Jerry Kindall did when he signed in 1956).



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, Retrosheet.org, and sabr.org.



1 Sid Hartman, “Stoneham Praises Stadium, Predicts Major League Ball Soon,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 24, 1956: 14.

2 Charles Johnson, “Lowdown on Sports,” Minneapolis Star, August 5, 1957: 11B.

3 Johnson, “Major Leaguers Go All Out to Please,” Minneapolis Star, August 6, 1957: 10B.

4 “Kuenn Will Play Leftfield,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 6, 1957: 17.

5 Dick Cullum, “Tigers, Redlegs Boost Baseball,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 6, 1957: 17.

Additional Stats

Detroit Tigers 6
Cincinatti Reds 5

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN

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