Povich Rewind: AL’s All-Star struggles continue in 1962

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Povich Rewind: AL’s All-Star struggles continue in 1962
Jul 9, 2018

Not only was the late Shirley Povich witness to the four previous Major League Baseball All-Star games played in Washington D.C. – 1937, 1956, 1962 and 1969 – he covered all of them for The Washington Post, the newspaper for which he worked for 75 years. Over the next month – until the 2018 game is played at Nationals Park on July 17 – the Povich Center will rewind Povich’s coverage of those games, courtesy of The Washington Post. Check back every Monday for updates.

By Shirley Povich

D.C. STADIUM — For the American League, the All-Star games have become an increasing embarrassment. It hasn’t won any of the last five and its high-water mark during that span was a 1-1 tie in one of last year’s two games. The affair at the D.C. Stadium on Tuesday could be construed as increasing evidence of the National League’s domination.

Shirley Povich’s coverage of the 1962 MLB All-Star Game in Washington, as printed in The Washington Post. Click for an enlarged version.

Its failures may be a puzzlement to the American League, but everything comes through clearly to Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. In today’s new issue of Pageant magazine, Robinson attempts to pinpoint the exact trouble in which the American League finds itself. The AL is paying for its shortsightedness in permitting the National to sign the best Negro ball players.

Robinson, the player who broke the racial barrier when he came in with the Dodgers in 1946, writes that the American League has continued to drag its feet in signing Negroes and thus has lost dominance. He points to the greater number of colored players in the National and might have made references to the fact that seven of the ten leading hitters in that league are Negroes.

He singles out the Red Sox as an example of a team that has ignored the Negro as a source of talent supply. “The Red Sox were the last team to sign a Negro, and not one has ever been a regular,” said Robinson, pointing to the perennial second-division status of that club.

In support of Robinson is the fact that the two teams most heavily peopled with Negroes — the Dodgers and the Giants — are far in front of the pack in the National League. In Tuesday’s All-Star game, the pivotal factors in the National League’s triumph were the base running of Maury Wills and the outfield catches of Willie Mays.

Wills and Mays play daring baseball in the image of Robinson himself. This has been a trait of the Negro ball player since the barriers came down. It was Wills’ steal of second in the sixth inning and his bold dash for third in the eighth that gave the most lilt to Tuesday’s game and stirred the fan-excitement that had been lacking.

Rocky Colavito, who challenged Wills to take an extra base on his throwing arm, was not making a dunderhead play when he threw to second base instead of third. The throw was a beauty and had Wills neatly trapped, but the AL lost him when Bobby Richardson’s relay to third base was less than on line. The umpire called Wills safe but it didn’t appear he was. In any event, Colavito pulled the smart play, not the stupid one.

Pursuing his thesis, Robinson writes that the AL’s failure to sign more Negroes stems from a lingering prejudice in that league’s front offices, not from any racial bias of the managers or the players “who are interested only in a winning team.” One manager who was brought up in the South, says Robinson, was taught as a kid “that a Negro must know his place. Today he admits ‘If he can run and throw and hit, his place is on my ball club.’”

There was some surprise at the end of Tuesday’s game when not a single ball was hit out of the park despite the convenience of the fences and the power hitters in both lineups. It was not surprising to Bucky Harris who, after the game, was saying tartly “did you ever hear of good pitching?”

Harris pointed out that good pitchers can control good hitters. “Against good pitching, the good hitter is satisfied just to get his bat on the ball because he knows it isn’t easy. How does a batter hit .300? by hitting .500 against mediocre pitching and .100 against good pitching. That’s the break-down.”

President John F. Kennedy throws the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB All-Star Game at D.C. Stadium on July 10, 1962.

An audience with the President of the United States is usually dismissed at the President’s convenience but such was not the case when Casey Stengel visited Mr. Kennedy’s box between innings of Tuesday’s game. It was Stengel who turned it off by saying simply, “Well, Mr. President, it was nice to see you, because I’ve got work to do and Hutchinson needs me on the coaching lines and that’s where I belong, so good-bye, Mr. President.”

The other All-Star athlete received in the White House box was Stan Musial, at the President’s request. Mr. Kennedy was renewing an old acquaintance with Musial whom he first encountered in 1960 when he was campaigning for President. “I remember,” Musial told him, “that you said to me ‘Stan, they say you’re too old to play baseball and I’m too young to be president. We’ll show them.’”

Gen. Pete Quesada who was in charge as the official host to Mr. Kennedy overlooked no details. In preparing for the opening pitch he told catcher Early Battey, “stand close near that resin bag, because we don’t want the President to strain his arm.” Battey said, “What’s the matter, did he pitch a double header yesterday?”

Courtesy of The Washington Post. Originally printed on July 12, 1962.

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