Best Ever MLB All-Star Games
The stars are coming out. Every year, roughly halfway through the regular season, Major League Baseball gathers their top players for the All-Star Game – aka the Mid-Summer Classic. This special event has become so popular over the years, it is now the centrepiece of a larger weekend of festivities including the All-Star Futures Game and the hotly-anticipated Home Run Derby.
We’ve seen the “skills” portion of the All-Star schedule take precedence in sports leagues like the NBA, where fans appear to be more interested in the Slam Dunk and Three-Point Contests than the All-Star Game itself. However, unlike the other major professional North American sports, baseball has stuck with their traditional All-Star format pitting the National League versus the American League. That consistency has kept fans much more invested in the Mid-Summer Classic than they are in, say, the NFL Pro Bowl.
The betting action at Bodog Sportsbook always picks up when the All-Star Game comes around. Lines are posted on the MLB odds board shortly after the rosters are announced; this is a rare opportunity to watch and bet on all of your favourite players as they compete against each other for All-Star bragging rights – and a share of $1 million in bonus cash.
To celebrate, we’ve put together our list of top five best ever MLB All-Star Games here at Bodog. Narrowing it down to just five wasn’t easy. We had to leave out the amazing games they played in 1994, 1999, 2001 and 2008, but the following five matchups were just too good to ignore.
5. 1955: NL 6, AL 5 (12)
You could make an argument that Major League Baseball peaked in 1955. The teams that gathered at Milwaukee County Stadium featured such luminaries as Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willy Mays, Yogi Berra – and Stan “The Man” Musial, who would provide the heroics for the National League in the 12th inning.
The American League had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning (powered by a three-run Mantle homer), but the senior circuit fought back to extend the game. Gene Conley struck out the side in the top of the 12th, then Musial turned on the first pitch he saw from Frank Sullivan to end matters.
4. 1961, Game 1: NL 5, AL 4 (10)
From 1959 to 1962, Major League Baseball held two All-Star Games to help raise money for the players’ pension fund, which was running low. They switched back to a single game after the regular-season schedule was increased from 154 to 162 games, with the National League making the change in 1962 – one year after the junior circuit.
The first 1961 MLB All-Star Game took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and it was a doozy. Aaron, Mantle, Mays, Musial and Berra were still there, along with Roberto Clemente and Roger Maris, and the two teams went into extras tied 3-3 before the American League scored unearned in the top of the 10th, only to lose when Mays and Clemente combined to drive in the decisive runs off Hoyt Wilhelm. Well deserving of a spot on our list of the best ever MLB All-Star games!
3. 1950: NL 4, AL 3 (14)
This was the first MLB All-Star Game to go into extra innings, and it proved to be a challenge for the two managers, Casey Stengel (AL) and Burt Hotton (NL). The two starting lineups at Chicago’s Comiskey Park included Williams, Musial and Berra, plus Hall-of-Famers Jackie Robinson and Enos Slaughter; having already burned through many of these big names, it was some of baseball’s lower-wattage stars who would end up deciding this contest.
Still tied 3-3 after four extra frames, Stengel gave the ball to Ted Gray, making what would be his only All-Star appearance after getting off to a hot start for the Detroit Tigers. In the top of the 14th, Hotton brought Red Schoendienst off the bench to hit; Schoendienst took Gray deep for the go-ahead run, then Ewell Blackwell got Joe DiMaggio (playing in his second-to-last season for the New York Yankees) to ground out into a game-ending double play in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.
2. 1970: NL 5, AL 4 (12)
This game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati will forever be remembered as the game where local hero Pete Rose bowled over American League catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th, breaking and separating Fosse’s shoulder in the process. This play would lead to new rules prohibiting such collisions in the minor leagues, although the majors wouldn’t do the same until 2014.
Lost in the shuffle was Carl Yastrzemski tying the All-Star record with four hits, earning himself MVP honours despite playing on the losing team. Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer also started the game with three shutout innings each. It was the first night game in the history of the Mid-Summer Classic, and a preview of the success Rose and his “Big Red Machine” teammates would enjoy later that decade.
1. 1941: AL 7, NL 5
It might be the only game on our list not to be decided in extra innings, but the 1941 All-Star Game deserves our No. 1 spot for several reasons – especially the way it ended. This was the year that DiMaggio went on his 56-game hitting streak, and Williams became the last batter to hit .400 in the majors. Trailing 5-3 heading into the ninth, the American League narrowed the gap to one, then DiMaggio beat out a double play and Williams cranked a Claude Passeau pitch over the fence at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, a 3-run homer and the first sayonara walk-off in All-Star history.
Who will make history at this year’s Mid-Summer Classic? Check out the MLB All-Star odds at Bodog Sportsbook to see what’s on tap, and keep hitting that refresh button as the march to the World Series continues.
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Do you think we’ve missed an obvious shout in our best ever MLB All-Star games? Let us know on Twitter, we’re happy to be corrected!