Harder Earned Win in Second Ever All-Star Game

The second All-Star Game, in 1934, has gone down in baseball lore as the Midsummer Classic that saw the Giants’ Carl Hubbell set down Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in the first and second innings.

As impressive as that performance was, Hubbell didn’t get the win before the home fans at the Polo Grounds. In fact, the National League lost 9-7. The winning pitcher for the American League ended up being the Indians’ Mel Harder.

Harder broke into the majors in 1928 as a relief pitcher for the Tribe. Two years later, he was part of the starting rotation, and Harder was the starter for the first Indians game at Municipal Stadium (he took the loss, as the Athletics, behind Lefty Grove, won 1-0).

In 1933, Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward was tasked with creating a sporting event during the Chicago centennial, which featured a World’s Fair. On July 6 – a travel day for both leagues – Comiskey Park hosted the All-Star Game.

Ward and the players in the game figured it to be a one-shot deal, but it proved so successful that Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis decreed it become an annual event. Mel Harder wasn’t part of the first game, but he pitched in each of the next four, setting a record that still stands by throwing 13 scoreless innings.

Harder came on in relief of Red Ruffing in the fifth inning of the 1934 All-Star Game, with two on and nobody out in an 8-6 game. One of the runners came around to score, but that was credited to Ruffing, and Harder didn’t give up a run in four innings of relief, and only gave up one hit.

In 1935, Municipal Stadium hosted the first of its four All-Star Games, and Harder got the save, pitching three scoreless innings. He also pitched in relief in the 1936 game at Braves Field in Boston, and the 1937 game at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC.

Harder never made an All-Star team after that. He retired in 1947 with a career record of 223-186, and spent another 20 years after that with the Indians as a pitching coach, inspiring Herb Score to say, “If Mel Harder couldn’t teach you a curveball, nobody could.”

His number 18 was retired in 1990.

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