Craig: The origin of baseball’s All-Star Game

From Mary Craig at Beyond the Box Score on July 11, 2017:

Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals stepped to the plate on July 9th, 1933, in front of 49,000 fans jammed into Comiskey Park, the largest crowd the park had seen in about half a decade. In the heart of the Great Depression, it was incredibly rare for this many people to gather anywhere outside of Wall Street during bank openings. But this ballgame was different. This was the Game of the Century, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans to watch the game’s greatest players on the same field, and so they arrived in droves, hoping to witness spectacular baseball feats.

By 1933, the Great Depression had ensnared all aspects of American society, reducing life for many to a scramble to acquire the most basic necessities. Unemployment rose to 25 percent, and roughly 33 million people were left without a source of income. After the bank collapse earlier that year, millions lost their savings, leaving them homeless and forcing families to part ways with their children. Cities and the countryside alike were ravaged, decimating both the middle and working classes, forcing millions of little Oliver Twists to roam the streets.

As such, entertainment became a luxury, available only to the wealthy and those willing to sacrifice other necessities to partake in it. Across the National and American leagues, attendance dropped by 40 percent and player salaries correspondingly shrunk by 25 percent. Baseball, and America as a whole, was in dire need of a morale boost. Sensing this need, Chicago Tribune sports writer and editor Arch Ward called for a star-studded baseball game that would coincide with the World Fair “Century of Progress” exposition celebrating Chicago’s centennial.

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Originally published: July 12, 2017. Last Updated: July 12, 2017.