Historical

Covid-19 killed Tuesday’s ASG; Fifty years ago, the game did a 28.5 rating; Last year it did a paltry 5.0

 

The All Star Game was scheduled for this Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. Like virtually everything else in sports, Covid-19 took care of it.

Going back, baseball fans loved it. In days before every game anywhere was available somewhere – generally at our fingertips – the Al Star Game was a glittering bargain each July. Think of whom you saw on one field and in a few gripping hours: Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and Don Drysdale. I think you get the point.

For decades, the ASG was played during the day. Youngsters didn’t miss it. They didn’t even have to miss school to see it. The share of viewers who had their televisions on and were watching the game was staggering. In the 1960s, the share of the ASG’s audience averaged about 50%.

By the time he retired, Tim McCarver was an analyst on 24 All Star Games

In 1967, the summer classic went to primetime. Was  baseball popular? You better believe it. Get this. In 1966, the ASG in St. Louis was the last one scheduled during the day. It produced 12 million viewers. Moving to primetime the following summer produced 55 million for the carrying network, NBC.

There’s more that might help explain why baseball today lags football and basketball. The matchup in Anaheim that 1967 night went 15 innings, the longest ASG to that point. It lasted 3:41. In 2008, the ASG again extended 15 frames. But this time it took 4:50.

Fifty years ago this summer with Curt Gowdy at the NBC mic, the ASG did a whopping 28.5 rating, an all-time high. Who could have projected what was to come? Last year, the ASG did an all-time low, a sad 5.0 rating.

And so it is. Lots have happened since 1933 when the ASG was introduced in Chicago and here are some year-by-year highlights.

Memorable All-Star Games and broadcasts

1933 

First ever ASG, carried by NBC and CBS Radio; America’s first radio announcer and popular personality Graham McNamee had the NBC call

1935

Three radio networks, NBC, CBS and Mutual, do the ASG through 1940. Big names calling the event in those years included Red Barber, Mel Allen and Bob Elson

1942

Mutual gets the exclusive radio rights and it retained it through 1956

It being the first summer of World War II, two ASGs are played, one at Yankee Stadium and the second in Cleveland to support the war effort

1944

With the war raging, broadcasters were engaged in the military effort. Boxing voice Don Dunphy, older at this point than other voices, is assigned the ASG and he’s joined by football voice Bill Slater

1945

The All-Star Game is cancelled by request of the Office of Defense Transportation during the final year of the war

1946

Mel Allen would do the next six on radio and then the following nine on NBC TV

1950

First ASG on network TV, on NBC. It was played in Chicago and ran on 48 affiliated stations. Chicago’s Jack Brickhouse was the announcer.

1951

On NBC with Brickhouse and Jim Britt presiding, the telecast does a 27.3 rating and an eye popping 89 share! Remember there weren’t as many television sets then but 89% of those that were turned on, were tuned to the ASG.

1952

With Mel Allen and Jack Brickhouse on the call from Philadelphia, it’s the first ASG that was run coast-to-coast. The game is shortened by rain

1957

NBC gets the radio rights to the summer classic. Harry Caray and Bob Neal call the game which was played in St. Louis

1959

MLB begins a four year stretch where it played two ASGs each summer. Vin Scully works with Allen in the second ASG, the one played at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was Scully’s first ASG on TV. He would do his first on radio in 1977. Surprisingly, only 55,105 were in the Coliseum which held up to 90,000. Curt Gowdy joined Mel for the first ASG that summer in Pittsburgh. 

1960

Russ Hodges and Curt Gowdy work the first game in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. The smallish park attracts 30,619. The second game was played at Yankee Stadium and gets a less than capacity 38,362. Scully and Allen were on the TV call. On radio in the Bronx that day were the Commander Bob Elson and Waite Hoyt, the ace of the 1927 Yankees’ pitching staff. That club is often considered the best in baseball history. In 1960, Hoyt was the longtime Voice of the Cincinnati Reds

1961

Joe Garagiola gets his first ASG assignment, joining Gowdy in Boston in the second of the two games. But it was cancelled after nine innings because of rain. It ended up a 1-1 tie. On NBC Radio, Harwell bid his audience goodbye from the “roof at Fenway Park.” Hodges and Allen who paired for three years on Yankees’ broadcasts in the 1940s did the first ASG that summer on NBC TV.

1962

Allen works his last ASG, joining Garagiola who also ended up replacing Mel with the Yankees in 1965. Gowdy and Scullly would team for the second of the two ASGs that summer , a 9-4 AL win at Wrigley Field

1964

The ASG is played at brand new Shea Stadium. The World’s Fair was also an attraction that summer right next door. to Shea. The Voice of the Mets and previously longtime NBCer Lindsey Nelson joined Buddy Blattner on the Peacock telecast

1965

The ASG in Minneapolis is called by Jack Buck and Garagiola. Buck, then number two behind Harry Caray in St. Louis, gets the nod from NBC. Buck would do two more in 1990 and ‘91 for CBS

1966

This is the last ASG scheduled in the afternoon. It was a sweltering hot day in St. Louis and NBC had to place ice on some of its cameras to prevent them from overheating

Jim Simpson, the number two sports voice at NBC behind Curt Gowdy, does the next nine ASGs on radio. His partners were first Tony Kubek, later Sandy Koufax and then Maury Wills

1967

The All Star game goes primetime in the east where it began at 7pm. It made a major difference. Some 55 million watched it on NBC. The year before, the afternoon contest in St. Louis was viewed by 12 million. The first shown in prime was a marathon. The Reds’ Tony Perez homered in the top of the 15th to give the NLers a 2-1 win. It was the longest ASG in history until matched in 2008.

1969

Although it was scheduled for the night of July 22nd, heavy rains forced its postponement until the next afternoon, July 23d. A big baseball fan, President Richard Nixon planned to attend the ASG but because of the delay, he had to leave for the splashdown of Apollo 11 which carried the three astronauts on the moon mission, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins (didn’t step foot on lunar surface) and Buzz Aldrin. Vice President Spiro Agnew represented him at the game which was won by the NL, 9-3.

The lower rating in ’69 reflected the absence of a substantial audience during the workday:

Year/ASG  Rating     Share

1967         25.6         50               

1968         25.8         49                  

1969         5.1          42      (Postponed to afternoon due to rain)        

1970         28.5         54                

1970

Running its third game in primetime, NBC does the highest rating ever for an ASG, 28.5. Gowdy, Kubek and guest analyst Mickey Mantle were at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati

1972

On NBC, the National League wins in Atlanta, running off the first of 11 straight wins over the AL. Gowdy and Kubek called it

1976

This was ABC’s first year as an MLB rightsholder. The Gunner, Bob Prince, was the network’s lead voice. Warner Wolf and Bob Uecker joined him at Veterans Stadium in Philly. Prince’s provincial style was a big hit in Pittsburgh but it wasn’t popular nationally

CBS Radio gets MLB’s national package. Through 1997, the lead voices would include Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Brent Musburger, Jerry Coleman and John Rooney

1978

Keith Jackson does play-by-play. He would do three in all, splitting his next two with Al Michaels. Keith’s partners were Howard Cosell and Don Drysdale. Cosell would do four ASGs

1980

Al Michaels shares play-by-play with Keith Jackson. Al would do six ASGs in all, four alone and two shared with Jackson.

1981

MLB suffers a prolonged labor stoppage. Once it’s settled, the schedule begins with the ASG in Cleveland. On radio, Vin Scully was the refreshing and warm voice welcoming fans back to baseball. Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek call it on NBC TV. There was an irony. Cleveland baseball hardly drew in those days. Yet that night, 72,086, the largest crowd to ever attend an ASG saw it in person. The NL won its tenth straight summer classic, 5-4

1983

For NBC, Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola are in the broadcast chairs at Comiskey Park in Chicago when the AL breaks an 11 game losing streak to the NL, 13-3. Vin might have said, “They finally broke the shackles of a galling slump.”

1986

Joining Al Michaels on ABC, Tim McCarver serves as analyst for the first time. He would do 24 ASGs in all between 1986 and 2013

1989

Vin Scully does his last ASG on television. Now private citizen, ex-president Ronald Reagan joins Scully in the booth in Anaheim during the first inning

1990

CBS TV owned MLB rights for four seasons and reportedly lost tons of dough with the package. The game had an approximately 68-minute rain delay. In the meantime, the network aired Rescue 911. Jack Buck and McCarver were on the call

1992

Buck was replaced by Sean McDonough as CBS’ lead MLB voice. He does the first of two ASGs with McCarver

1994

After hosting four ASGs earlier, Bob Costas calls the first of four summer extravaganzas. Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker were his partners that night. This was on the short-lived The Baseball Network and it ran on NBC

Joe Buck has done 21 ASGs

1997

Joe Buck does his first ASG, partnering with McCarver. The AL wins 3-1 at beautiful and contained Jacobs Field in downtown Cleveland. The NL wouldn’t win an ASG again until 2010. The 2002 ASG in that 13-year stretch resulted in a tie

1998

ESPN Radio gets the rights and the play-by-play broadcasters since have been Charley Steiner, Dan Shulman and Boog Sciambi who’s done the last ten

2001

In Seattle on Fox, it was the last time the ASG did a double digit rating an 11.0. AL wins 4-1 with Buck and McCarver presiding in booth

2002

In somewhat of an embarrassing moment for MLB, the ASG was called after 11 innings. It ended in a 7-7 tie at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Commissioner Bud Selig determined that the teams were out of players and a continuation of the game could result in unwanted injuries

2003

The ASG winner earns its member team home-field advantage for the World Series. This would continue through 2016. Beginning in 2017, the team with the better regular season record got home field advantage for the fall Classic

2008

The game was won by the AL 4-3 in 15 innings. This 15-inning game took 4:50 to play versus the earlier 15 inning ASG in 1967 which took just 3:41. The world moves quicker and baseball moves slower

2010

The National League breaks through after 13 failed ASGs, winning in Anaheim 3-1 with Joe Buck and McCarver commenting for Fox

2019

Joe Buck works his 19th straight ASG and 21st overall. The ASG does its lowest rating ever, a 5.0 on Fox

2020

The scheduled ASG for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is cancelled due to Covid-19. The cancellation is only the second since the game was introduced in 1933. The other was the final year of the war in 1945

2021

 Atlanta’s Sun Trust Park is scheduled to host the ASG

2022

The ASG will be played in Dodger Stadium

 

 

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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Barry Kipnis
3 months ago

I remember 1964 ASG, was in day camp at the time so didn’t see the telecast, but we had the game on radio, don’t remember who the broadcasters were. Johnny Callison of the Phillies homered to win it for the NL. 1969, the AL scheduled starting pitcher was Denny McLain, who won 31 games the year before, but when the night game was rained out, Denny did not show up at the ballpark in time for the game the next day. Mel Stottlemyre of the NY Yankees was hurriedly pressed into the starting role and he gave up 4 hits… Read more »