On February 21, 1945, the major-league baseball All-Star Game for that year was canceled at the “request” of the Office of Defense Transportation.1 World War II was on in earnest in both Europe and the Pacific. The game was to have been held at Boston’s Fenway Park on July 10, 1945.2
The loss of the game wasn’t necessarily bemoaned; the country was, after all, at war. Whitney Martin of the Associated Press wrote that eliminating the game “won’t bring out any crying towels” because it was “purely an exhibition without meaning.”3
There was a game played at Fenway on July 10, an in-season exhibition game between the Boston Braves and the Red Sox. The Red Sox won, 8-1. The game raised some $70,000 for the United War Fund.4
Though there was no All-Star Game played, 13 of the 16 major-league managers did vote and the AP announced the compositions of the AL and NL squads that would have been.5
After the war ended, it was announced on December 14 that the 1946 All-Star Game would be played at Fenway Park on July 9.
The 1946 season saw the Red Sox get off to an incredible start, 21-3 after beating the Yankees on May 10. Voting was done by the eight AL managers, with a June 18 deadline.6 The Red Sox team was so dominant that it’s not surprising a large number of Red Sox players were voted onto manager Steve O’Neill’s American League All-Star squad. That they constituted almost one-third of the team (eight of 25) and were to play in their home park was unusual. The St. Louis Cardinals placed six members on the National League squad.7
Most of the players on both squads were military veterans. The American League team had four Army veterans, 10 Navy veterans, three from the US Army Air Force, one from the Merchant Marine, one from the US Naval Reserve, and six who did not serve in the military. The National League team had six Army veterans, seven Navy veterans, two from the Army Air Force, and 10 who did not serve.8
The “exhibition without meaning” was by no means guaranteed to sell out, wrote Harold Kaese of the Boston Globe.9
Red Schoendienst fouled off the first five Feller pitches he saw, then grounded unassisted to Mickey Vernon at first base. Stan Musial reached on an error by Johnny Pesky, and Johnny Hopp singled, but no runs were scored.
The first three batters for the AL were Red Sox players. As had Schoendienst, leadoff batter Dom DiMaggio grounded out unassisted to first. Pesky grounded out, 4-3. Williams walked, and Charlie Keller homered off Passeau — into the visitors bullpen in right field — for a quick 2-0 lead. Bobby Doerr then grounded out.
Walker Cooper singled for the NL in the top of the second, but no one else got on base.
Feller put down the Nationals one-two-three in the third. In the bottom of the inning, Dom DiMaggio hit a one-out single, but Pesky grounded into a double play.
There were a number of defensive replacements for both teams throughout the game. By game’s end, each team had used 21 of its 25 players.
Hal Newhouser replaced Feller. No one reached base in the top of the fourth.
In the top of the fifth, again the NL team went down in order. And then, in mid-inning, the umpires switched positions.11
The American Leaguers doubled their run total, adding three more runs in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, singles by the battery — Buddy Rosar and Newhouser — put runners at first and third. Stan Spence was walked intentionally. A bloop double from Vern Stephens drove in two. Williams singled to drive in Spence. Ewell Blackwell relieved Higbe and got out of the jam.
With Jack Kramer now pitching, the seventh once more saw the Nationals put down in order. The Americans added two more runs on Ted Williams’s single, a walk to Keller and a double high off the left-center-field wall by Joe Gordon. It was the first ball hit off Fenway’s famed wall all day long.
The NL batters managed only a two-out walk in the eighth. With an 8-0 lead in hand, the American Leaguers were likely coming up for the last time. They took advantage. The Pirates’ Rip Sewell was pitching. Snuffy Stirnweiss singled. Hal Wagner flied out, but then Kramer singled. Sam Chapman flied out, Stirnweiss tagging up and scoring. Two outs. Vern Stephens singled, putting runners on first and second. Williams came to bat. Sewell decided it was the perfect time for his famous “eephus” pitch. It was a pitch that arced as high as 25 feet in the air before coming down right over home plate.
Williams fouled off the first one. Sewell threw a fastball for a strike. Then he tried another eephus but it went for a ball. As one chronicler wrote, “Williams smiled. Sewell had shown his hand. The two eephus pitches had permitted Ted the chance to assess speed, trajectory, and approach, allowing him to decipher how best to hit a pitch that fell from the sky.”12
Ted Williams was ready for it — his right foot stepping out of the batter’s box in the process, he swung into the pitch with enough power to send it into the American League (Red Sox) bullpen for a three-run homer. It was 12-0, AL.
The National League batters didn’t get the ball out of the infield in the top of the ninth and the game was over.
It was the second shutout in All-Star Game history. (1940 had been the other one.) It was never close. The American League had 14 base hits; the National League had only three.
Ted Williams was the star on offense, 4-for-4 with five runs batted in and four runs scored. Stephens, Keller, and Gordon each had two RBIs. Chapman’s fly ball earned him one.
Feller got the win; Passeau bore the loss.
Sewell said after the game, “Nobody has ever hit a homer off that pitch of mine before. … I’ve been tossing it up there for five years and nobody has hit a homer before.” Williams said, “Before I went to bat against Sewell, I was saying on the bench that it was impossible to pull such pitching into the right field stands. ‘You could hit one, Ted, if you’d run upon the ball,’ Bill Dickey told me. ‘You can’t stand still and hit such pitching far, but if you’d step into such stuff you’ve got the power to hit one into the stands.’”13
The All-Star Game was back.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Rertosheet.org, and baseballinwartime.com, as well as the following:
Anton, Todd, and Bill Nowlin, eds., When Baseball Went to War (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2008)
Aaron, Marc Z, and Bill Nowlin, eds., Who’s on First? Replacement Players in World War II (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research), 2015.
1 Numerous measures were taken during the war to reduce the amount of domestic travel. In the years 1943, 1944, and 1945, for instance, the Red Sox held their spring training in the North rather than go to Florida. The so-called “green light letter” from President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Organized Baseball permission to play the regular games, but as the war intensified in 1944 and early 1945, It was unclear how it might resolve. The thought behind canceling the 1945 All-Star Game was to avoid the degree of travel involved.
2 The Boston Braves had hosted the All-Star Game in 1936. Boston’s American League franchise had not yet hosted an All-Star Game.
3 Whitney Martin, “Baseball Might Keep Series if Squads Pared,” Boston Globe, February 23, 1945: 4. The Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945. Formal surrender of Japan occurred on September 2, 1945. The 1945 World Series was played, with the Detroit Tigers beating the Chicago Cubs in seven games.
4 Harold Kaese, “Red Sox Defeat Braves, 8 to 1,” Boston Globe, July 11, 1945: 6.
5 Associated Press, “Cubs, Indians Place Most Men on AP All-Star Baseball Squads,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans), July 12, 1945: 15. In its January 24, 1946, issue, The Sporting News announced the results of the votes of 216 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for its 21st annual All-Star teams. Edgar D. Brands, “Nine Newcomers Break into ’45 All-Star Team,” The Sporting News, January 24, 1946: 13.
6 A week before the deadline, the Red Sox were 41-9 after the games on June 11. Cincinnati shortstop Eddie Miller had been named to the NL team, but requested to be replaced due to an ailing arm; oddly, Miller had also requested not to be included in the 1944 game. The Phillies’ Emil Verban was named to take his place. “Ailing Miller is Replaced on N.L. Squad by Verban,” The Sporting News, July 10, 1946: 2. A July 7 ankle and knee game injury suffered by Joe DiMaggio prevented him from participating.
7 As we know now, of course, the Red Sox and Cardinals battled each other in the 1946 World Series, a Series running the full seven games and only won by St. Louis in the final two innings of Game Seven. The Cardinals on the National League All-Star team were Whitey Kurowski, Marty Marion, Stan Musial, Howie Pollet, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter. (The Cardinals had had eight men on the 1943 squad.) The Red Sox on the AL squad were Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Mickey Harris, Johnny Pesky, Hal Wagner, Ted Williams, and Rudy York
9 “Today’s game may not be an absolute sellout, because (1) Boston fans seem to prefer league contests, (2) Boston fans are more excited about the Red Sox than the All-Stars, and (3) the daily prices were doubled for this game,” Harold Kaese, “Passeau’s Bitterest Memory Ted’s Greatest Thrill — That ’41 Home Run,” Boston Globe, July 9, 1946: 6. The game, Kaese wrote, really ranked as “more than a glorified exhibition when a slugger like Ted Williams refers to it for one of his biggest thrills.” Proceeds from the game went to Baseball Welfare Fund, Inc., to be able to assist needy ballplayers. Prices were $4.80 for a box seat, $3.60 for reserved grandstand, and $1.20 for a seat in the bleachers. The game did sell out. Also present were 150 invited wounded veterans from World Wars I and II.
10 Gerry Moore, “Ted Paces A.L.to 12-0 Win Smashing All-Star Records,” Boston Globe, July 10, 1946: 10.
11 Home-plate umpire Bill Summers moved to third base; first-base umpire Dusty Boggess moved to second, swapping positions with Eddie Rommel. Larry Goetz came in from third base and worked the plate for the rest of the game. This practice began with the first All-Star Game and continued through 1961.
12 Michael Connelly, Fenway 1946 (Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2020), 111. Connelly spelled the pitch as “ephus” but most sources have it as eephus.
13 Both quotes come from Arthur Sampson, “Dickey Tipped Ted How to Hit Blooper,” Boston Herald, July 10, 1946: 16. Mickey Harris caught the ball in the Boston bullpen.