Monday, July 15, 2013

Matt Harvey and All-Star Starting Pitchers at Home Park

New York Mets phenom Matt Harvey was tabbed as the National League's starting pitcher for Tuesday's All-Star Game at Citi Field. The right-hander will be the 11th hurler to take the mound at his home park.

Let's take a look at the first ten:

The defending champion New York Giants hosted the second All-Star Game at the Polo Grounds, and their reigning MVP left-hander Carl Hubbell drew the starting assignment.

He opened the first inning by allowing a single and a walk, but recovered by striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. The screwballer also K'd Al Simmons and Joe Cronin to complete his famous streak in which he whiffed five consecutive future Hall of Famers.

King Carl pitched three scoreless innings, but the American League bats woke up once Hubbell left the game.  Lon Warneke gave up four runs and Van Mungo (of "Van Lingle Mungo" fame) gave up four more as the A.L. opened up an 8-4 lead. The N.L. cut it to 8-7 on Pie Traynor's steal of home in the fifth, but that's as close as they'd get in a 9-7 defeat.

A remarkable note about this game: 17 of the 18 players in the two starting lineups are now in the Hall of Fame. 

American League

Babe Ruth RF
Lou Gehrig 1B
Jimmie Foxx 3B
Al Simmons CF
Joe Cronin SS

National League

Pie Traynor 3B
Carl Hubbell P

Berger is the only non-Hall of Famer of the bunch. One of the great hitting stars of the 1930s, he had a fine career, posting 42 Wins Above Replacement and a 138 OPS+.

Three weeks after pitching back-to-back no-hitters, Reds southpaw Johnny Vander Meer started for the N.L. All-Stars in front of the home fans at Crosley Field.

He dazzled in three shutout innings, retiring the first six batters he faced and nine of ten overall. His catcher Ernie Lombardi had two hits and an RBI to help Vander Meer record the win in the N.L.'s 4-1 victory.

The last two runs came in the bottom of the seventh when a Leo Durocher bunt turned into a little-league home run:

"Frank McCormick had opened the seventh with a single and Leo Durocher, the next batter, was ordered to sacrifice. He followed the order as third baseman Jimmie Foxx charged in. Playing the ball, Foxx made the scoop and threw the ball into right field. Joe DiMaggio, in right in deference to Earl Averill, raced in, picked up the ball and fired it home. The throw was too high and sailed over catcher Bill Dickey's head, allowing McCormick to score. Meanwhile, Durocher never stopped running until he reached home."

Red Ruffing started the '39 game at Yankee Stadium. The N.L. scored the game's first run against him in the third inning when Arky Vaughan and Stan Hack singled and Lonnie Frey doubled in Vaughan. Ruffing allowed one run on four hits in three frames.

The A.L. rallied to tie the game in the fourth with George Selkirk's RBI single. The next batter, Joe Gordon, hit a grounder to short that Vaughan misplayed, allowing Hank Greenberg to score the go-ahead run. Joe DiMaggio homered for another run in a 3-1 A.L. victory that was played in a breezy one hour and 55 minutes.

Philadelphia's Shibe Park hosted this one and Curt Simmons of the Phillies started for the N.L. He allowed two baserunners in three shutout innings, a Dom DiMaggio walk to open the game, and a DiMaggio double in the third.

Jackie Robinson homered in the first inning, but the A.L. took the lead in the top of the fourth on run-scoring singles by Eddie Robinson and Bobby Avila. In the bottom of the inning, Hank Sauer (that season's MVP) hit a two-run homer off Bob Lemon to put the N.L. back on top. Rain at the end of the fifth inning made this the only rain-shortened All-Star Game to date.

1959 (Game Two) - Don Drysdale

From 1959 to 1962, there would be two All-Star Games played each season, with the extra game being played to raise money for the players' pension fund. There's more about the experiment here.

A month after the N.L. won the first game 5-4 at Forbes Field, there was another to be played at the L.A. Coliseum. Dodgers righty Don Drysdale started both games for the National League and although he threw three perfect innings in the first game, he was roughed up in front of the home fans in the second.

A Frank Malzone solo homer and a Yogi Berra two-run shot tagged Drysdale for three runs in three innings of work. The American League won 5-3 with Cal McLish recording a six-out save. McLish is better known for his amazing full name: Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.

1960 (Game Two) - Whitey Ford

Another All-Star sequel, this one was played just two days after the first, a 5-3 N.L. win at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.

Whitey Ford drew the start at Yankee Stadium and like Drysdale, took the loss after allowing three runs in three innings. He got off the hook in the first inning when Willie Mays was thrown out trying to steal home. The N.L. got to him in the second on an Eddie Mathews two-run homer. Mays added another tally with a solo homer in the third. Six Senior Circuit hurlers combined for an eight-hit shutout in a 6-0 win.

We go north of the border for the 1982 game, played at Montreal's Stade Olympique. Expos right-hander Steve Rogers started for the National League and allowed a first-inning run. Rickey Henderson led off the game with a single, moved to second on George Brett's single, to third on a wild pitch and scored on Reggie Jackson's sacrifice fly. He recovered by setting down seven of the last eight men he faced to get through the third inning.

Dave Concepcion hit a two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley in the second inning to give the N.L. the lead (and help him claim MVP honors). Pete Rose and Gary Carter both drove in a run later on and the six pitchers after Rogers tossed six scoreless innings to wrap up the N.L.'s 4-1 win.

After a stirring ceremony for the All-Century Team nominees featuring Ted Williams before the game, Pedro Martinez put on a show at Fenway Park. He began the game with consecutive strikeouts of Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Matt Williams then reached on an error, but Martinez struck out Jeff Bagwell on the front end of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play. Mirroring Hubbell's performance 65 years earlier, Martinez cemented his place in All-Star lore.

That ended Pedro's night and he recorded the win thanks to first-inning RBI singles by Jim Thome and Cal Ripken. The A.L. won 4-1 to take its third straight All-Star Game, and the N.L. wouldn't win one until 2010. Martinez was named the game's Most Valuable Player, joining Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997 in Cleveland) as the only players to win the award at their home park. Something for Harvey and David Wright to shoot for...

(Pregame ceremony, Ted Williams introduced at 36:06 mark of video)

2003 - Esteban Loaiza

Esteban Loaiza had been a mediocre journeyman for his first eight seasons (95 ERA+) . 2002 was a low point as he put up a 5.71 ERA (81 ERA+) with the Blue Jays. At 31 years old with a career ERA of 4.88 and a losing record, he signed with the White Sox for $500,000.

Loaiza then turned in one of the great out-of-nowhere seasons in recent history. He went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA (and league-leading 209 ERA+). He had a 5.4 K/9 for his career, but he K'd 8.2 per 9 in 2003. He registered 11.6 WAR in his first eight years, but he put up 7.2 in 2003 to finish fourth in the A.L. A runner-up to Roy Halladay in the Cy Young voting, Loaiza had a career highlight in July as he received the start for the Americans in the All-Star Game in Chicago.

The righty pitched two scoreless innings, only allowing a first-inning single to Jim Edmonds. The A.L. trailed 5-1 in the sixth, but came back in the eighth. Flamethrower Eric Gagne was at the height of his powers, but the closer served up a two-run homer to pinch hitter Hank Blalock that gave the A.L. another victory.

Roger Clemens had achieved just about everything on a big league mound. He retired after the 2003 World Series with 310 career wins (17th all-time) and 4,099 strikeouts (third all-time). Soon he embarked on a Favreian run of retirements and comebacks, returning to the game with his hometown Houston Astros in 2004.

At 41, he enjoyed quite the renaissance season. In the first half of the season, The Rocket was 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA, 6.9 H/9 and more than a strikeout per inning en route to his seventh Cy Young Award.

His success was interrupted with one of the worst All-Star starts ever. The American League burst out of the gate at Minute Maid Park when Ichiro Suzuki led off with a double and Ivan Rodriguez tripled him in for a 1-0 lead. Manny Ramirez belted a two-run homer and Alfonso Soriano added a three-run dinger to make it 6-0. The onslaught ended when Clemens struck out opposing pitcher Mark Mulder to close the ugly opening stanza.

The A.L. rolled to a 9-4 win and Clemens was credited with the loss. His Game Score of 27 is the third-lowest in All-Star history, ahead of Tom Glavine (19 in 1992) and Justin Verlander (25 in 2012). Although his team wound up on the losing end, catcher Mike Piazza must have enjoyed being behind the plate for his nemesis getting shelled, at least a little bit.

(2004 ASG, first pitch at 25:16 mark of incorrectly-titled video)

An honorable mention to those who didn't start in their home park, but did in their home city. Lefty Gomez of the Yankees started the aforementioned 1934 game across the river at the Polo Grounds (Spud Chandler did the same in 1942). Lefty Grove of the Red Sox started the 1936 game at Braves Field. I'll also throw in Oakland's Dan Haren, who started the 2007 game in San Francisco.

Harvey pitched 59.1 innings last year, just over the rookie requirement of 50. So he will not be the fifth rookie All-Star Game starting pitcher. The four rookies are Dave Stenhouse (1962, University of Rhode Island, represent!), Mark Fidrych (1976), Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Hideo Nomo (1995).

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