First Cleveland All-Star Game Ended Up Being Only Game at Stadium that Year
Vince Guerrieri | On 05, Jul 2019
With the 90th Midsummer Classic coming to Cleveland on Tuesday, July 9, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look back at some of the other All-Star Games hosted by the city over the years. This story was originally published July 5, 2017. – BT
As soon as plans were announced for an All-Star Game at Comiskey Park to coincide with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933, every other city in the major leagues wanted to host one – including Cleveland.
The Indians had a history with all-star contests, holding a benefit game for Addie Joss’ family in 1911 that was then the largest collection of star power on one field. The city’s newly-constructed stadium on the lakefront downtown would also make a perfect venue for the game.
And it did, two years later – but that turned out to be the only major league game played at the stadium that year.
Cleveland voters passed a $2.5 million bond issue in November 1928 – a year before the stock market crashed. The stadium opened in July 1931 with a heavyweight prizefight between Young Stribling and Max Schmeling, and a year later, the Indians played their first game there – a 1-0 hard-luck loss for Mel Harder and the Tribe against Lefty Grove and the Athletics.
The city needed a tenant for the stadium, and the Indians – with 77 home games every year – seemed to fit that bill. However, the Indians owned League Park, making it a more affordable option than the cavernous stadium. But they signed a two-year lease at the new stadium.
The Indians weren’t good enough where playing at an 80,000-seat stadium was more of a necessity than League Park (and night baseball was still several years away in Cleveland, so neither stadium had lights), and teams were legitimately struggling to stay afloat as the Great Depression deepened. The Indians were happy to use their escape clause and make League Park their home field again in 1935.
In 1933, Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward pitched the idea of an all-star baseball game. Originally it was proposed as a one-time special event, but the game proved so popular that everyone wanted to host one. Cleveland leaders and press started beating the drum for a game at Municipal Stadium. The National League won out for the next year, with the All-Star Game being played at the Giants’ home stadium, the Polo Grounds, but after that, Cleveland boosters redoubled their efforts to get the next All-Star Game. Their efforts were successful, and in 1935, Cleveland Stadium hosted one game – but it was a good one.
The American League had won the first two games (the Indians’ Mel Harder got the win at the Polo Grounds, but that’s lost to history as the game is mostly remembered for Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell’s performance, striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession), and were on their way to a third early on, thanks to a two-run home run by Foxx in the first inning. It was all the run support the American League would need. Starter Lefty Gomez threw six innings and gave up a hit, and he was relieved by Harder, who got the save with three shutout innings, running his streak of scoreless innings in All-Star Games to eight (it ultimately went to 13, a record that still stands).
It was the third straight win by the junior circuit, and after the season, the rules for All-Star Games changed, limiting pitchers to just three innings unless the game went into extras.
Ultimately, the Indians returned to Cleveland Stadium – part-time at first, then full-time when Bill Veeck bought the team in 1946. Although Veeck didn’t use League Park for games, he did use it as a bargaining chip to get improvements and a favorable lease. Cleveland Stadium would host three more All-Star Games before the Indians left it in 1994 for Jacobs Field, which hosted the 1997 Midsummer Classic and will do the honors again in 2019.
League Park was torn down by the city in the 1950s. It never hosted an All-Star Game.