First Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The template for all-star games in every sport was set when stars from baseball’s American and National Leagues met in baseball’s first All-Star Game. The game’s popularity immediately made it one of the premier events in sports.

Summary of Event

On Thursday, July 6, 1933, more than forty-nine thousand enthusiastic spectators jammed into Chicago’s Comiskey Park to watch top players from both the American and National Leagues compete in the first ever All-Star Game. The American League emerged victorious, 4-2. Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, had conceived of the game as the once-in-a-lifetime battle between baseball’s best players. A native of Illinois’s Kankakee County, Ward had been publicity director for legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne and sports editor of the Rockford Star before coming to the Tribune in 1925. [kw]First Major League Baseball All-Star Game (July 6, 1933)
[kw]Major League Baseball All-Star Game, First (July 6, 1933)
[kw]Baseball All-Star Game, First Major League (July 6, 1933)[Baseball All Star Game, First Major League (July 6, 1933)]
[kw]All-Star Game, First Major League Baseball (July 6, 1933)[All Star Game, First Major League Baseball (July 6, 1933)]
[kw]Game, First Major League Baseball All-Star (July 6, 1933)
Major League Baseball;All-Star Game[All Star Game]
All-Star Game (baseball)[All Star Game baseball]
Baseball;All-Star Game[All Star Game]
National League (baseball)
American League (baseball)
[g]United States;July 6, 1933: First Major League Baseball All-Star Game[08370]
[c]Sports;July 6, 1933: First Major League Baseball All-Star Game[08370]
Ward, Arch
Harridge, Will
Heydler, John
Ruth, Babe
Gomez, Lefty
Hallahan, Bill
Veeck, William L.
Breadon, Sam

In 1933, Depression-ridden Chicago was playing host to the World’s Fair, the theme of which was “Century of Progress.” Scholars disagree about the nature of Ward’s involvement in the fair: Some say that fair officials asked local sports editors to help them develop a grand sporting event to focus attention on the city, while others argue that Chicago mayor Ed Kelly asked Tribune publisher Bertie McCormick to help develop a major sporting event. Either way, Ward was soon involved in the process. Ward, who considered himself more of an idea man and promoter than a writer, proposed an exhibition baseball game between the best players from the American and National Leagues. The game’s profits would go to the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, and fans from all over the United States would select the teams’ players. McCormick had doubts about whether the game would be popular, but he agreed to underwrite its costs.

The office of the American League’s president, Will Harridge, was located in Chicago at the time, and on April 20, 1933, Ward walked over to see him. A negative reaction from Harridge would have almost certainly prevented the game from taking place, but Harridge enthusiastically embraced the idea. William E. Veeck, president of the National League’s Chicago Cubs, was equally supportive. Others were not, however: Three National League teams—the New York Giants, the Boston Braves, and the St. Louis Cardinals—vetoed the idea. The Giants and Braves pointed out that they were scheduled for a doubleheader in Boston on July 5, and that it was impossible for players from these two teams to get to Chicago in time for the game.

Fortunately for Ward, John Heydler, the president of the National League, supported the idea of the All-Star Game, and he agreed to postpone the doubleheader. Sam Breadon, owner of the Cardinals, had other concerns: He was afraid that the game would set a precedent and that future contests would be forced to give the proceeds to charity. Breadon only agreed to the game after Ward pointed out that the game would bring financial benefits to its host city.

To help tabulate the ballots produced by fan voting, Ward asked fifty-five sportswriters from various cities for help. The Tribune’s editors did not think that other newspapers would collaborate, but all fifty-five accepted. The fans’ choices included Chicago White Sox outfielder “Bucketfoot” Al Simmons, who was tied for the American League’s batting lead with a .368 average. Simmons polled more ballots (346,291) than any other player and was followed by Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Chuck Klein, whose banner season earned 342,283 votes, the highest number in the National League. Other outstanding players selected included New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig, New York Giants players Bill Terry and Carl Hubbell, and Detroit Tiger second baseman Charlie Gehringer. Fans also elected the thirty-eight-year-old Babe Ruth, the oldest player on the field, even though he was heavier, slower, and clearly nearing the end of his legendary career as a right fielder in the American League.

Ward chose the game’s managers. For the National League he selected famed New York Giants skipper John McGraw, who had retired the previous year but returned for this game. The Philadelphia A’s Connie Mack, nicknamed the “Tall Tactician,” was tapped to lead the American League. To ensure fairness, the leagues agreed to use the American League’s ball, which was considered livelier, for the first four and one-half innings. The less lively National League ball would then be used to finish the contest. The game’s starting pitchers were Lefty Gomez (for the American League) and Bill Hallahan (for the National League).

Some had feared that the game would not attract fans, but Chicago’s Comiskey Park was filled to capacity on July 6; even the 2,250 bleacher seats that had been added a few days before were filled. The game got under way at 1:15 p.m. Because Comiskey Park was the home of the American League’s Chicago White Sox, the American League was considered the home team, and so the National League batted first. Gomez retired St. Louis Cardinal third baseman Pepper Martin, the first batter, on a ground ball. With the help of Hallahan’s characteristic wildness, the American League scored the first run in the second inning. Two walks put runners on first and second base, and pitcher Gomez—usually a feeble hitter—plated the first run with a single.

Babe Ruth came to bat in the third inning. With Gehringer on first base, Ruth belted a home run into the right-field seats, and the delighted crowd roared as “the Babe” rounded the bases. The first home run in All-Star history gave the American League a seemingly insurmountable three-run lead. Gomez blanked the National League’s players for the first three innings, and the Washington Senators’s star hurler Alvin Crowder did the same in the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth inning, however, the National League showed signs of life. Chicago Cubs pitcher Lon Warneke got a triple on a fly ball down the right-field line that a younger and quicker Ruth might have held to a single. Warneke scored and was followed by Frankie “Fordham Flash” Frisch, who hit the National League’s first home run by smacking a shot into the right-field seats. The American League’s lead narrowed to 3-2.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the American League scored another run. The New York Giants’ masterful screwball pitcher Carl Hubbell completely dominated during the seventh and eighth innings, although the National League came close to tying the game in the top of the eighth when Cincinnati Reds outfielder Chick Hafey hit a long fly ball to right field with a runner on first. Ruth caught the ball with his back to the wall, although in a smaller ballpark Hafey’s ball would almost certainly have been a home run. The ninth inning was a quiet one, and the game ended with a 4-2 victory for the American League and more than forty-six thousand dollars raised for the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America. The game’s popularity led Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to declare the game an annual event.


The first baseball All-Star Game cemented the idea of a showcase exhibition contest among a sport’s most prominent players. Most other sports—including football, basketball, and hockey—eventually followed suit, although both the complexity of scheduling such a game and the threat of injury remained controversial issues. However, sports fans continued to show support for such a contest, and the leagues used the games as venues for promoting their best athletes. Some players saw the games as barometers of their skill and popularity, particularly as free agents became more common; players could use their success in an All-Star Game as a tool in contract negotiations. Major League Baseball;All-Star Game[All Star Game]
All-Star Game (baseball)[All Star Game baseball]
Baseball;All-Star Game[All Star Game]
National League (baseball)
American League (baseball)

Further Reading

  • The Baseball Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of Major League Baseball. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Publications International, 2003. Illustrated history covers Major League Baseball from the nineteenth century through 2002. Includes tidbits about players who appeared in All-Star Games.

  • The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball. 10th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1996. An encyclopedic reference of baseball player records, nicknames, and first-person accounts, and highlights of All-Star Games through 1992.
  • Olson, Drew. “Ward’s Simple Idea a Classic Success: All-Star Game a Big Hit from the Start.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 19, 2002.
  • Vincent, David, Lyle Spatz, and David W. Smith. The Midsummer Classic. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Exhaustively researched accounts of every baseball All-Star Game from the first in 1933 to 2000. Includes play-by-play accounts by inning of the games, plus player rosters, career statistics for all players, and career and game statistical rankings.

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