On July 8, 1952, it rained all morning in Philadelphia. It rained the previous night and more rain was predicted for the afternoon. It was not a day for baseball. Commissioner Ford Frick had a dilemma. The 1952 All-Star Game was scheduled for that day. Since the inaugural contest in 1933, no All-Star Game had been canceled for any reason. Fans, media, and sponsors anxiously awaited the 1952 game. And of course, 52 of baseball’s best players had assembled in the city. With the rain slowing by late morning, Frick decided that the game would be played.
Because of the weather there was no pregame hitting or fielding. Instead, warming up was limited to stretching in the dugout and a few minutes of catch before the game. Finally, 19 minutes after the scheduled start time, 32,785 patrons watched the American League’s leadoff hitter, Dom DiMaggio, step up to the plate. DiMaggio had played in the previous three All-Star Games but this one was different. His brother Joe, who had retired after the 1951 season, was not on the squad. Neither was his Red Sox sidekick, Ted Williams. He was in the Marines flying jet fighter planes in Korea.
On the mound for the National League was hometown favorite Curt Simmons. As a steady drizzle continued to fall, DiMaggio patiently worked the Phillies ace for a walk. Simmons fared better with the next three hitters. He struck out Yankees outfielder Hank Bauer and Cleveland’s Dale Mitchell and then got Al Rosen, the Indians third baseman, to roll one to his Phillies teammate Granny Hamner at short.
The American League manager, Casey Stengel, penciled in one of his Yankees hurlers, Vic Raschi, to start the game. For Stengel there was a little extra pressure that came with the 1952 game. He had been the losing manager in the two previous All-Star Games. No manager had ever lost three in a row. Raschi started well, getting New York Giants first baseman Whitey Lockman on a pop to Phil Rizzuto at shortstop. Jackie Robinson followed Lockman. Robinson had three hits in the seven official times he had faced Raschi. This time he smacked Raschi’s first pitch to him into the left-field upper deck. Already down a run, Raschi recovered impressively, striking out the National League’s batting-average leader, Stan Musial, and home-run leader, Hank Sauer.
The second inning went well for both pitchers. Simmons sandwiched a strikeout of the White Sox first baseman Eddie Robinson between a line out off the bat of catcher Yogi Berra and second baseman Bobby Avila’s groundout to Hamner at shortstop. In the bottom half of the inning, catcher Roy Campanella led off for the National League. Campy had been the league’s Most Valuable Player the previous season but a series of minor injuries slowed him in 1952.Three times he had been hurt on collisions at the plate, the worst of which kept him out of the starting lineup for 10 days and required a cast on his left thumb. Campanella played through his injuries as much as possible but his hitting had suffered a bit. Facing Raschi, Campanella popped out to third. Veteran Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter then struck out and Bobby Thomson flied out to Bauer.
In the third, DiMaggio briefly added a bit of life to the American League attack. Despite some control problems, Simmons continued to mow through opposition hitters. Rizzuto opened the frame with a foul pop to third. Gil McDougald pinch-hit for Raschi. Playing in his first All-Star Game, McDougald grounded out to third. DiMaggio followed with his team’s first hit off Simmons, a slicing double into right field. With a runner in scoring position, Hank Bauer fouled out to Campanella, ending the threat.
Bob Lemon, the Cleveland ace, took over for Raschi in the bottom of the third. Leadoff hitter Granny Hamner flied out to Hank Bauer in right field. Stengel then made a surprise maneuver. He attempted to replace Dale Mitchell in left field with Chicago’s Minnie Miñoso.1 Immediately, NL manager Leo Durocher challenged the move. He contended that except for pitchers, starting players in All-Star Games were required to play three full innings. Stengel later explained that he made the move because Mitchell had a bad leg and Casey was concerned that he might further aggravate it playing on the rain-soaked outfield. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, home-plate umpire Al Barlick upheld Durocher’s argument.2 Mitchell returned to left field and Miñoso to the bench.
In the bottom of the inning, Durocher sent Pee Wee Reese up to pinch-hit for Simmons. Reese was playing in his eighth All-Star Game and still looking for his first All-Star base hit. He did not get it this time; he flied to left, pushing his hitless streak to 13. Lockman followed Reese and lifted one that center fielder DiMaggio easily hauled in.
The rain began to fall harder as the game entered the fourth inning. Small puddles were forming in the outfield. The infield, which had been dry until the tarp was removed just before the first pitch, was getting muddy and slippery.
The Cubs’ Bob Rush, who took over for Simmons, got into trouble immediately. Now that Dale Mitchell’s required playing time was over, Miñoso was sent in to hit for him, and rapped a double into right field. Al Rosen followed with a walk after watching a string of low, outside pitches miss the plate. Yogi Berra stepped into the batter’s box. With his team down a run, many expected him to be bunting. Instead, Stengel chose to play for a big inning and let his catcher swing away. The strategy failed. Berra popped one to short right field.
The next batter, Eddie Robinson, made up for Berra’s failure. He sizzled a pitch a couple of steps to the right of Jackie Robinson at second. Normally Jackie would have gobbled the ball up but wading through the infield mud, he slipped and the ball skipped under his glove. Miñoso scored easily.
Jackie was part of the American League’s second run as well. Bobby Avila bounced a Rush pitch up the middle. Slow getting to the ball, Robinson was able to knock it down but couldn’t make a play, and Rosen scored. Phil Rizzuto came to the plate with runners on first and second, two runs in, and one out. Swinging at an inside fastball, he knocked a sharp groundball to his counterpart at shortstop. Hamner handled the ball cleanly and tossed it to second. Robinson got to the ball to force Avila with no problem, but on his double-play pivot he slipped off the bag and made an awkward throw, pulling Lockman at first off the bag a bit.
Whitey was able to recover in time to easily get Rizzuto, who was merely jogging down the line. After the game Stengel defended Rizzuto’s apparent sloth to critical reporters: “Couldn’t you see it? … He slipped and fell on his hands.”3
Now with his team down a run, Jackie Robinson came to the plate hoping to atone for his costly error. He did not. Instead he popped to third. Lemon then plunked Stan Musial, putting the tying run on base. Hank Sauer did more than tie the game. He launched a rocket onto what Philadelphia fans sometimes referred to as Foxxville, the left-field pavilion where numerous Jimmie Foxx blasts had landed. The National League now led, 3-2. The home run was especially rewarding for Sauer. Two years earlier, All-Star team manager Burt Shotton had attempted to keep Sauer out of the starting lineup even though fans voted for him to start. Satisfied with his revenge, after the game Sauer said: “I wonder how Shotton feels now.”4
Lemon’s problems didn’t end with Sauer’s shot. Campanella walked, Slaughter doubled, and after Thompson popped to third, Hamner was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Next up was pitcher Rush. Most expected to see a pinch-hitter but Durocher surprised them. Rush did not. He punched one to third for the final out.
Lemon was scheduled to lead off the American League fifth but after the previous inning’s problems and with a crew of heavy hitters on the bench, a pinch-hitter seemed appropriate. Instead Casey let his pitcher hit. Lemon had started his major-league career as a power-hitting third baseman, so Stengel had confidence with him at the plate. After the game Stengel explained: “I wasn’t going to use one of my big hitters. … I might need ’em later. Besides, Lemon’s a pretty good hitter.”5 Lemon grounded out to second. Bauer followed with a single off Rush’s glove. Then, in another surprising move, Bauer attempted to steal second. Campanella cut him down easily for the final out.
Though he had allowed Lemon to hit in the top of the inning, Stengel pulled him in the bottom of the inning. Little (5-feet-6½, 139 pounds) Bobby Shantz, another hometown favorite, was sent out to face the heart of the National League lineup. Mixing a sharp curveball with a fastball, Shantz used 13 pitches to strike out the three hitters he faced. Asked after the game if he regretted not having a chance to duplicate or better Carl Hubbell’s strikeout feat in the 1934 game, Shantz replied, “No, I was just thinking how awful it would be to get knocked out in the next inning.”6
Shantz didn’t get his chance to better Hubbell. Before he could throw another pitch, the game was halted. Fifty-six minutes later, the umpires deemed the field unplayable and so ended the shortest and wettest All-Star Game ever played, with the National League a 3-2 winner.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.com, the New York Times, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
1 Joe Trimble, “NL Stars Defeat AL in Rain, 3-2,” New York Daily News, July 9, 1952: 21.
2 Hank Littlehales, “A’s Southpaw Fans Side on 13 Pitches,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1952: 45.
3 Gene Ward, “Stengel ‘Waited’ Too Long,” New York Daily News, July 9, 1952: 21.
4 “Sauer Recalls Shotton’s Snub,” Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1952: 41.