(Updated July 5, 2016)
Defined by a rival manager as “power and class,” the 1963 Cardinals infield established an all-star standard that went unmatched for 53 years.
For the first time in major-league history, the National League’s All-Star Game starting infield was composed of players from the same team. They were the Cardinals unit of first baseman Bill White, second baseman Julian Javier, shortstop Dick Groat and third baseman Ken Boyer.
Giants manager Al Dark, who managed the 1963 National League all-star team, told The Sporting News, “When you’ve got an infield that starts with Bill White at first base and runs through Julian Javier, Dick Groat and Ken Boyer, you’ve got power and class.”
In 2016, fans selected an all-Cubs starting NL all-star infield of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant.
Fans have voted for the all-star starters each year since 1970. In 1963, the starters were selected in voting by players, managers and coaches in each league.
White, Groat, Boyer and Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski were voted the starters for the 1963 National League team. Mazeroski withdrew after he pulled a muscle in his right leg.
Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs had finished second to Mazeroski in the voting, but Dark picked Javier to replace Mazeroski as the starting second baseman.
United Press International wrote, “Usually, all-star managers in picking reserves for their squad stick mighty close to the way the players themselves voted earlier in choosing the starting lineup.”
Said Dark to the Associated Press: “I feel this is the strongest squad we have and we’re going to Cleveland to win.”
Here were the top two vote-getters for each National League infield position:
First base: Bill White, 220 votes; Orlando Cepeda, Giants, 38 votes.
Second base: Bill Mazeroski, 227 votes; Ken Hubbs, 14 votes.
Shortstop: Dick Groat, 238 votes; Maury Wills, Dodgers, 25 votes.
Third base: Ken Boyer, 186 votes; Ron Santo, Cubs, 52 votes.
The other starting position players for the 1963 National League all-stars were Giants catcher Ed Bailey and outfielders Hank Aaron of the Braves, Willie Mays of the Giants and Tommy Davis of the Dodgers.
The Cardinals’ Stan Musial, 42, was chosen by Dark as an outfield reserve. It would be a record 24th and final All-Star Game for Musial, who retired after the season.
Best Cardinals infield
In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” (1964, Doubleday), Musial wrote, “That infield was the strength of the 1963 Cardinals, all right. Branch Rickey, thumbing back through more than 60 years of major league memories, said that this was the finest he could recall.
“Marty Marion, in mild dissent, said the Cardinals’ 1946 infield was a bit better. I’m not so sure, though we did have a good one in ’46. I played first base then, Red Schoendienst second, Marion short and George Kurowski third. That far back, Red hadn’t yet come into his own as a hitter.”
In a 2011 interview, I asked White if the 1963 Cardinals infield was the best he’d seen. White’s response:
“It was a good infield. It probably was not the best. Ken Boyer might have been the best third baseman I’d seen or played with. Groat had mobility problems. He understood how to play the hitters, but he had very little range and he didn’t have that real good arm. Javier was a pretty good second baseman. He made a great double play and he could go way out to center field for pop-ups because Curt Flood played a deep center field.
“It was a good infield, the best infield that I was on, but I’m not sure it was the best ever. It might have been the best Cardinals infield.”
White, Groat aid NL win
White and Groat contributed significantly to the National League’s 5-3 victory over the American League before 44,160 on a Tuesday afternoon, July 9, 1963, at Cleveland. They and Javier played the entire game. Santo replaced Boyer in the sixth.
In the second, Groat’s single off starter Ken McBride of the Angels drove in Mays from second, giving the National League a 1-0 lead.
With the National League ahead 4-3 in the eighth, White led off against imposing Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz, nicknamed “The Monster,” and singled to center.
Taking his lead off first base, White watched Radatz pitch to Mays and detected a flaw in the pitcher’s motion, he told The Sporting News. As Mays struck out, White swiped second. White ran on his own, Dark said.
Santo singled to center, scoring White and boosting the National League’s advantage to 5-3.
With Dodgers ace Don Drysdale pitching the ninth, the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson singled with one out. The next batter, Bobby Richardson of the Yankees, hit a grounder to White. The Cardinals’ first baseman threw to Groat covering second and Groat’s return throw to White nipped Richardson for a game-ending first-to-short-to-first double play. Boxscore
The National League turned three double plays. White took part in all three and Groat helped turn two. White and Groat each went 1-for-4; Javier and Boyer each was hitless.
(Musial, pinch-hitting for Bailey in the fifth, lined out to right field.)
Groat and Boyer both were elected starters again in 1964, but White and Javier were replaced by Cepeda and the Mets’ Ron Hunt.