Tuesday night's All-Star Game will be the second time the Kansas City Royals will host the game and third time the Midsummer Classic will take place in that city, as the old Kansas City A's welcomed the game's best players back in 1960. On July 24, 1973, just-opened Royals Stadium was the setting, with its eye-catching waterfalls and monstrous, modern scoreboard. In honor of that stadium hosting once again, here's a look back at that game, thirty-nine years ago.
We'll leave out the suspense and jump right to the final score, which was 7-1 in favor of the National League. It was the fourteenth win for the NL in the past seventeen games (one was a tie), as they were in the midst of a stretch where they completely dominated the American League, unlike these days, where things have flip-flopped the other way. It was the fortieth anniversary of the first All-Star Game, and many of the original All-Stars were on hand, including Carl Hubbell, Lefty Grove, Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey and Charlie Gehringer.
The controversy leading up to the game was the selection of the American League pitching staff. Oakland A's manager Dick Williams (who rushed back from an emergency appendectomy to manage the game at the insistence of his owner, Charlie Finley) neglected to choose eventual Cy Young winner Jim Palmer and up-and-coming star Nolan Ryan. Though he had a 10-11 record at the break, Ryan had thrown the first two no-hitters of his career in the first half of the season, and had a 3.05 ERA with 233 strikeouts (he would go on to break Sandy Koufax's single-season record that year, with 383 strikeouts). Williams chose Ryan's teammate Bill Singer (who was 15-5 at the halfway point) instead. And his own hurler, Catfish Hunter (15-3 at the time), was tabbed as the game's starting pitcher. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in, though, and added an extra roster spot for each league. Ryan made it for the AL, while Willie Mays was put on the NL's team. It would be Mays' final All-Star Game.
Hank Aaron was in hot pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, and stood at 700 at the time of the game. When asked how he would pitch Aaron, Hunter said, "I'm going to throw it right down the middle. Then, I'm gonna duck." Aaron was voted in as a starter by the fans, but he was on the ballot as a first baseman. In 1972, he played the majority of his games at first, but in '73 he didn't play one inning at first, only right and left field.
There were five locals representing the New York Yankees and New York Mets in the '73 Midsummer Classic. Bobby Murcer was the only starter, playing left field. He went 0-for-3, with a walk, but gunned down a runner at third. Thurman Munson, who would win a Gold Glove that year, backed up Carlton Fisk (which surely didn't make Munson happy), and he went 0-for-2. Sparky Lyle pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the AL, allowing one hit. Cy Young winner Tom Seaver threw a scoreless eighth inning for the NL, only allowing a walk. And Mays, in his last-ever All-Star Game at-bat, struck out against Lyle while pinch-hitting for Willie Stargell. The Yankees finished in fourth place that year (80-82), seventeen games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles, while the Mets, of course, won the NL East with an 82-79 record, defeated the mighty Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS and fell one game short in the World Series against the A's.
The starting lineup for the visiting NL was Pete Rose (LF), Joe Morgan (2B), Cesar Cedeno (CF), Hank Aaron (1B), Billy Williams (RF), Johnny Bench (C), Ron Santo (3B), Chris Speier (SS) and Rick Wise (P).
For the AL, it was Bert Campaneris (SS), Rod Carew (2B), John Mayberry (1B, filling in for the injured Dick Allen), Reggie Jackson (RF), Amos Otis (CF), Bobby Murcer (LF), Carlton Fisk (C), Brooks Robinson (3B) and Catfish Hunter (P).
The American League scored first in the bottom of the second inning, when Reggie Jackson doubled and hometown hero Amos Otis drove him in with a single. That was it for the AL, though, as the NL did all the scoring for the rest of the game. In the top of the third, with Bert Blyleven of the Twins now pitching, Brave Darrell Evans, pinch-hitting for Rick Wise, walked, Pete Rose followed with a fielder's choice, Joe Morgan walked, Cesar Cedeno singled, scoring Rose, Hank Aaron singled in Morgan, but Murcer threw out Cedeno at third, and Billy Williams grounded out to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, Johnny Bench belted a solo homer, in the fifth Bobby Bonds hit a two-run homer and the next inning Willie Davis of the Dodgers hit a two-run shot of his own (while wearing Aaron's helmet, as the Dodgers forgot to pack their helmets).
Bonds was named the MVP of the game, for going 2-for-2, with a home run, double and two RBIs. Hunter took a shot from Billy Williams in the second inning and broke his thumb. The two Angel pitchers combined to give up five runs, though Blyleven was the losing pitcher (Wise was credited with the win). Rose accused Singer of throwing a spitball (Fisk concurred with Rose), but the umps found no evidence. Eighteen future Hall of Famers played in the game, and both managers (Williams and Sparky Anderson) are in Cooperstown as well. The game was broadcast on NBC, with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek doing the announcing.
Unlike today, no matter how many "This time it counts" slogans Bud Selig can come up with, the players cared about the game all those decades ago, they played hard, they treated the other league as a loathed enemy and they passionately wanted to win. Reggie Jackson succinctly summed up the '73 outcome, speaking of the rival National League: "They embarrassed us. That's what they did, plain and simple. They simply embarrassed us."