The period from 1935 through 1962 encompassed a time when the Major League All-Star Game became an annual fixture of the American sports calendar, bringing together baseball’s best, brightest, and most beloved players each year. (World War II travel restrictions, however, prevented the game from taking placing in 1945.) It was also a time when the East-West Game at first flourished but then died as baseball—and the All-Star Game—became racially integrated.
When it happened in 1929, it was almost certainly the most unorthodox managerial move in World Series history (which stretched back to 1903).
The move might still deserve that label, nearly 90 years later.
It was so unorthodox—not only surprising, but practically indefensible without the benefit of hindsight—that we can rank it among the greatest managerial moves for just one reason: It worked so incredibly well.
In a more just world, Pat Scantlebury would have been in the Majors a long time before he finally debuted for the Cincinnati Reds on April 19, 1956, at the age of 38 years, 160 days.
The 10th oldest Major League Baseball rookie at the time of debut since 1900, according to Baseball-reference.com, Scantlebury had pitched in the Negro Leagues and minors since 1944. Prior to that, he pitched in his native Panama, one of two players in MLB history along with Rod Carew to come from the Canal Zone.
Despite its success, there was little immediate talk of a second Major League All-Star Game for 1934. But as the 1933 season continued, it became clear that the game was a highlight and a crowd-pleaser worthy of a repeat performance. While the American League owners unanimously backed an encore, there was clear resistance on the part of the National League owners still smarting from the 4–2 beating they took in the first game.
Posterity has long since declared that Babe Pinelli will be remembered solely for his controversial call of strike three on Dale Mitchell to finish off Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. But that would be unfair. For one thing, the implication is that because it was Pinelli’s final game, consciously or subconsciously he widened his strike zone to end his career with a bang. Stephen Jay Gould, for instance, maintained that Mitchell was right to say the pitch was outside, but “Pinelli was more right. . . .
In 1949, George Kell won the American League batting race with a batting average of .34291, edging out Ted Williams (.34276) by a very, very narrow margin—.00015. While Kell of the Detroit Tigers did not have any other first-place finishes in the various batting categories, Williams of the Boston Red Sox led the league in homers (43) and runs batted in (159, tied with teammate Vern Stephens). Thus, Teddy Ballgame just missed winning the Triple Crown—leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.
It has been quite a run for the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant—College Player of the Year, Minor League Player of the Year, National League Rookie of the Year, a home run in the All-Star Game, a World Series ring, and an MVP Award.
He didn’t have his picture on the 2017 Who’s Who in Baseball, which might have been expected.
If the Great Depression had cut into the gate receipts of the Major League Baseball teams, it had done at least the same, but probably much worse, to the teams of the Negro Leagues, where organizational structures were constantly changing. Some of the better players in black baseball were on independent teams and sometimes moved from one team to another during the season.