Cleveland Indians’ Top All-Star Performances
Bob Toth | On 13, Jul 2014
On Tuesday, Major League Baseball will conduct its 85th All-Star Game, this one taking place for the first time at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Cleveland Indians have been well represented over the years in the exhibition, first started in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The Indians had three players on that first American League roster – pitchers Wes Ferrell and Oral Hildebrand and outfielder Earl Averill. Neither pitcher made it into the game for AL manager Connie Mack, but Averill entered the game as a pinch-hitter for pitcher General Crowder in the bottom of the sixth and delivered an RBI-single to score shortstop Joe Cronin with the final run of a 4-2 AL victory.
Averill would make six straight All-Star teams, but his Indians record for most All-Star appearances in a Cleveland jersey would be short-lived. Bob Feller would string together a total of eight trips to the Midsummer Classic, passing Averill with his appearance during the 1948 season before adding one more in 1950.
The Indians have sent as many as seven players to the All-Star Game in a season. In that 1952 season, Cleveland sent Bobby Avila, Larry Doby, Mike Garcia, Jim Hegan, Bob Lemon, Dale Mitchell, and Al Rosen to the contest. Avila, Mitchell, and Rosen all started, along with former Indians first baseman Eddie Robinson, but in the five inning game, the AL lost 3-2, with Lemon getting tagged with the loss after allowing two earned runs on a Hank Sauer home run in the fourth. Former (and future) Indians outfielder Minnie Minoso pinch-hit for Mitchell in the game and Doby entered the game in the fifth as a defensive replacement.
Michael Brantley will represent the Indians in the Twin Cities this season with their 221st selection all-time and will come off of the bench, if able to make it into action. What he does with the time he gets remains to be seen, but the Indians have had their share of positive and memorable All-Star moments over the years.
Below are my top five pitching and position player moments by Indians players in MLB All-Star Game history.
Number 5: Ray Narleski (1958)
Narleski was one of two Indians on the AL roster in 1958, joined by Mickey Vernon, who singled and scored in his only at bat at Memorial Stadium. Narleski entered the game in the top of the second with the AL down 3-1 and faced twelve batters. He allowed just one hit (Frank Thomas) and one walk (Hank Aaron) in three and one-third innings and kept the AL squad in the game long enough for Vernon to score the tying run in the fifth and pinch-hitter Gil McDougald to knock in the go-ahead run in the sixth in a 4-3 AL victory.
Narleski aided his own cause at the plate, singling off of Warren Spahn in his lone at bat in the bottom of the second.
Number 4: Sam McDowell (1969)
Sudden Sam was the Indians’ only All-Star representative at the break of the 1969 season. Despite entering the game in a bit of a blowout, with the score a lopsided 9-3 National League advantage, McDowell showcased his stuff in his fourth All-Star Game for Cleveland, striking out four of the six batters he faced in two late innings of work, including Roberto Clemente.
McDowell entered the break with an 11-9 record with a 2.78 ERA and 156 strikeouts. He would finish the season 18-14 with a 2.94 ERA and 279 strikeouts, which established a new career high for the pitcher for wins in a season and gave him his fourth strikeout crown.
Number 3: Bob Feller (1946)
Feller was a four-time All-Star before heading into duty during World War II. He returned late in the 1945 season, winning five of his nine starts.
In his first full season back on the mound, Feller did not disappoint. He headed into the break with a 15-5 record in 20 starts. Six of the starts were complete game shutouts and just one of the 20 games did he fail to go the distance. He had punched out 190 batters in 180 innings and was sporting a 1.90 ERA, so starting the All-Star Game for former Indians manager Steve O’Neill did not seem an unreasonable task.
Feller worked the first three innings of the contest, earning the win while allowing two hits and striking out three. The AL coasted on to a 12-0 win.
Number 2: Bob Feller (1941)
In what would be his final All-Star Game before enlisting in the US Navy one day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Feller earned his first start for the AL in the Midsummer Classic.
Feller was sharp. In three innings of work, he allowed just Lonny Frey to reach base to lead off the third inning and then erased him on a pickoff play. He struck out four batters in the game, including the first and last batters that he faced.
Feller was 16-4 at the break and would finish the season 25-13, his third straight 20-win season. He posted his fourth consecutive season of 240 strikeouts or more, all of which led the league. He logged 343 innings on the mound, then a career-high.
Number 1: Mel Harder (1934)
Harder earned his first of four straight All-Star appearances in 1934, when he was selected to the team after an 8-5 start to his season with Cleveland.
His effort on the mound as the first Indians pitcher to appear in an All-Star Game should remain the longest in club history moving forward. He logged five innings just one half inning after the AL put six runs on the board in the fifth to take an 8-4 lead. After Red Ruffing allowed the first four batters of the bottom of the fifth to reach base, with two runs crossing the plate, Harder came in and got out of the inning with only one more run crossing the plate. He would strike out two and issue one hit and one walk in five innings of work to earn the win in the second All-Star Game in MLB history.
Honorable mentions: M. Harder (1935): 3 innings pitched, 1 hit allowed, 1 strikeout, 1 save; B. Feller (1939): 3 2/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 1 save; B. Lemon (1950): 3 IP, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts; Greg Swindell (1989): 1 2/3 IP, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 hold; Doug Jones (1989): 1 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 save.
Number 5: Victor Martinez (2007)
Martinez stepped to the plate in the top of the eighth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco with the AL leading by a 3-2 edge. Teammate Grady Sizemore was just made to look foolish against dangerous left-hander Billy Wagner on a high and tight pitch.
While at the time, the hit may not have seemed significant, Martinez’s run scored on his first career All-Star Game home run would turn out to be the deciding run in the contest, as the NL’s two runs in the ninth fell just short and the AL claimed a 5-4 win.
Number 4: Earl Averill (1934)
While teammate Harder helped maintain the lead and the win of the 1934 All-Star Game, outfielder Averill was helping claim the lead in his second straight All-Star Game.
In a 4-0 hole in the top of the fourth, Averill came on as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Lefty Gomez with a runner on first and two outs. Averill tripled to right to score the AL’s second run, but would remain stranded at third.
One inning later, Averill was back at it again. The AL had tied the score and loaded the bases after five of the first six batters in the inning had reached base. Averill doubled to right field to score Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons to give the AL a 6-4 advantage. He would score two batters later on a single by pitcher Ruffing to push the lead to 8-4. The AL would go on to win, 9-7, as Averill was 2-for-4 in the game with three runs batted in.
Number 3: Omar Vizquel (2002)
Better known for his defense, Vizquel came through in the clutch for the AL late in the game in 2002.
Vizquel came on as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the fifth for second baseman Alfonso Soriano, an interesting choice for the shortstop who had seen just one inning of one game at second base in his Major League career back in 1991.
In his first at bat in the seventh, Johnny Damon was on first base after a single and stole second. Vizquel lined out to right, but Damon was able to move up on the play and would score on a Garret Anderson groundout to cut the AL deficit to 5-3.
With one out and one on in the top of the eighth, Vizquel tripled off of reliever Robb Nen to score Robert Fick to knot the score at seven. The game would ultimately be called after eleven innings in a 7-7 tie, but it could not have happened if not for Vizquel’s timely hitting.
Number 2: Al Rosen (1954)
The All-Star Game returned to Cleveland for the second time ever in 1954 and the nearly 70,000 fans in attendance got to watch an offensive display, largely put on by members of the Indians organization.
An AL team full of Indians past, present, and future helped put eleven runs on the board in an 11-9 win. Rosen, who played both corners of the infield during the game, led the way with a pair of home runs while driving in five. Combined with a solo blast from Doby in the eighth and a three-hit, two-RBI game from Avila, the three Indians to step to the plate supplied eight of the runs.
It was just a slight flex of the muscle for the 1954 Indians squad that would go on to win 111 games before a heart-breaking sweep in the World Series at the hands of the New York Giants.
Number 1: Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997)
The All-Star Game returned to Cleveland for the fifth time in 1997 and it was a hometown hero who would make the difference and win the only All-Star Most Valuable Player Award in franchise history.
Alomar had made the All-Star team for the fifth time in his Indians career. He had had an improbable first half of the season, going into the break hitting .375 on the season while riding a 30-game hitting streak during which he was hitting .422.
He played the game with a heavy heart, having lost his grandmother just four days prior. He had taken over behind the plate in the top of the sixth for the AL, replacing Ivan Rodriguez. He stepped to the plate for the first time in the bottom of the seventh, with a runner on first against San Francisco lefty Shawn Estes.
In a 2-2 count, Alomar was able to sit back on an 82-miles per hour hanger and drove the pitch into the bleachers in left to give the AL a 3-1 lead. Mariano Rivera, who would have an infamous meeting with Alomar as opponents later in the season, locked down the save in the ninth to give the AL the 3-1 win.
Honorable mentions: Lou Boudreau (1942): leadoff homer in 4-1 AL win was first by an Indians player in All-Star history; B. Avila (1954): went 3-for-3 with a run scored and two RBI in front of home town crowd; L. Doby (1954): hit a solo homer in the eighth at Cleveland Stadium; Kenny Lofton (1994): two-run single in seventh gave AL the lead; Carlos Baerga (1995): went 3-for-3 with two singles, a double, and one run scored.
Photo: Matt Detrich/Akron Beacon Journal