Bobby Bonds (Trading Card DB)

July 24, 1973: New park, same old result: NL romps in All-Star Game

This article was written by Kurt Blumenau

Bobby Bonds (Trading Card DB)Kansas City’s new Royals Stadium provided a fresh, attractive setting for the 1973 All-Star Game. But the results on the field were numbingly familiar as the National League cruised to a 7-1 victory over the American League, the NL’s 15th win in the last 20 All-Star Games.1 To add injury to insult, AL starter Catfish Hunter had to be removed from the game in the second inning after a hard-hit ball through the box broke his right thumb.2

The game marked 40 years since the first midsummer classic in 1933. Lefty Gomez and Bill Hallahan, starting pitchers in the inaugural All-Star Game, were on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches.3

Another old-timer made headlines in the runup to the game, though his on-field contribution was minimal. Willie Mays of the New York Mets, struggling through his final season at age 42, hadn’t been chosen by the fans or by NL manager Sparky Anderson.4 But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn allowed each team to add an extra player, a move intended to clear the way for Mays’ inclusion. NL President Chub Feeney announced that Mays would not only join the team but serve as honorary captain.5 In his 24th All-Star Game, tying Stan Musial’s major-league record, Mays struck out against Sparky Lyle in an eighth-inning pinch-hitting appearance. The extra spot on the AL roster went to California’s Nolan Ryan, also not selected despite pitching two no-hitters in the first half of the season.6

The Oakland Athletics’ Dick Williams and the Cincinnati Reds’ Anderson, World Series antagonists the previous fall, led the AL and NL teams. (Williams fulfilled his duty despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy four days earlier.7) They managed with the fans in mind, rotating 54 players into the game, a record at the time. Only four eligible All-Stars never got off the bench.8

Future Hall of Famer Nestor Chylak umpired behind the plate. It was the fifth of Chylak’s six All-Star Games and his second time calling balls and strikes. Kansas City had hosted one previous All-Star Game, the second of two games played in 1960, at old Municipal Stadium. Chylak had worked that one as well, umping at second base.9 The six-man 1973 crew also included the AL’s Ron Luciano, working in left field. It was the only All-Star assignment for the flamboyant Luciano, who later became a best-selling author.

With a ballpark-record 40,849 fans on hand,10 Oakland’s Hunter faced off against Rick Wise of the NL East division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.11 Making his third All-Star appearance, Hunter had established himself as one of the AL’s marquee right-handers. With a 15-3 record and a 3.32 ERA at the All-Star break, he was well on his way to racking up his third of five straight 20-win seasons. He’d also won two games in the previous fall’s World Series.

Wise had never won 20 – and never would – but entered the game with an 11-5 record and a 3.10 ERA. According to pregame coverage, Anderson chose Wise over Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, and NL wins co-leader Jack Billingham because Wise was better rested.12

After a quiet first inning, the Chicago Cubs’ Billy Williams smacked a one-hopper off Hunter’s pitching hand with one out in the top of the second, forcing Hunter out of the game with a hairline fracture of his right thumb. He wouldn’t pitch again until August 19.

Hunter’s Oakland teammate Ken Holtzman got out of the inning, allowing only a two-out single to Ron Santo, and was rewarded with a 1-0 lead in the bottom half. Reggie Jackson, another member of the A’s juggernaut, pounded a leadoff double to deep center field over a leaping César Cedeño. Jackson came home on a ground single past second base by hometown favorite Amos Otis, one of three Royals on the AL team along with John Mayberry and Cookie Rojas.

The lead didn’t last. Minnesota’s Bert Blyleven came on to pitch the third inning and walked Atlanta’s Darrell Evans, hitting for Wise. Pete Rose forced Evans with a grounder; Joe Morgan drew another walk to put Cincinnati Reds on first and second. Houston’s Cedeño scored Rose with a slapped single into center field, and Atlanta’s Henry Aaron scored Morgan with a single between shortstop and third base for a 2-1 NL advantage. It was Aaron’s eighth and final RBI in an All-Star Game. Like Mays and Musial, Aaron appeared in 24 All-Star contests; this was his 22nd.

In the bottom of the third, Buddy Bell led off with a triple off new NL hurler Claude Osteen, and Mayberry later worked a walk. The AL couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities.

Another Cincinnati Red, Johnny Bench, made himself heard from in the top of the fourth. Bench led off with a booming home run to left field off California’s Bill Singer for a 3-1 lead. The NL moved another runner to third on a walk, a sacrifice, and a passed ball by AL catcher Carlton Fisk, but Rose’s grounder stranded the runner. Otis enlivened the bottom half with a single off Osteen and a stolen base, to no avail.

The NL kept pulling away in the fifth. Morgan led off with a double to left off Singer. Wholesale substitutions had already begun, and two outs later, one of the NL’s subs came to the plate. San Francisco’s Bobby Bonds had spelled Billy Williams in right field in the previous inning. Bonds, making his second All-Star Game appearance, took Singer deep to left-center field, expanding the NL’s lead to 5-1.

No-hit hero Ryan came in to work the sixth inning for the AL, making the first of what turned out to be five All-Star appearances.13 NL batters found him easier to hit than his AL colleagues. Santo drew a leadoff walk and, one out later, pinch-hitter Willie Davis – a Los Angeles Dodger wearing Aaron’s Atlanta Braves batting helmet – hit the NL’s third round-tripper of the game for a 7-1 lead.14 In his 14th major-league season, it was only Davis’s second All-Star at-bat.15

Bonds added a double in the top of the seventh but didn’t score. Hitting for Ryan in the bottom half, Jim Spencer made a tiny piece of history, becoming the first Texas Ranger to play in an All-Star Game. Toby Harrah was chosen to represent the Rangers in 1972, the team’s first season in Texas after moving from Washington. But Harrah suffered a shoulder injury shortly before that year’s game and did not play.16 Spencer flied to left field against Pittsburgh’s Dave Giusti to end the inning. Spencer’s teammate Dave Nelson was inserted at third base in the top of the eighth, and the Rangers were also represented in the coaching boxes as Texas manager Whitey Herzog served on the AL staff.

The remainder of the game passed quietly. Another first-timer, Dodgers screwballer Jim Brewer, took the mound for the NL in the bottom of the ninth. Brewer got Dave May – also a Brewer, of the Milwaukee variety – to pop to second. Brewer walked Bobby Murcer, then struck out Thurman Munson. Pinch-hitter Willie Horton of Detroit represented the AL’s last hope. Brewer whiffed him swinging on a pitch that briefly eluded catcher Ted Simmons; Simmons gathered up the ball, fired to first, and the 44th All-Star Game was over.

Wise received the win despite allowing the AL’s only run in two innings of work, while Brewer was awarded the save. It was the only All-Star appearance for both players.17 Blyleven took the loss; he did not play in another All-Star Game until 1985. The AL managed only five hits against seven NL pitchers – Wise, Osteen, Sutton, the Phillies’ Wayne Twitchell, Giusti, Seaver, and Brewer.

Bonds was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.18 Anderson told reporters he wanted to showcase Bonds even though fans hadn’t chosen him as a starter. The manager called Bonds “the finest player in either league at this point.”19 Jackson echoed the praise, saying: “He’s fantastic. What other word could you use for him? He’s got to be the best ballplayer in the National League.”20

One observer, Ray Fitzgerald of the Boston Globe, rated the game highly for glamour and sentiment, but low for excitement. “There were no flashy plays, no mind-thumping rallies, no bases-loaded crowd-on-its-feet situations,” he wrote.21

Even Kansas City sportswriters admitted that the game was “dull,” “a bore,” and “less than memorable.”22 They added, though, that the night had been a great showcase for the city’s new ballpark. “A game is not all there is to see at an All-Star Game,” Gib Twyman of the Kansas City Star wrote. “Baseball’s showpiece is just as much an event – and on that count the Royals scored a victory, bringing the new multi-taxpayer stadium to a peak of sleek and streamlined swankness for the night. The game itself, in fact, often seemed the only detractor.”23



This story was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.


Sources and photo credit

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used the and websites for general player, team and season data and the box scores for this game. The author also consulted a highlight film produced by Major League Baseball and available on YouTube as of June 2023.

Photo of 1973 Kellogg’s card #8 downloaded from the Trading Card Database.



1 Of the 20 All-Star Games from 1958 through 1973, the National League won 15, the American League won 4, and the leagues tied 1-1 in the second of two games in 1961. (The AL and NL played two All-Star Games each season from 1959 through 1962.)

2 “Catfish Hunter Out of Action,” Kansas City Times, July 26, 1973: 1D.

3 Ewing Kauffman, founding owner of the Royals, joined Gomez and Hallahan in ceremonial first-pitch duty. United Press International, “First Ball Thrown Out,” Rushville (Indiana) Daily Republican, July 25, 1973: 3.

4 Entering the All-Star break, Mays was hitting .214 with 4 home runs.

5 Feeney had been general manager of the New York and San Francisco Giants from 1947 through 1969. Mays played for the Giants for much of that period.

6 Fred Down (United Press International), “Kuhn Allows Roster Change, Mays, Ryan Are All-Stars,” Bennington (Vermont) Banner, July 20, 1973: 10; Associated Press, “Willie Mays With N.L. Stars,” Kansas City Star, July 20, 1973: 17.

7 United Press International, “Dick Williams Glad He Made Trip, Worried Over Hunter,” Portland (Maine) Evening Express, July 25, 1973: 30.

8 The four eligible players who did not appear were pitchers Jack Billingham (NL-Cincinnati), Bill Lee (AL-Boston), and Jim Colborn (AL-Milwaukee) and catcher Bill Freehan (AL-Detroit). Billingham, Lee, and Colborn were never again selected for an All-Star team; Freehan had played in the previous eight All-Star Games. Three other players chosen for the 1973 game, Dave Concepción (NL-Cincinnati), Dick Allen (AL-Chicago), and Carl Yastrzemski (AL-Boston), were unavailable due to injury – a broken ankle for Concepción, a broken leg for Allen, and a nagging wrist injury for Yastrzemski.

9 In 1960, Municipal Stadium was the home of the Kansas City Athletics. The A’s left Kansas City for Oakland after the 1967 season. Municipal Stadium was then occupied by the expansion Royals from 1969 through 1972.

10 MLB highlight film of the 1973 All-Star Game, viewed on YouTube June 14, 2023.

11 The Cardinals’ record of 51-45 placed them a scant half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs at the All-Star break. The eventual division-winning New York Mets were in last place at 42-51, 7½ games out. Other division leaders at the 1973 All-Star break included the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West; the New York Yankees in the AL East; and the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

12 Associated Press, “Mood Intensive for All-Star Clash,” Abilene (Texas) Reporter-News, July 24, 1973: 1C. Billingham and San Francisco’s Ron Bryant both entered the All-Star break with 14 wins; Bryant was not chosen for the team.

13 Ryan subsequently appeared in midsummer classics in 1979, 1981, 1985, and 1989. The 1979 game was his only start.

14 Davis later told reporters he forgot his own batting helmet. “I’m going to steal the helmet for a souvenir,” he said. “I don’t think Henry will mind.” United Press International, “Bonds Pays NL Dividend,” Moline (Illinois) Daily Dispatch, July 25, 1973: 45.

15 Davis had singled in the 1971 game.

16 Frederick C. Bush, “Toby Harrah,” SABR Biography Project, accessed June 14, 2023. Harrah got to play in a single All-Star Game, in 1976.

17 Wise had been selected for the 1971 All-Star Game but did not appear.

18 Bonds’s son Barry was a seven-time NL Most Valuable Player and a 14-time All-Star, but he never won the All-Star Game MVP honor.

19 United Press International, “Nationals Do It Again – Clout Americans 7-1,” Boston Globe, July 25, 1973: 53.

20 United Press International, “MVP Bonds Dazzles National League,” Boston Globe, July 25, 1973: 56.

21 Ray Fitzgerald, “44th All-Star Game Dull, But Bowie’s Speech Duller,” Boston Globe, July 25, 1973: 53.

22 Gib Twyman, “N.L. Had Bench … and Not Just Johnny,” Kansas City Star, July 25, 1973: 1C; Joe McGuff, “Sporting Comment,” Kansas City Star, July 25, 1973: 1C.

23 Twyman, “N.L. Had Bench … and Not Just Johnny.”

Additional Stats

National League 7
American League 1

Royals Stadium
Kansas City, MO


Box Score + PBP:

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All-Star · 1970s ·