The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also popularly known as the "Midsummer Classic", is an annual exhibition baseball game between players from the National League and the American League, currently selected by fan vote for the position players and by the manager for pitchers. The All-Star Game usually occurs in early to mid-July and marks the symbolic halfway point in the Major League Baseball (MLB) season (though not the mathematical halfway point; in most seasons, the game actually takes place after about 55% of the season has been completed).
The first All-Star Game was held as part of the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago and was the brainchild of Arch Ward, then sports editor for The Chicago Tribune. Initially intended to be a one-time event, its great success resulted in making the game an annual one.
Choosing the venue
The venue is chosen by Major League Baseball and traditionally alternates between the two leagues every year. (This tradition was first broken in 1951, when the Detroit Tigers were chosen to host the annual game as part of the city's Sesquibicentennial at Briggs Stadium, and will be broken again in 2007, when the San Francisco Giants will be the host for the 2007 All-Star Game. The Pittsburgh Pirates will host the 2006 event. Both the Giants and the Pirates are NL teams.) The "home team" is the league in which the host franchise plays its games. The criteria for choosing the venue are subjective; for the most part, cities with new parks and cities who have not hosted the game in a long time tend to get the nod. In 2005, Comerica Park, the new home of the Tigers, hosted the Midsummer Classic. The last All-Star Game to be played in a stadium that was not hosting its first All-Star Game was the 1999 game in Boston's Fenway Park. To date, only three franchises have never hosted a game: the Florida Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (The Washington Nationals hosted the game when they were the Montreal Expos.)
The designated hitter rule is applied based on the league in which the host team plays. In an American League ballpark, both teams use a designated hitter to hit for the pitcher. In a National League ballpark, lineups place schedule the pitcher to hit, though pinch hitters are almost always used.
The manager for each league's team has for many years been the manager of the previous year's league champion. For the 1995 game, hi peopleItalic textsince the 1994 World Series wasn't held due to a strike, the managers were the skippers whose teams had compiled their league's best records in 1994, Montreal's Felipe Alou and the Yankees' Buck Showalter, both of whom had also won the Manager of the Year Award. Note that this honor is applied to the person, not the team, so it's possible that the All-Star manager could no longer be with the team he won with, as happened in 2003, when Dusty Baker managed the National League team despite having moved from the champion San Francisco Giants to the Chicago Cubs in the off-season. (However, Baker had at least moved to a different team in the same league. If he had switched to an American League team, or left baseball entirely, his eligibility to manage the All-Star game would have been in question.) The coaching staff is selected by the manager.
Each team consists of 32 players, selected in one of the following ways, listed in order:
- Fan voting: Baseball fans vote on the starting position players for the All-Star Game, with ballots distributed at baseball games before mid-season and, more recently, on the Internet. When the game is played at an American League park, the designated hitter for the AL team is also selected in this manner.
- Player voting: As of 2005, pitchers and one back-up player for each position are elected by the other players. If the top vote-getter at a certain position is also being voted in via fan voting, then the second-place finisher in this category is chosen for the team.
- Manager selection (first): The manager and the Commissioner's Office will fill the roster up to 31 players.
- Final vote: After the lists of 31 players for each league is announced, fans will vote for one additional player, chosen from a list of 5 players provided by the manager and the Commissioner's Office.
- Manager selection (second): After the final vote, the manager and the Commissioner's Office will replace players who are injured or declined to participate. Each major league team is guaranteed to have at least one player selected to participate.
Between 1935 and 1946, the manager of each All-Star squad selected the entire team. Fans received the right to vote on the eight starters (excluding the pitcher) starting in 1947. In 1957, fans of the host Cincinnati Reds stuffed the ballot box as a result of a promotion by a local newspaper which printed pre-marked ballots, and elected a Red to every position except first base. Commissioner Ford Frick stepped in and removed two Reds from the lineup. As a response to this fiasco, the right to elect the non-pitching starters was taken away from the fans until 1970. From 1958 through 1969, players, coaches, and managers made the choices.
One of the most controversial aspects of the player selection process is a rule that each team has to have at least one representative on its league's All-Star roster. While this rule made sense in baseball's pre-expansion days, when there were only eight teams in each league, many now consider it to be outdated since there are now almost twice as many Major League teams in existence. Opponents of the rule contend that the purpose of the game is to spotlight MLB's best players, and many superior players get left off the roster in favor of less deserving players from weaker teams. Supporters of the rule maintain that if the rule were dropped, a small number of powerful teams could end up dominating most of the available roster space. A number of compromises have been suggested, such as limiting the number of representatives a particular team could have, or requiring that a certain percentage of teams be represented. However, Major League Baseball has not indicated that it is considering altering or eliminating the rule in any form.
Following a highly controversial situation in the 2002 game when both teams ran out of pitchers in the 11th inning, and in response Commissioner Bud Selig declared the game over, Major League Baseball changed the rules to give the All-Star game "meaning" and additional incentive for victory. From the 2003 season up to the present, the champion of the league that won the All-Star game was to be given home-field advantage for the World Series. Previously, home-field advantage in the World Series alternated between the two leagues each year.
Stuffing the ballot box
1947 was the first year that baseball allowed fans to vote for the starters on the All-Star team.
- Johnny Temple, 2B
- Roy McMillan, SS
- Don Hoak, 3B
- Ed Bailey, C
- Frank Robinson, LF
- Gus Bell, CF
- Wally Post, RF
The only non-Red elected to start for the National League was St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Stan Musial. While the Reds were known to be a great offensive team with many outstanding position players, most baseball observers agreed that they did not deserve seven starters in the All-Star game. An investigation showed that over half of the ballots cast came from Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Enquirer had printed up pre-marked ballots and distributed them with the Sunday newspaper to make it easy to vote early and often. There were even stories of bars in Cincinnati not serving alcohol to customers until they filled out a ballot.
Commissioner Ford Frick decided to appoint Willie Mays of the New York Giants and Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves to substitute for Reds players Gus Bell and Wally Post. In addition, Frick decided to strip the fans of their voting rights. Managers, players, and coaches picked the entire team again until 1969, when the vote again returned to the fans.
To guard against further ballot stuffing, since 1969 each team has been given the same number of ballots to hand out. In 1998, that number was roughly 400,000 ballots.
Since the dawn of the internet age, online voting has again raised fears of ballot stuffing. Yet Major League Baseball assures its fans that they have taken precautions to guard against this. In 1999, a hacker from Massachusetts was caught casting 39,000 online votes for Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
Other All-Star Weekend events
Since 1985, the Home Run Derby, a contest between home run hitters, has been played on the day before the All-Star Game. Also, a celebrity softball game is held the day before the Home Run Derby. The teams are usually a mixture of former stars from the host team's past, plus some celebrities from music, film, and television. Since 1999, the All-Star Futures Game has been held during All Star weekend. The two teams, one consisting of young players from the United States and the other consisting of young players from all other nations, are usually chosen based on prospect status in the minor leagues.
Major League Baseball All-Star Games (1933-present)
|1933||American||4-2||Comiskey Park, Chicago White Sox|