This photo of Wrigley Field was taken in 1950; it looked very much like this during the 1947 All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy Bill Wasik)
Ever heard of Stan Spence?
Neither had I until I started doing some research into the 1947 All-Star Game, the first one played at Wrigley Field.
I'll get to Spence later. First, a few things about the '47 ASG. Wrigley Field was the last of the 14 major league parks (two, in St. Louis and Philadelphia, were shared by two teams each) of the original 16 teams to host an All-Star Game, 14 years after the first game was played across town at the original Comiskey Park. The reasons for this are lost to the mists of time; it wasn't due to the lack of lights, because until 1970, all All-Star Games were played during the afternoon.
Further, while fan voting is used today (and has been since that 1970 game), the 1947 game was the first time since the original ASG in 1933 that fans voted for the teams (through voting conducted by the Chicago Tribune and newspapers in other cities).
In the 1930s and 1940s, and even into the 1960s and 1970s, the National and American Leagues had distinct identities; the AL had been formed as a rival to the established NL in 1901 and even as late as 1947, was still considered sort of an "upstart" -- this, even though the New York Yankees had been a dominant team through the 1920s and early 1930s and had won multiple World Series.
So in 1947, the All-Star Game still meant something (other than "this time it counts"); players played to win, and often, stars played the entire game.
The Cubs, then only two years past their last National League pennant, placed two men on the NL All-Star squad: outfielder Andy Pafko, making his first of four consecutive ASG appearances, and first baseman Phil Cavarretta, making the last of his three All-Star games.
The NL scored first, on a home run by the Giants' John Mize in the fourth inning off the Yankees' Spec Shea. Mize, nearly forgotten today, hit 51 home runs in 1947, leading the National League. The AL tied it in the sixth inning on a double play ball that scored a run, and that set up Spence's game-winner. The Red Sox' Bobby Doerr had singled and stolen second. Then the Braves' Johnny Sain had him picked off, but threw the ball away; Doerr took third and Spence singled him in.
Stan Spence -- who I confess I had never heard of before I wrote this -- played for the Red Sox, Senators and Browns in the 1940s; two of the three were awful teams in that era. Spence led the AL in triples once, but otherwise was fairly ordinary. His best year was 1944 when he hit .316/.391/.486 with 100 RBI -- and remember, that was a lower-offense era; his OPS+ was 155 that year, a very good figure. He made four All-Star teams, but just this once, he was the hitting hero.
The game drew 41,123 to Wrigley Field, a crowd that would be a sellout today, but one that was about 5,000 under what Wrigley could hold in that era. It would be the last ASG at Wrigley for 15 years, until 1962; more on that game tomorrow.