The last All-Star Game to take place at Yankee Stadium was played on July 19, 1977, five days after the blackout that devastated parts of the city. It was the second season of the renovated Stadium, which had already seen Chris Chambliss hit his ALCS-winning home run against the Royals and the Reds sweep the Yankees in the World Series the previous October. At the break, the Yankees were in third place in a tight race in the AL East, 2.5 games behind the Red Sox and three games behind the Orioles, both of whom would finish the season 2.5 games behind the repeating AL champions.
The Yankees had five representatives at the All-Star Game that year, not counting AL manager Billy Martin and his coaching staff. Reggie Jackson, in his first year with the team, started in right field and was booed loudly by the home crown upon being announced by Bob Sheppard before the game. Willie Randolph, in his second season as a Yankee, made his first All-Star start at second base. Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, and Sparky Lyle all made the team as reserves.
While the six members of the 1976 World Champion Reds on the NL roster (Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, George Foster, and Dave Concepcion in the starting lineup, Pete Rose and Ken Griffy on the bench) were booed loudly by the Yankee Stadium crowd, the loudest ovation during the pre-game introductions went to another Red, Tom Seaver, who had been traded to Cincinnati by the Mets just a month earlier. Watching the game now, it's also striking to see future Yankee stars Dave Winfield and Goose Gossage, both playing for the NL squad, met with near silence by the Stadium fans, and to see Billy Martin cheerfully greet his first base coach, White Sox manager Bob Lemon, who would replace him as Yankee manager the following season.
Orioles ace Jim Palmer started for the AL squad. Having thrown 638 innings over the previous two seasons, Palmer had thrown 187 2/3 innings in the first half of 1977 and was clearly fatigued. Joe Morgan, who had started the scoring in the 1976 World Series with a first-inning home run off Doyle Alexander, led off and put Palmer's sixth pitch into the right field box seats. As Reggie Jackson ran out of room to chase Morgan's leadoff homer, he pressed his face against the right field wall and rolled around as if to say "here we go again." The NL had won the previous five All-Star Games and 18 of the previous 20. They would win this one and the next five as well before Fred Lynn's grand slam off Atlee Hammaker finally broke their dominance in 1983.
After Palmer struck out Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, wearing Dave Winfield's batting helmet atop his all-black Pirates uniform, singled. George Foster followed with what looked like a single toward the left-field gap, but both left fielder Richie Zisk of the White Sox and Carl Yastrzemski, playing out of position in center and on a bad ankle, were slowed by leg injuries. Yaz managed to cut the ball off, but didn't get much on his throw to teammate and cutoff man Rick Burleson. Parker barreled around the bases and just beat Carlton Fisk's tag to score on what was ultimately ruled a double for Foster and was perhaps the game's most exciting play.
A wild pitch moved Foster to third, and an opposite-field homer by the Phillies' Greg Luzinski made it 4-0 NL before Palmer rallied to strike out Ron Cey and Johnny Bench (the latter on three curveballs). Palmer walked Dave Concepcion to start the second, but got out of the inning with the help of a sac bunt by NL starter Don Sutton and a caught stealing of Concepcion by Fisk. In the third, Palmer again gave up a home run to the leadoff batter, this time with Steve Garvey dropping one into the visiting bullpen (which was directly behind the left field wall then, before the wall was brought in and the retired numbers were placed out there; what amounted to monument park was enclosed by a half circle of chain-link fencing in between the two bullpens). With that, Billy Martin came out to hook Palmer, whose reported reaction was, "what took you so long."
Palmer was replaced by Jim Kern, the 6-foot-5 fireballing relief ace of the Cleveland Indians. Largely forgotten now, "The Great Emu" had one of the all-time great relief seasons two years later for the Texas Rangers. In this game, he came on to strike out Parker and Foster and get Luzinski to ground out. In the next frame, Kern yielded to his teammate Dennis Eckersley, a third-year starter who had no-hit the Angels at the end of May, falling one walk short of a perfect game. Eckersley continued his dominance here with two perfect innings as the two Cleveland righties set the entire NL lineup down in order.
Curiously, Kern and Eckersley, though teammates, were wearing different colored jerseys (Kern was in red, Eck in blue). Indeed, the gaudy double-knits of the '70s were in full effect in this game with Palmer, teammate Ken Singleton, and Giants' Gary Lavelle wearing orange tops, Zisk wearing the White Sox's pointy-collared untucked white jersey over blue pants, Dave Winfield dressed as a giant cheeseburger in his Padres uni, Parker and Gossage dressed in all-black with yellow pillbox caps and yellow stirrups on white sanitaries (Lavelle, incidentally, had black stirrups on orange sanitaries), and a great number of the NL subs taking the field in their teams' powder blue road uniforms. Rainbow-striped (and bespectacled) Joaquin Andujar of the Astros and canary yellow Wayne Gross of the A's didn't even get in the game. Of course, none of that was as showy as the hot dogging of the Braves' Willie Montanez in relief of Garvey at first base.
Back to the game, one of the highlights for me came in the sixth inning when the Padres' Dave Winfield made his All-Star debut against Angels' lefty Dave LaRoche. Lean, mean, and looking more than his already-impressive 6-foot-6 in his white pants and brown jersey, Winfield struck a stance somewhat closer to Andre Dawson's than the one I remember from his Yankee days. He took LaRoche's first two pitches for balls, fouled off a third, then screwed himself into the ground with a monstrous swing-and-miss at a fastball. In his follow through, Winfield dropped into a bent-knee version of the James Brown splits as his batting helmet, reclaimed from Parker, tumbled into the left-handed batters box. After getting up and dusting himself off, Winfield took another huge hack to foul off another pitch, his follow-through carrying him across the plate. After taking ball three over his head to load the count and fouling off yet another pitch, Winfield laced a high outside pitch to the right field wall. Right fielder Jim Rice got to the ball in time, but it hit off the heal of his glove as Winfield, losing his helmet again, cruised into second with a generously ruled double. He was stranded there when Pete Rose flew out to Rice two batters later.
The AL finally broke through against Tom Seaver in the sixth when Rod Carew singled, moved to second on a Willie Randolph tapper back to Seaver, and scored, along with Fred Lynn who had walked, on a double by Zisk. Again facing Seaver in the seventh, the AL tallied again when 21-year-old Twins catcher Butch Wynegar singled, moved to second when fellow 21-year-old Gary Templeton of the Cardinals booted would-be double play ball from Graig Nettles at shortstop, and scored on an RBI single by Randolph.
That brought the AL within 5-3, but the NL got the runs back against Sparky Lyle in the eighth. Templeton atoned for his error with a leadoff double (incidentally, seeing Templeton and Parker before they betrayed their talent is one of the joys of watching this game). Lyle then hit the Cubs' Jose Morales with a pitch and moved the runners up on a wild pitch. Winfield delivered and RBI single to score both, making it 7-3 NL.
In the bottom of the eighth, Morales's Cubs teammate Rick Reuschel plunked first-time All-Star Ken Singleton in the shin with a pitch, but got Wynegar to tap into a double play to escape any further damage. Lyle pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, to bring the AL to the plate for their last licks trailing 7-3.
NL manager Sparkey Anderson called on future Yankees' closer Goose Gossage, then a clean-shaven Pirate, to finish the game. Curiously, Gossage didn't have the wild follow-through in his delivery then that he did just a year later with the Yankees. Rather than falling off the first-base side of the mound with his glove hand flying in the air and his back leg coming across his body, Gossage finished his delivery relatively squared up to the plate, dropping down almost Seaver-like to his right knee before that leg popped out toward third base.
Gossage started his inning by walking the Rangers' Bert Campaneris and striking out Nettles. He then gave up an opposite-field two-run homer to the Red Sox's George Scott that put a charge in the crowd by making it a 7-5 game, but Willie Randolph grounded out and Gossage struck out pinch-hitter Thurman Munson on a check-swing on a rising fastball that ended up almost behind Munson's head. The 7-5 win gave the NL their sixth-straight All-Star victory.
Random Notes: This was the first year of the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Thirty-eight-year-old Ron Fairley, who had been the first baseman and, later, right fielder on the great Koufax-Drysdale Dodger teams of the 1960s, was the Blue Jays' representative. Twenty-two-year-old center fielder Rupert Jones was the Mariners' rep. The M's would have to wait another year for one of their batting helmets to make it into an All-Star Game, however, as Jones borrowed Fairly's Blue Jays helmet for his one at-bat. Speaking of which, Dave Parker, who borrowed Winfield's Padres helmet for his first two at-bats, made his third trip wearing Joe Morgan's.
The home plate umpire for the game (using the AL's old external chest protector) was Bill Kunkel, who had pitched 22 games in relief for the Yankees in 1963. Kunkel got a bit of face time during the game when he took a foul ball off the mask and walked around rubbing his jaw for a few moments before resuming play.
Finally, Don Sutton, who started for the NL and won the game's MVP award for his three shutout innings, went on to start the first game of the World Series against the Yankees at the Stadium. Curiously, the NL starter in each of the three All-Star Games played at Yankee Stadium prior to tonight went on to start Game One of the World Series against the Yankees (also the Reds' Paul Derringer in 1939 and the Pirates' Vern Law in 1960). Ben Sheets starts tonight for the Milwaukee Brewers. Anyone up for a Yankees/Brewers Series this year? I sure am.