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The 1934 Encores—Carl Hubbell and Satchel Paige Prevail

Pitchers—Carl Hubbell and Satchel Paige—steal the show in the 1934 MLB and East-West All-Star Games. In part 7, Dickson recounts how the Major Leagues solidify the midseason contest, and how the East-West Game gains significance.

By Paul Dickson, March 19, 2017

Carl Hubbell 
Original artwork by Peter Chen

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.

Will Harridge, president of the American League, was determined to stage a second All-Star Game. His reaction to the first game and how he saw it as a new baseball tradition was evident: “[T]his game has given me the greatest kick I ever got out of baseball.” After the World Series, which the National League Giants won, Harridge went to work on the National League club owners and slowly won them over. At the winter baseball meetings at the Palmer House in Chicago, in the afternoon of December 13, the owners announced, after much discussion, that the game would be played in New York City at the Polo Grounds, home of the World Champion New York Giants. The owners also announced that the game would now be an annual event shifted from one Major League city to another. The game would always be a charity event intended to take care of, quoting the Chicago Tribune, those players we cheer today “but will be forgotten tomorrow.”

A number of those older, needy players who would benefit from the fund reportedly waited around the lobby of the hotel anxious to cheer President Harridge for his victory on their behalf.

For baseball, the year 1933 ended as badly as it had begun. Just before Christmas the Philadelphia Athletics—which had won the American League championship in 1929, 1930, and 1931, and the World Championship in 1929—was broken up in 1932 and 1933 with practically the entire team sold to raise $300,000 to keep from going under. The overall attendance figures were down almost a million from 1932 with the A’s scraping the bottom drawing with only 164,885.

The 1934 All-Star Game approached, there were second thoughts. Paul Gallico of the Chicago Tribune reported on the eve of the game that there had been an outbreak of cold feet on the part of organized baseball, which had suddenly turned hostile to the idea. The players reportedly did not like the game because they would not get paid, and the owners expressed concern over risking their stars in a game that could not help them win the pennant. Gallico concluded: “The magnates and the league presidents apparently decided that something in which the baseball fans take such a terrific interest, cannot possibly be good for them and the sooner the idea is abandoned the better.”[1]

MLB All-Star Game, July 10, 1934, the Polo Grounds, New York City

The second All-Star Game was held on July 10 at the New York Polo Grounds. The sold-out crowd of 48,363 fans netted more than $50,000 for those older, needy players, through the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America.[2]

Many of the marquee hitters that filled the batting lineups from the year before were poised to carry the day. But 1934 was Carl Hubbell’s year. The New York Giants hurler had a shaky start, but he turned in what even today Baseball Almanac terms “perhaps one of the most spellbinding performances ever seen in baseball.” He struck out in order the fiercest hitters in the American League—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin—mostly with his famous screwball, or reverse curveball, breaking into a left-handed batter and away from a right-handed hitter.

Showing his baseball grip here, Carl Hubbell threw several memorable games over a 16-year major league career, including a masterful performance in the 1934 All-Star game when he struck out five of baseball’s best hitters in succession.

But the rules for this game were such that Hubbell had to be taken out at the end of three innings and replaced with Lon Warneke of the Cubs followed by Van Mungo of the Dodgers and Dizzy Dean of the Cardinals, who collectively gave up nine runs and allowed the AL to win 9–7.

East-West All-Star Game, August 26, 1934, Comiskey Park, Chicago

The second East-West All-Star Game was widely anticipated for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it had become a major event in the lives of black Americans. It would later be compared in social importance to a Joe Louis prizefight. Extra trains to Chicago were added to accommodate the fans drawn to the game, and collateral social events were scheduled leading up to the big day at Comiskey Park.

This time, Satchel Paige, who said that he had “slept through” the first East-West Game, led in the vote count for pitchers and would play for the East. The game was a pitching duel of the first order, won by the East by a score of 1–0. Paige stole the show with four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out five. In most minds, the question had once and for all been answered as to who was the greatest pitcher in the Negro Leagues, and perhaps all of baseball. Headlines recounted the story, proclaiming Paige’s heroics in the East’s victory over the West:

“Speedballer Satchel Paige Ambled into East-West Game and Simply Stole the Show”

“Paige Bests Foster in Great Mound Duel”

“We Saw a Baseball Epic Unfold Itself on This Historic Field This Afternoon”

“One of the Greatest Mound Exhibitions Modern Baseball Has Ever Seen”

“Satch Stops Big Bad Men of West Team”

“Satchel to the Rescue”

“Satchel Lived Up to His Reputation”

“Paige’s Pitching Saves Day”

“Satchel Was Out There Today”

“The Zero Hour in This Battle of Pitchers Came Early in the Sixth”

“Satchel Paige Had ’Em Striking Out Like a Labor Union Leader”

“It’s Satchel Paige and Goodbye Ball Game”

“You Saw Pitching Like You Have Never Seen It”

“East Beats West in 1–0 Thriller”

“Willie Foster Loses Contest with S. Paige”

“Sir Satchel Was the Master of the Situation”[3]

Satchel Paige missed the first Negro League East-West All Star game but certainly left his mark on the second game, helping the West to a win. 1934 is considered Paige’s best year in baseball.



[1] Gallico’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, July 5, 1934.
[2] David Vincent, Lyle Spatz, and David W. Smith, The Midsummer Classic: The Complete History of Baseball’s All-Star Game (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), 1.
[3] Donald Spivey, If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2013), 88. See also Rob Neyer’s thoughts on this game, http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/cinematic-shadows.

 

 

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