The 1950 All-Star Game returned to Comiskey Park for the first time since the inaugural game in 1933. A capacity crowd of 46,127 witnessed the most suspenseful All-Star Game to date as the National League prevailed, 4-3, on Red Schoendienst’s 14th-inning home run off Detroit’s Ted Gray to end the American League’s four-game winning streak. The game had everything: drama, clutch hitting, spectacular fielding, and overpowering pitching.1 Although it was the first All-Star Game to go extra innings, even with five additional frames the game still took only 3 hours and 19 minutes.
The days leading up to the game had seen controversy stemming from the fact that the fans had neglected to elect a natural center fielder into the starting lineup when they chose Ralph Kiner, Hank Sauer, and Enos Slaughter. National League manager Burt Shotton wanted to substitute Duke Snider of his own Brooklyn Dodgers for Sauer and initially obtained approval from National League President Ford Frick. But after backlash from the fans, Commissioner Happy Chandler reversed course, forcing Shotton to start the 34-year-old Slaughter in center. The Chicago fans roundly booed Shotton in pregame introductions, since Sauer was a Chicago Cub, but Shotton grinned good-naturedly and doffed his cap, turning many of the boos to applause.2
The pregame ceremonies celebrated the return of the All-Star Game to Comiskey with two events. First, the crowd stood for a moment of silence to honor Babe Ruth, whose home run in the 1933 game was the first in All-Star history. Second, Connie Mack, who was manager of the American League team in 1933 and at 87 was still the manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, threw out the first ball from the box seats, tossing it to starting pitcher Vic Raschi of the Yankees, who trotted it back to Mr. Mack.3
Raschi, who was 10-6 and had a run of six scoreless All-Star innings, was up against 23-year-old Robin Roberts, who was 10-3 and was the first All-Star starting pitcher in Philadelphia Phillies history.4 Once the game began, so did the excitement and the first of many outstanding fielding plays. Ralph Kiner, the second batter of the game, lifted a ball to deep left field that sent Ted Williams crashing into the scoreboard to make a spectacular catch, saving an extra-base hit. Williams spent considerable time rubbing his left elbow after the catch, but stayed in the game until the ninth inning.5 X-rays later taken in Boston revealed a fracture. He would miss the next 66 games for the fourth-place Red Sox, effectively ending their pennant hopes.6
The National League did break through first, scoring two runs in the top of the second in a matter of seconds. Jackie Robinson led off with a single to right field, quickly followed by Enos Slaughter’s triple to left-center for one run. Hank Sauer’s long fly ball to Hoot Evers in right soon plated Slaughter with the second run. The National League dodged a bullet in the bottom half of the inning when Slaughter made a fine outstretched running catch of rookie Walt Dropo’s smash in front of the bullpen, 415 feet away from home plate, to keep the score at 2-0.7 The catch confirmed Shotton’s late decision to play Slaughter in center rather than the plodding Sauer, who could not have reached Dropo’s drive.8
The American League did manage a run off Roberts in the third on a leadoff ground-rule double to left-center by Cass Michaels, sent to pinch-hit for Raschi by American League manager Casey Stengel. Phil Rizzuto, playing in his first All-Star Game in his seventh big-league season, laid a perfect bunt single down the third-base line, moving Michaels to third. After Larry Doby struck out, George Kell’s fly to deep center plated Michaels to close the score to 2-1.9
Bob Lemon of the Indians and Don Newcombe of the Dodgers took over on the mound for their respective leagues in the fourth inning. Lemon retired the Nationals in order but Dropo greeted Newcombe with a triple that caromed off the bullpen wall in deepest center field at a crazy angle. Newcombe managed to squirm out of the jam after Evers grounded out to shortstop Marty Marion as Dropo held at third. Yogi Berra followed with a comebacker that hung Dropo out to dry off third for the second out. Bobby Doerr then forced Berra at second to end the inning.
Newcombe’s luck ran out in the fifth, however, as the American League took the lead for the first time. Lemon, a converted third baseman who was always a good hitter, led off with a walk.10 After Rizzuto struck out, Doby hit a sharp grounder up the middle that second baseman Jackie Robinson got a glove on but could not hold. The ball trickled into center field as Lemon advanced to third and Doby sped into second with an unconventional double. Kell followed with another deep fly to Andy Pafko in center to score Lemon with the tying run and send Doby to third.11 Ted Williams was next and, batting with what turned out to be a broken elbow, smashed a clutch two-out single to right to put the Americans up 3-2.
Meanwhile Lemon had retired six straight National Leaguers. In the top of the sixth he surrendered a leadoff single to right to pinch-hitter Dick Sisler, who was immediately erased on Willie “Puddinhead” Jones’s double-play grounder. Lemon then struck out Kiner to complete three near-perfect innings.
Jim Konstanty, premier relief pitcher for the Phillies,12 threw a perfect sixth while the National League threatened to tie the score in the top of the seventh against Art Houtteman on a two-out walk to Slaughter and Pafko’s infield single. Roy Campanella smacked a deep fly but Comiskey’s cavernous center field held it as Doby made the putout to avert any damage.
Houtteman retired the National League in order in the eighth inning to bring about the ninth. Meanwhile, Larry Jansen had taken over for the National League in the seventh and proceeded to deliver perhaps the best pitching performance in All-Star Game history.13 He began by retiring the first six batters he faced, four by strikeout.
The ninth inning saw the American League clinging to its one-run lead with Houtteman still on the mound. But on the second pitch of the inning, Ralph Kiner slammed a ball into the left-field seats to tie the score, 3-3, as the crowd sat stunned.14 Jansen kept the game even in the home half with another overpowering inning, retiring Joe DiMaggio, who had replaced Evers in right, on a fly ball to center and punching out Jim Hegan and Jerry Coleman for his fifth and sixth strikeouts in three innings.15
Allie Reynolds took over for the American League as the game went to the 10th inning and retired the National League in order. Because of the extra innings, the normal rule limiting pitchers to three innings was no longer in effect, and so Shotton could leave the dominant Jansen on the mound. Larry continued to throw goose eggs, allowing only a harmless two-out single to Doby in the bottom half.
The National League mounted a serious threat against Reynolds in the 11th that began with Kiner’s one-out double to the gap in right. The Chief intentionally walked Stan Musial and retired pinch-hitter Johnny Wyrostek on a fly to Doby in center.16 Slaughter hit a routine groundball to Jerry Coleman, in for defense at second, but Coleman booted it to load the bases with two outs. Pafko smacked a deep drive to left that promised to end the game, but Dom DiMaggio, also inserted for defense, made a fine catch with his back against the wall to end the inning. Jansen then sailed through the bottom of the inning, retiring the Americans in order.
Reynolds returned to form and retired the National League in order in the top of the 12th. To the relief of the American League, Duke Snider pinch-hit for Jansen in the inning. In five razor-sharp innings, Jansen had given up one single and no walks while striking out six. But the junior circuit jumped from the proverbial frying pan to the fire, as side-wheeling Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell replaced Jansen. He began by striking out Hegan and Coleman before Tommy Henrich, batting for Reynolds, lined out to Pafko in center.
Ted Gray, the only lefty among the 11 pitchers used, replaced Reynolds on the mound for the American League in the top of the 13th, and after allowing a leadoff single to Jones, retired Kiner, Musial, and Wyrostek on fly balls to the outfield.17 Blackwell made quick work of the Americans in the bottom of the inning on a fly ball and two groundouts, setting the stage for the climactic 14th inning.
Red Schoendienst, who had entered the game at second base when Wyrostek batted for Robinson, led off. The 27-year-old was in the midst of his sixth major-league season and enjoying his fourth All-Star berth.18 The switch-hitter batted righty against the southpaw Gray and was not known for his power, particularly from that side of the dish. But on a 2-and-2 pitch he walloped a no-doubter into Comiskey’s second deck in left field to give the Nationals the lead, 4-3.
Pafko singled to left, suggesting that the senior circuit might not be through. Gray then struck out Campanella but Pafko advanced to second on a passed ball. Casey Stengel then waved in Bob Feller to pitch to the trio of right-handed batters to follow. Feller struck out Blackwell before walking Pee Wee Reese to put runners on first and second. But Willie Jones flied to center for out number three.
Blackwell still had to get the Americans out in the bottom half and proved up to the task, allowing only a one-out single to left to Ferris Fain. The Whip quickly induced Joe DiMaggio to hit into an around-the-horn double play to end a most memorable 14-inning thriller.
Blackwell was the winning pitcher and finished his work for the day by allowing one hit in three shutout innings. Together Konstanty, Jansen, and Blackwell had allowed two hits and no runs over the last nine innings of the game, while striking out 10 and walking no one.
There were reports that Schoendienst called his home run on his way up to bat.19 In his memoirs, however, Schoendienst related that while shagging flies in pregame practice with Dick Sisler, Duke Snider, Walker Cooper, and others, they were all kidding about what they would do if they got into the game. Schoendienst said he just blurted out that he was going to hit one into the upper deck in right field, to the guffaws of the others since he was not a home-run hitter. When he went up to bat in the 14th, those same teammates reminded Red of his pregame boast. Walker Cooper asked, “You going to hit it up in the right-field stands?”
“No,” Schoendienst answered. “Left field now,” since he was batting right-handed, and of course that is exactly what he did, to the shock of everyone.20
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and SABR.org.
1 Edward Burns, “N.L. Finds Ball Lively — If Hit,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1950: 44.
2 William J. Conway, “Schoendienst Hit Last Act in Big Drama,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 12, 1950: 37.
3 Conway, 37.
4 Raschi was the 10th starting pitcher from the Yankees in the 17 games. He was the winning pitcher in the 1948 game and racked up a save in the 1949 contest. Roberts would go on to start a total of five All-Star Games.
5 John Drebinger, “National League Beats American on Schoendienst’s Homer in 14th,” New York Times, July 12, 1950: 34.
6 David Vincent, Lyle Spatz, and David W. Smith, The Midsummer Classic — The Complete History of Baseball’s All-Star Game (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), 106. The Red Sox finished four games behind the pennant-winning Yankees in 1950, playing without Williams until September 15. Donald Honig, The All-Star Game — A Pictorial History, 1933 to Present (St. Louis: The Sporting News Publishing Co., 1987), 81.
7 Drebinger, 34. Arthur Daley of the New York Times called it “one of the most spectacular catches in All-Star history, one worthy of a DiMaggio (either of them), or a Tris Speaker.” Arthur Daley, “A Bit of Star-Gazing,” New York Times, July 12, 1950: 35.
8 As evidence of Sauer’s limited speed, he stole one base in 1950 and had 11 total steals in 15 major-league seasons. In any event, Slaughter had approached Shotton on the morning of the game, asking for the center-field assignment. Conway: 37.
9 Kell, who was hitting .365 to lead the American League at the break, was the top vote-getter in both leagues. Vincent et. al, 107.
10 Lemon frequently pinch-hit during the season for his Cleveland Indians and had a .232 lifetime batting average with 37 home runs. He hit .272 in 1950 with six home runs.
11 Pafko was now in center field, replacing Sauer in the lineup as Slaughter moved to right.
12 Konstanty would be named National League MVP based on his record-setting 74 relief appearances for the pennant-winning Phillies, along with 16 wins and 22 saves (although not yet an official statistic) and 152 innings in relief. The Phillies’ four All-Stars (Konstanty, Roberts, Sisler, and Jones) were a club record. Hard to imagine today, but the rest of the Phillies, who were in first place by one game, spent the All-Star break playing exhibition games against Triple-A opponents. The Whiz Kids, as they were called, beat the Rochester Red Wings 8-7 in Rochester on July 9 and lost 5-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, their Triple-A affiliate, on July 10 in Toronto. Stan Baumgartner, “Phils Edge Leafs (sic) in 6 Innings, 8-7,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1950; Stan Baumgartner, “Leafs Defeat Phillies, 5-3,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 12, 1950: 37.
13 Of course, most would argue that Carl Hubbell’s performance in the 1934 All-Star Game, when he consecutively struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin, future Hall of Famers all, tops Jansen.
14 Irving Vaughn, “National Wins on Home Run in 14th, 4-3,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1950: 1.
15 It was DiMaggio’s 12th All-Star Game. He was nursing a pulled muscle and had been expected to only pinch-hit. “AL All-Stars 9-5 Favorites Over NL; Roberts vs. Raschi,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1950.
16 Musial was playing first base after five starts and six All Star appearances in the outfield. Wyrostek, in a somewhat puzzling move by Shotton, was hitting for Jackie Robinson, who was batting .365 at the break. Of course, the move got Schoendienst in the game as Robinson’s replacement at second base.
17 Jones set an All-Star Game record that still stood as of 2019 with seven at-bats in the extra-inning game. It was one of two All-Star Game appearances in his 15-year big-league career.
18 Schoendienst would play a total of 19 years in the majors and be selected as an All-Star 10 times.
19 Jim Dailey, “Pitch He Hit? Red Can’t Say,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 12, 1950: 37.
20 Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains, Red — A Baseball Life (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing, 1998), 64-65.