Past DC-hosted Midsummer Classics were star-studded
Future Hall of Famers, presidents made ASGs in nation's capital special
By Spencer Fordin
The All-Star Game is headed back to one of its oldest haunts.
Major League Baseball announced Monday that Washington will host the 2018 All-Star Game, giving the nation's capital its fifth Midsummer Classic. Washington last played host in 1969 and has previously shared some of the sport's richest chapters in history.
Nationals Park -- home of the Washington Nationals -- will serve as the third D.C. ballpark to host the All-Star Game. Griffith Stadium, the home of the first Washington Senators franchise, hosted the All-Star Game twice (1937 and '56), as did Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (1962 and '69).
The first Washington-hosted All-Star Game was just the fifth Midsummer Classic in MLB history. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and both the American League and the National League's teams pushed out a starting lineup with seven future Hall of Famers.
The NL started Dizzy Dean, Gabby Hartnett, Johnny Mize, Billy Herman, Arky Vaughan, Paul Waner and Ducky Medwick, the last of whom would go on to win the Triple Crown that season.
The AL, meanwhile, had Lefty Gomez on the mound and a lineup that included Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Cronin, Earl Averill and Joe DiMaggio. Gehrig, one of five Yankees in the starting nine, drilled a home run and led the AL to an 8-3 victory over the NL.
The game was most notable for an injury: Averill lined a ball off Dean's foot, and the ailment would ultimately shorten the pitcher's career. This game -- which took place 11 months after Jesse Owens' star turn at the 1936 Olympics -- was managed by Hall of Famers Bill Terry (NL) and Joe McCarthy (AL).
Griffith Stadium saw some more star power in 1956. Once again, the All-Star Game was managed by a pair of iconic New York managers. This time, Walter Alston of the Brooklyn Dodgers managed the NL and Casey Stengel of the Yankees handled the AL.
The AL had a dream outfield of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Al Kaline, and three other Hall of Famers -- Nellie Fox, Yogi Berra and George Kell -- playing a supporting role. The NL had Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Robin Roberts, Warren Spahn and Frank Robinson on its side.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Griffith Stadium for the 1937 All-Star Game (AP).
Mays didn't start the game, but he launched a two-run homer in the fourth inning as the home team built up a 5-0 lead. Williams and Mantle homered to make it a two-run game in the sixth, but Musial answered with a solo shot in the seventh to help deliver the NL a 7-3 victory over the AL.
The first edition of the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season, and a new team with the same name began play in 1961. Griffith Stadium was still the home field for the new Senators in 1961, but the team moved into D.C. Stadium -- later renamed for R.F.K. -- in 1962.
D.C. Stadium hosted one of the league's two All-Star Games in that debut season, and this one was notable because it featured just the second appearance by a sitting President of the United States.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch, and more than 45,000 fans came to the brand new stadium for the All-Star Game. The NL boasted five future Hall of Famers -- Don Drysdale, Bill Mazeroski, Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente -- in the starting lineup.
The AL countered with Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on the mound and fellow immortals Luis Aparicio and Mantle in the starting lineup. Roger Maris, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, started for the AL just one year after breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.
But for all that firepower, the game was decided by speed. Maury Wills of the Dodgers, who would go on to be MVP of the NL that season, stole a base and scored the game's first run in the sixth inning, and he would come back later to single and score again. The NL took a 3-1 victory over the AL.
The All-Star Game was back at the ballpark -- now named for RFK -- seven years later. This game was originally scheduled to be played in the evening but was postponed by rain. It was played on afternoon the next day -- July 23 -- and was the last All-Star Game played before prime-time television hours.
Steve Carlton started for the NL, which also featured Hall of Fame pitchers in Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro and Tom Seaver. Hank Aaron, the game's future home run king, started for the NL, as did fellow Hall of Famers in Willie McCovey, Ron Santo and Johnny Bench.
But the AL had some big stars of its own. Mantle had retired the year before and was part of the TV announcing crew for this game, but the AL still had Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson and Frank Robinson. Denny McLain, who won 31 games during the 1968 season, was part of the AL bullpen.
Bench homered in the second inning for the NL, and McCovey would go deep twice to lead the visiting team to a 9-3 victory over the AL. This game was the seventh in a run of eight straight NL victories in the All-Star Game, and the NL would win 11 times in a row from 1972-82.
The Senators played in Washington through the end of the 1971 season before moving to Texas to become the Rangers, and the nation's capital was without baseball for three decades. But the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005, and the 2018 All-Star Game will yield more D.C. memories.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.