The first All-Star Game ever played in Philadelphia was also a first for Major League Baseball.
The game, played at Shibe Park on July 13th, 1943 was the first midsummer classic to be scheduled at night.
Being a “first” involving the illumination of a ball game in the dark was nothing new for Shibe, which had also been the site of the first-ever night game in the history of the American League back in May of 1939.
Shibe Park was the first steel-and-concrete ball park in the game’s history, and was home to the American League’s Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics from 1909-1954. It was located in a neighborhood of mostly Irish immigrants then known affectionately as Swampoodle.
The then-34 year old facility could be found even more specifically along Lehigh Avenue and north, between 20th and 21st Streets.
In the spring of that 1938 season, the park had taken in a new tenant. The National League’s Phillies moved in that year from old Baker Bowl, which sat just 5 blocks away at Broad & Huntingdon.
The Phillies legendary Hall of Fame outfielder and broadcaster, Richie Ashburn, would say of Shibe: “It looked like a ballpark. It smelled like a ballpark. It had a feeling and a heartbeat, a personality that was all baseball.“
Though the two teams would share Shibe Park for 17 seasons, it was the A’s playing hosts for the game, and so the AL would be the home team.
And so it was that on a warm, overcast July evening in the middle of World War II, and with rain threatening, baseball’s best available players migrated to North Philly.
On Mutual Radio, the game was broadcast by announcers Red Barber, Mel Allen, and Bill Corum all across the United States.
The managers for the two teams were two of baseball’s very best, representing what have become the game’s preeminent franchise in each league.
For the National League, it was Billy Southworth of the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Southworth, in his 2nd stint as the team skipper, took over and led the team to a 49-20 record down the stretch in 1940, salvaging a 3rd place finish out of what had seemed a lost season, and in 1941 he guided them to 97 wins and a 2nd place finish.
That start of the second act of Southworth’s Cardinals managerial career was only setting the stage.
His teams from 1941-43 would win at least 105 games each season, taking all three NL Pennants and winning two World Series crowns. The 1942 Series win had earned him this nod as skipper of the NL All-Stars.
For the American League, it was legendary New York Yankees manager Joe McCarthy at the helm.
McCarthy was a hometown boy, born and raised in Philadelphia. He idolized the A’s 62-year old owner/manager Connie Mack, whose name Shibe Park would eventually take for its own as Connie Mack Stadium.
McCarthy knew how to handle stars, serving as the Yankees skipper from 1931-1946 during the careers of such legends as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio and more.
His 1942 Yanks’ squad had lost to Southworth’s Cards in five games after winning the opener of the Fall Classic.
The two teams, and the two managers, were on a collision course for a rematch in October of 1943. But before they would get to that business, there was this summer exhibition under the lights taking center stage in the baseball universe.
As told by Baseball Almanac, McCarthy was “publicly accused of being flagrantly partial” to his Yankees players in the selection of his starting lineup for the All-Star Game in previous years.
As a reply to those accusations, McCarthy would not use any of five Yankees sitting on his bench in the entire game.
In just his 2nd full season, and with fewer than 1,000 plate appearances in the big leagues, it was Southworth’s young 22-year old star outfielder Stan Musial who would get his NL team on the board first.
Appearing in the first of what would be 24 straight All-Star Games, Musial knocked in Chicago Cubs 3rd baseman Stan Hack to put the NL up 1-0 in the top of the 1st inning.
In the bottom of the 2nd, the American Leaguers answered when Boston Red Sox 2nd baseman Bobby Doerr drove a 3-run homer out to left field off NL starting pitcher Mort Cooper of the Cardinals.
Left fielder Dick Wakefield of the Detroit Tigers ripped an RBI double off Cooper in the 3rd, making it a 4-1 lead for the AL side.
“It looked like a ballpark. It smelled like a ballpark. It had a feeling and a heartbeat, a personality that was all baseball.” ~ Whitey Ashburn, on Shibe Park
Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Johnny Vander Meer, who five years earlier as a 23-year old in his first big league season had set a record still never equaled by pitching back-to-back no-hitters, was victimized by the AL in the 5th for an unearned run thanks to an error by catcher Ernie Lombardi of the New York Giants, pushing the Junior circuit’s lead up to 5-1.
At that point, the Vince DiMaggio show began. The older brother of Yankee star Joe DiMaggio, who was away in the war effort, Vince was in the middle of a successful 5-year run in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.
DiMaggio had entered the game as a pinch-hitter for yet another Cardinal, centerfielder Harry Walker.
Staying in the game, DiMaggio would go 3-3 and score a pair of runs, including on his own 9th inning solo homerun off Red Sox pitcher Tex Hughson.
The homer by Vince D cut the AL lead down to 5-3, but Hughson, who had a nice 8-year career with Boston during the 1940’s, settled down and retired the NL stars, preserving the victory for his team and earning a Save for himself.
Washington Senators pitcher Dutch Leonard, who started for the AL and went three solid innings, would get credit for the Win, which was the American Leaguers 8th in the 11 All-Star Games played to that point in history.
The appreciative Philly crowd let out a cheer with the final out of a game that took just over two hours to play.
While they had missed Joe D, Ted Williams, and others who were off in the war effort, they had gotten to see some great stars, including aging Giants’ slugger Mel Ott as a pinch-hitter in one of his final All-Star appearances.
Much as with tonight’s 2015 MLB All-Star Game, the Phillies had just one lone representative in 1943.
That player was journeyman 1st baseman Babe Dahlgren, who was in his lone season with the Phils, and who was playing for his 8th of what would ultimately be 10 teams during a 12-year career in the majors.
The host Athletics also had just one lone rep on the AL squad, 1st baseman Dick Siebert, who would hit just one homer in 558 at-bats for the A’s during that 1943 season. Siebert played eight seasons with the A’s in an 11-year MLB career.
It was the first MLB All-Star Game ever played in Philadelphia. It would not be the last, for either the city, or for the ballpark.
Nearly a decade later, in 1952, the Phillies would be the hosts at Shibe in a 3-2 NL win that was also affected by the weather. That one would, in fact, be shortened to just five innings by the rains.
In both 1976 and 1996, the Phillies would host National League victories at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly.