Paul Dickson is the author of more than 60 books and several hundred magazine and newspaper articles. He has written over a dozen bat and ball books (11 on baseball and one on softball). His most recent is the biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. It was named the 2012 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year. In 2011 Paul was awarded the Tony Salin Memorial Award from the Baseball Reliquary for the preservation of baseball history. He was also honored in 2008 by the New York Public Library for his award-winning and widely acclaimed Dickson Baseball Dictionary, now in its third edition.
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.
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.
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.
For all of its popularity, the All-Star Game did not prove to be the shot in the arm baseball needed. Fans continued to stay away from ballparks in droves. In fact, the situation seemed to get worse. Cubs President William Veeck Sr. was in New York City on August 22 for a Cubs-Giants game, but the game was rained out. The writers who covered the National League were “looking for a rainy day story,” which Veeck gave them.
The most enduring baseball custom to emerge during the Great Depression—the midseason All-Star Game between the American and National Leagues—was the brainchild of several individuals with no direct connection to baseball.
The effect of the Great Depression on baseball was a severe decrease in attendance and a loss of revenue. People simply had less money available for anything other than food and shelter, and for many Americans, baseball games were a luxury that could no longer be afforded. Americans, and not just the working class, were suddenly more likely to be found in a bread line than a reserved seat at a baseball game.
The use of the word star to refer to a human being rather than a celestial body dates back to 1824 when it was first used to describe the lead actor in a play. After the Civil War, the term was adopted by Vaudeville, where all the headliners were deemed to be stars. The term came to baseball around 1890 when it was used to describe Cap Anson, who led the National League (there was only one league at that time) with 78 RBIs for the Chicago White Stockings. Chicago won the pennant in 1890 with a 67–17 record, 44 games ahead of the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
When Joe Garagiola died on March 23, 2016, at the age of 90, his many obituary writers were torn between two choices when writing their lead: was he a baseball player who later became a major television personality, or was he a television star who also played Major League baseball? It was a classic toss-up and the kind of dilemma that Garagiola himself would have found worthy of a quick self-effacing remark.