Except for the high number of outstanding players on the field, the first All-Star Game at St. Louis was a lot like any other Tuesday afternoon game at Sportsman’s Park in 1940.
Dan Daniel, columnist for The Sporting News, called the Sportsman’s Park setting “a cold stage” and “depressing,” noting that bunting wasn’t even draped around the ballpark.
“Advance publicity was almost nil,” Daniel wrote. “Hoopla by both leagues was missing woefully before and on the day of battle.”
A band hired to entertain showed up only an hour before game time.
Unmoved, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis said, “These people came out to see a ball game, not a parade.”
Cardinals are hosts
The 1940 All-Star Game was the eighth overall since the concept of a summer classic began in 1933. Because it was the National League’s turn to be the 1940 home team, the Cardinals, not the American League Browns, were the host at Sportsman’s Park.
A crowd of 32,373 attended. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon estimated 60 percent of the spectators came from outside St. Louis. They included celebrities such as Hollywood entertainers Bob Hope and Joe E. Brown and actor George Raft.
Among the American League starters were left fielder Ted Williams, center fielder Joe DiMaggio, first baseman Jimmie Foxx and catcher Bill Dickey.
The NL starters included a pair of Cardinals, first baseman Johnny Mize and center fielder Terry Moore, and a longtime former Cardinal, left fielder Joe Medwick. Traded by the Cardinals to the Dodgers a month earlier, Medwick was booed when he was announced as the left fielder.
Playing a hunch
National League manager Bill McKechnie of the Reds initially had Mel Ott of the Giants starting in right field. An hour before game time, he changed his mind and started Max West of the Braves instead.
McKechnie told the Associated Press he made the change because he wanted Ott available to play the later innings when the sun presented a challenge to fielders in right. McKechnie said Ott had more experience than West in handling a St. Louis sun field.
“It was my hunch that Ott … would be a bit steadier in the sun and that is the only reason for the change,” McKechnie said.
The Sporting News reported a different reason for the switch. Braves manager Casey Stengel, first-base coach for the NL, suggested to McKechnie that West “has a home run in him,” columnist Dick Farrington reported.
McKechnie inserted West into the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
After Paul Derringer of the Reds held the AL scoreless in the first (Williams walked and DiMaggio grounded out), Arky Vaughan and Billy Herman opened the NL half of the inning with back-to-back singles off Red Ruffing of the Yankees.
West, 23, a Dexter, Mo., native, stepped to the plate for his first (and only) at-bat as an all-star. He swung and missed at the first pitch from Ruffing, then launched the second into the seats in right-center for a three-run home run.
A half-inning later, Luke Appling of the White Sox tried to ignite an AL rally with a drive to right. West attempted a leaping catch, fell hard against the wall and crumpled to the ground as Appling reached second with a double.
Stengel was among the first to rush to West’s aid. The right fielder was able to get to his feet and limp back to the dugout with what was reported to be a bruised hip. Bill Nicholson of the Cubs replaced West in right field. (Ott subbed for Nicholson in the sixth.)
NL pitching dominated the remainder of the game. Derringer, Bucky Walters, Whit Wyatt, Larry French and Carl Hubbell held the AL scoreless and the NL won, 4-0, in the first All-Star Game shutout.
Moore was the only NL player to play the entire game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. Mize and Medwick each was 0-for-2.
The AL managed only three hits _ two by Appling and one by pitcher Bobo Newsom of the Tigers. Boxscore
West never again appeared in an All-Star Game. In a seven-year career with the Braves, Reds and Pirates, West hit .254 with 77 home runs.
St. Louis has been the All-Star Game site five times: 1940, 1948, 1957, 1966 and 2009. Only New York (nine) and Chicago (seven) have hosted the All-Star Game more often.