FanPost

Wrigley Field’s First Network Close-Up at the ‘62 All-Star Game

 

Back when only baseball’s stars made anything approaching big money, the Players Association came up with the idea of staging two All-Star Games each year as a source of pension revenue. This practice began in 1959, during the pre-expansion age, when the 154-game schedule, countless double-headers, limited travel outside the northeast, and the tradition of daytime-only major events in baseball made this idea practical. It ended only three years later, following Game Two in ‘62 at Wrigley Field, when the double-ASG became a casualty of expansion, longer schedules, more team travel, network reluctance to disrupt daytime TV schedules and, very likely, lack of interest from the general public.

When is too much enough? Well, two All-Star Games may be a perfect example of wretched excess, but it sure didn’t seem that way on a hot and beautiful July 30, 1962, as I turned the corner at Waveland, walking east, and saw a crowd waiting to buy bleacher tickets already doubled-up at 10 a.m. Earlier that morning, I listened to a neighbor tell me what a waste of time it was to go without tickets and, as I looked for the end of the line, I realized he probably was right. To this day, I don’t know if some or all bleacher tickets for that game were supposed to be reserved, but with almost no movement on the line that morning, the unofficial word went out: “No more seats.” That rumor sent a few people home, before an official came out to mark a cutoff that was well ahead of me. As many more fans started walking away, I too was about to give up and head over to Henry’s for lunch.

Suddenly, and likely to his regret, that same official stepped back to announce that an unknown number of additional tickets now would be made available. His words instantly changed the air pressure along Waveland and produced the sound of a thundering herd from the west – a classic bums’ rush was about to achieve critical mass, and who was I to remain on the sidelines? Sure enough, the mad scramble paid off. Order was restored only after at least 50 of us rushed the line, bought tickets and headed up the ramp. Turning right at the concession stand, I saw the bleachers already packed, except, of course, for the Batter’s Eye section that had been closed since 1952. I looked around again and, incredibly, a smiling Andy Frain usher was holding open the chain-link gate to that centerfield section and beckoning me to step inside. Immediately, I headed down past rows of rotting bleachers to the best seat in the house, front row, slightly left of dead center, and watched batting practice as the rest of the Eye filled up behind me. Not bad for $1.50 and a few splinters.

It only took me another 48 years to figure out the reasons for my incredible good luck that day: the relative novelty of network sports broadcasts in color, the need for MLB to show its best face in the ASG showcase, and the eyesore those empty, rotten centerfield bleachers must have been to network and MLB executives looking at color monitors. All these things created the need for a short-term fix, and placing fans in the Eye provided an ideal last-minute cover to make Wrigley Field picture-perfect and ready for its first-ever close-up in a national telecast of an important game.

As for the ‘62 ASG game itself, the less said the better. Perhaps the highlight of the whole affair came in batting practice, when a large piece of paper gently floated down from the bleachers’ upper deck, and scored a perfect three-point landing in right center between Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito. A roar went up from the bleacher crowd: the paper was a Centerfold, and there was Miss July, in all her glory. Maris glanced down, smiled, then looked up to grab a fly ball. As he did, Colavito reached down to pick up this gift from a generous spectator, then folded it carefully before stuffing it in his pocket. It should be noted that Rocky later sent a seventh inning 3-run smash out to Kenmore Avenue, icing the game for a rare (in those days) AL win.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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