Future San Diegans West, French led NL in '40 ASG

Five National League pitchers combined for Game's first shutout

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Going into the 1940 All-Star Game, the American League had dominated the series -- winning five of the first seven games.

But on July 9, 1940, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis five National League pitchers combined to hold the American League's best to three hits in the first shutout in All-Star Game history.

Two of the key players in the National League's 4-0 victory later were prominent San Diegans.

The National League scored all the runs they needed in the first on a three-run homer by Boston Braves right fielder Max West off Red Ruffing, who for the second straight year was one of six Yankees in the American League's starting lineup.

Pirates shortstop Arky Vaughan and Chicago Cubs second baseman Billy Herman (the first of his three hits) opened the game with back-to-back singles. West then homered to right-center to make it 3-0 before Ruffing retired a hitter.

It turned out to be the only All-Star Game at-bat ever for the 25-year-old West. He was injured in the second inning trying to make a leaping catch of a Luke Appling double and had to leave the game. He never again was named to an All-Star team.

After hitting .263 with 64 homers and 341 RBIs in five seasons as a starter for the Braves, West lost three seasons to military service during World War II. After hitting only .212 in 1946, West's contract was sold to the Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

In three seasons (1947, 1949-50) with the Padres, West hit 121 homers with 399 RBIs in 518 games. In 1949, West batted .291 for the Padres with 48 homers and 166 RBIs in 189 games.

As for the 3-0 lead supplied by West, it was easily protected by the National League pitchers.

The American League had only five baserunners. Appling was the only American Leaguer to get into scoring position and the American League never had more than one runner in any one inning. National League pitchers had seven strikeouts against two walks.

Paul Derringer of the Cincinnati Reds started for the National League and allowed a hit and a walk with three strikeouts in two innings. The Reds Bucky Walters followed with two perfect innings. Whit Wyatt of the Brooklyn Dodgers allowed a hit in the next two innings. Knuckleballer Larry French of the Chicago Cubs worked the seventh and eighth, allowing a hit with two strikeouts. Carl Hubbell had a walk and a strikeout in a hitless ninth.

Like West and many other Major League players, French entered military service after going 15-4 with a 1.83 earned run average in 38 appearances (14 starts) in 1942.

French enlisted in the Navy just before his 35th birthday. Unlike most other ballplayers, French made a career of the military and rose to the rank of Captain before retiring from the Navy in 1969 while living in San Diego. He died in San Diego in 1987 at the age of 79.

The eighth All-Star Game was notable for two other things.

The game was played in one hour and 53 minutes -- the quickest All-Star Game ever.

And although he earned the honor of managing the American League team for a fifth straight season, Joe McCarthy of the Yankees decided to let Joe Cronin of the Red Sox manage the team.