As Major League Baseball gathers in Minneapolis for the 85th annual All-Star Game, I wanted to take a look back forty years ago at the 45th installment of the Mid Summer Classic. Even in 1974, Major League Baseball used the All-Star Game to showcase their new (publicly paid for) ballparks. Taking the field at three year old Three Rivers Stadium, the game was carried by NBC for the 29th straight time (25 years with 2 games in 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962).
After the jump, we will take a walk through the broadcast and recap some of the important moments that transpired in The 'Burgh.
Being a fan of a certain team, you always want the All-Star Game to reward the "deserving" players who performed in the first half of the season (especially if they are from your favorite team). However, as a baseball fan who loves the pageantry and the history of the All-Star Game, I have always viewed the All-Star Game as a historical snapshot of the 'name brands' of baseball. That's why seeing players like Bench, Morgan, Aaron, Reggie, the two Robinson and Brock gives the game more prestige. Unfortunately, some of the name brand pitchers of the day like Seaver, Ryan or Carlton don't make appearances.
The 1974 All Star Game took place on July 23, 1974 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The broadcasters for the game included NBC's feature crew of Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Gowdy was his usual subdued self, not helping translate the specialness of this game over to those watching the broadcast. He was overly preoccupied with the height of the National League infield. At one point during the play-by-play, Gowdy refers to Joe Morgan as 'Little Joe'. Garagiola used film reel footage throughout the broadcast to highlight past All-Star Game moments.
As Tony Kubek would highlight, NBC unveiled their remote camera setup from inside the ballpark. Using the camera, Kubek showed fans various aspects and views of the ballpark. Kubek uses the camera to give fans a view from the upper decks, inside the bullpen, etc. NBC would famously use this technology during the 1975 World Series. Out of pure happenstance, this type of camera would be inside the Green Monster at the time of Fisk's iconic homerun and give us the imagery of Fisk waiving the ball fair.
This All-Star Game would be the final step in a changing of the guard. In 1973, Willie Mays would take the field for the last time on a National League All-Star team. Hank Aaron would make (unbeknownst to many) his last appearance for the NL in this game. Mays and Aaron had appeared on every National League roster since 1955. Aaron's departure from the National League (and the Braves) would partly be precipitated because of his displeasure with the direction of the Braves. NBC would use a drop-in interview with Aaron about whether he would be interested in managing the Braves since Eddie Mathews had just recently been fired. Aaron said he would take the job if he were offered it since there were no African American managers in the game. Garagiola would later comment on a potential media storm over Aaron saying that Frank Robinson should have been hired by the Angels when that position was availible.
Bob Prince joins the broadcast booth for a few semi-awkward minutes. The pickup from the commercial break is a bit jumbled as the crew tries to get Prince situated. The delay from this leads Prince to be rushed in providing his pre-planned statement dedicating the game to the memory of Roberto Clemente. Prince's traditionally gruff demeanor makes it seem he is disinterested in his appearance in the broadcast booth and more interested in getting back to the game. In the days leading up to the game, there were complaints in Pittsburgh that catcher Manny Sanguillen (or any other Pirates) were not added to the All-Star Game roster. Mentioned earlier in the game, Gowdy asks Prince about it and he provides a very politically correct response about how all players should feel privileged to be there. Prince's appearance is brief and he quickly makes his exit.
Tying two of our surviving All-Star Games together, Luis Tiant makes his second Midsummer Classic appearance. When last we saw him, Tiant was starting the 1968 game. The Indians hurler would surrender the only run of the game following a Willie Mays single that lead to an errant pickoff throw, setting up Mays to score without the NL getting another hit. For that effort, Tiant would be saddled with the loss. In the 1974 edition, Tiant did not fair much better. This time representing the Red Sox, Tiant would throw two innings while giving up four hits and three runs. Tiant's two All-Star Game losses are tied for the most all-time.
Lou Brock, a postseason fixture for the first nine seasons of his career, wouldn't grace the NBC postseason coverage again in his final ten seasons. Appearing in 21 of the 60 World Series games played in the 1960's, Brock (much like Musial) spent the later years of his career relegated to All-Star showcases. In 1974, Brock was in the midst of his record setting stolen base season. He went into the All-Star break ahead of Maury Willis' 1962 pace and showcased that speed in this game. Brock entered the game in the 5th and singled off of Tiant. He would then steal second, while advancing to third base on a throwing error and scored via a Joe Morgan sacrifice fly. Brock would finish 2nd in the NL MVP voting that year to Steve Garvey for a Cardinals team that would be eliminated on the final day of the season.
In 1971, there were six homeruns hit between the two teams. Reggie Smith, and his awesome mustache, would hit the lone homerun of the 1974 All-Star Game. The NBC broadcasters thought Reggie should 'buy a ticket' if he wanted to watch a homerun for that long.
In a mildly controversial moment, Garagiola (in an attempt to describe the following week's Baseball World episode) caught himself from saying the 'Black Leagues' after having already called them the Negro Leagues. Garagiola would a few moments later clarify the moniker, as he put it "to save myself some letter writing", by pointing out that Satchel Paige had called them the Negro Leagues. Pretty mild stuff but enough of a 'moment' in 1974 for Garagiola to feel he needed to address it.
Steve Garvey was the game's MVP after having not finding his name on the fan voting ballots. As a write-in candidate, Garvey would be selected to the National League team. In his postgame interview with Kubek, Garvey said his play in the game was his "way of repaying [the fans]". The 1974 All-Star game continued to feature the computer tabulated punch card system of voting Bowie Kuhn had introduced, also adding to the controversy of Garvey being left off the ballot. On top of all that, Garvey was so sick leading up to the game that it was anticipated he actually may not make the game. Not only was Garvey able to make the game, he would play the entire game going 2-for-4 with a 2B, RBI and a game saving defensive play.
Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline, makes his 18th and final All-Star team. Kaline, who entered the 1974 season with 2,861 career hits, had moved his career total to 2,942 by the All-Star break. He would eventually reach the 3,000 hit plateau by having a 30 hit September. Kaline was looking to become the first American League player to get 3,000 hits since Eddie Collins in 1925.
One of my favorite aspects of the All-Star games of the 1990's were the variety of colorful uniforms the players would wear to the games. Charlie Finley's Oakland A's gave us a taste of that with their mismatched, solid colored uniforms. During this era, the A's would wear light colored pants with either their green or yellow tops, even for road games. With 5 different Athletics making an appearance in this game, we get a view of the variety look.
My copy of the broadcast picks up after the pregame festivities and leads right into the first out of the game. This is a fairly pristine color videotape copy of the broadcast and is complete from the first pitch on. The game featured longtime sponsors like Gillette and Chrysler during the broadcast. Commercials that survived in this copy included (among others) Quaker State, USPS, Masterlock, Sears and McDonald's. You can definitely tell that the various shortages of the 1970's are a big marketing point, being referenced in everything from gas mileage, motor oil and value meals at fast food restaurants.
NBC would be using the traditional graphics that anyone who has worn out their copies of the 1975 World Series have grown familiar with. In this game, they promote their upcoming NFL preseason slate, the next Game of the Week and their following Monday Night Baseball game.
The 2014 All-Star Game will feature, for the first time in the modern era, special baseball caps specifically designed for the game. With the game in Minnesota, they are styled after the 1970's Twins 'thin panel' caps and helmets worn by player like Rod Carew.
The 1974 All-Star Game was an interesting snapshot of where baseball was in 1974. Even at the end of July, you could already see that the Reds, Dodgers and A's were the elite teams of the league. The broadcast crew was already predicting a tough finish in the NL East. Some truly legendary players were winding down their careers, reaching milestone numbers while young future stars like Mike Schmidt were just beginning their era of dominance.