In anticipation of the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim on Tuesday, July 13, the CBS Sports MLB Facts and Rumors blog looks back at some of the more memorable editions of the All-Star Game. Today looks at the 1941 All-Star Game.
When a Hall of Famer who is considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game says his greatest thrill as a player was in an All-Star Game, you know it must have been a memorable one.
And it certainly was, with the American League winning on a walk-off home run by Ted Williams. It was a thunderbolt from the skies rapped by a hitter in the midst of a season in which he would become the last hitter to hit .400.
In a star-studded roster, the National League boasted such stars as Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott, Pete Reiser, Enos Slaughter and Arky Vaughan going up against the AL's Joe DiMaggio, Joe Cronin, Bob Feller, Rudy York and Williams at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.
Feller started the game, pitching three innings and departing with the game scoreless. The American League jumped on Paul Derringer in the fourth inning with a Williams RBI double for an unearned run after Whit Wyatt went two scoreless to begin the game.
The NL answered back off Thornton Lee in the sixth, who replaced Feller with three frames of his own. In the bottom of the sixth with Bucky Walters in his second inning, Lou Boudreau singled DiMaggio in to take a 2-1 lead.
Then the National League took charge. Enos Slaughter singled off Sid Hudson to start the seventh followed by an Arky Vaughan bomb to put the NL back on the top. The following inning, with Eddie Smith on the mound, Vaughan ripped another two-run home run to give the NL a commanding 5-2 lead.
Or so they thought.
After a Dom DiMaggio RBI single in the eighth, the Junior Circuit came up in the ninth needing two runs to tie the game. Claude Passeau, who had already thrown two innings, was back out for more. The Cub was in the middle of a season in which he would eventually go 14-14 with a 3.35 ERA in 231 innings.
Frankie Hayes popped out to second baseman Billy Herman to begin the inning before pinch-hitter Ken Keltner rapped a single off shortstop Eddie Miller's glove. Joe Gordon followed with a single, then Travis drew a walk to load the bases.
Joe DiMaggio hammered a grounder to Miller, who began what should have been a traditional double play. However, Herman threw the ball wide, allowing DiMaggio to reach and Keltner to cross the plate. The AL now trailed by one.
Ted Williams, who was in the midst of his .406 season campaign, stepped to the plate. On a 2-1 pitch, Williams boomed a fastball into the upper right-field seats for a walk-off home run.
"I just shut my eyes and swung," Williams said about the victory, according to The 500 Home Run Club by Bob Allen and Bill Gilbert."I've never been so happy," Ted Williams said according to the Sporting News . "Halfway down to first, seeing that ball going out, I stopped running and started leaping and jumping and clapping my hands, and I was so happy I laughed out loud." (Photo courtesy DetroitAthletic.com.)
Everyone was happy, even manager Del Baker, who reportedly hugged and kissed Williams in the locker room after the victory.
It was the first All-Star Game to be decided on a walk-off, and there have only been three total.
Williams was just 22 at the time, with his World War II service time looming in the future. (Williams was part of another memorable All-Star Game in 1946 when he returned from military service. He went 4 for 4 with two home runs, including one off Rip Sewell's famous eephus pitch -- the only homer to be hit off the pitch.)
Williams was in his third season in the majors and would lead baseball in OPS. The home run was a pronouncement that the next great baseball hitter had arrived.
-- Evan Brunell
More All-Star memories -- 2002: The Tie; 1949: Breaking the color barrier
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