07/04/2004 7:00 PM ET
All-Star outfields for all time
Bonds, Griffey and Sosa join the pantheon
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
The All-Star Game began in 1933 as a spectacle built largely around an outfielder by the name of Babe Ruth. Over the years, fans knew they could expect to see Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams together in the American League outfield, or Hank Aaron and Willie Mays together in the National League outfield.
|Duke Snider (left), Willie Mays (center) and Stan Musial pose before the 1954 All-Star Game. (AP)
Now that the starting position players have been announced for the 75th All-Star Game on July 13 in Houston, it is time to flip through those pages of Midsummer Classic history. Fans selected Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa to start in the NL outfield, marking the first time in Major League Baseball history that three active members of the 500 Home Run Club have started in any kind of outfield together.
Is this the greatest outfield in All-Star history? If one measures it merely by power numbers, then it certainly is. But no one with a real sense of baseball history would be so quick to coronate this year's NL trio, especially considering that all six of the 1957 All-Star Game's starting outfielders went on to become Hall of Fame legends. As it is, the career total of 1732 home runs between Bonds, Griffey and Sosa should be enough to let this trio stand on its own merits.
Mays, Aaron and Willie Stargell comprised the 1972 NL starting outfield. At the time, their combined home run totals were just pushing into the 1,500s. Nothing else comes close. The only time that future members of the 500 Home Run Club started together in an All-Star outfield was in that 1957 wonder group, when second-year Reds slugger Frank Robinson joined Aaron and Mays.
The beauty of the All-Star Game is that it puts the best players together in one game, and that has meant a procession of extraordinary outfield combinations and extraordinary outfielders. It has given us the occasional shooting star -- like two-sport sensation Bo Jackson, the MVP of the 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim -- and the guys who seemed to be in the outfield forever, from Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle to Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.
And every once in a while, you get to see something special, like three outfielders with at least 500 dingers under their belts standing side by side. While waiting for Bonds, Griffey and Sosa to take their place at Minute Maid Park together, here is a look at some of the other All-Star outfields that have commanded special attention over the years:
1933: The star of stars
Al Simmons of the White Sox was in center and Ben Chapman of the Yankees was in left, but let's face it, the first-ever All-Star Game was a chance to see one outfielder: The Babe. "Sure, he was old and he had a big waistline, but that didn't make any difference," said NL starting pitcher Bill Hallahan. "We were on the same field as Babe Ruth."
The Babe had hit the legendary Called Shot just the previous autumn on the north side of Chicago, and in the inaugural All-Star Game at Comiskey Park on the south side, he lived up to his own hype once again. Ruth hit the first-ever All-Star homer in the bottom of the third, giving the AL a 3-0 lead on its way to a 4-2 victory. The event's future was thus secured.
1941: The Boys of Midsummer
Ted Williams and DiMaggio would become All-Star fixtures in the AL outfield, and this joint appearance came during one of baseball's most treasured summers, remembered largely for that pair. Williams, hitting .405 at the All-Star break, was on his way to a .406 season -- the last time anyone hit .400 in a season. DiMaggio was in the middle of a record 56-game hitting streak; it started May 15 and would end on July 16. Just eight games before the end of that run, the two started in a glorious outfield at Detroit -- Williams in left, DiMaggio in center, and Cleveland's Jeff Heath (on his way to a 123-RBI season) in right.
In the ninth inning, immediately after DiMaggio reached first on a forceout, Williams clubbed a three-run homer to give the AL a 7-5 victory. The two would start in their third consecutive All-Star outfield together the next year, but they would be separated in this event, because of World War II, until 1947.
1949: All-Star equality
This marked the first year that blacks appeared in baseball's summer showcase event. It was at Ebbets Field, where Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier two years earlier with the Dodgers. Robinson was chosen for this game along with Brooklyn teammates Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe and Larry Doby of the Indians.
Williams started in left, along with two of the DiMaggio brothers (Dom in center and Joe in right). Doby became the first black All-Star outfielder when he ran for Joltin' Joe and remained in the game in right. Although Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Doby (an eventual Hall of Famer) did not all play in the outfield simultaneously, one can now see the significance of those AL outfielders sharing a roster.
1954-57: The promoter's dream
This era of All-Star Games coincided with the start of long runs for Mantle in the AL and Aaron and Mays in the NL. Mantle would be an All-Star for 16 seasons from 1952-68. Aaron would be an All-Star for 21 consecutive years (24 overall games, including the years they played doubleheaders) from 1955-75. Mays would be an All-Star for 20 consecutive seasons (also 24 overall games) from 1954-73. And they overlapped the long run of the Cardinals' Musial, an occasional outfielder in the event and the other tri-record holder for most All-Star Games with 24 (from 1943-63).
Had there been free agency in those days, eventually Mantle-Aaron-Mays or Williams-Aaron-Mays might have been the first all-500 Home Run Club outfield. Instead, one can look back and think about all of the glamour combinations that were just beginning to emerge.
In 1954, these four future Hall of Famers were vying for time in the NL outfield alone: Duke Snider of the Dodgers (CF-RF), Musial (RF-LF), Robinson (LF) and Mays (CF). Mays, in his first All-Star Game, was the one of that foursome that came off the bench.
All-time greats were coming out of the All-Star woodwork then. In 1955, the starting AL lineup was Williams in left, Mantle in center and a young Al Kaline in right. The NL starting lineup was Del Ennis of the Phillies in left, Snider in center and Don Mueller of the Giants in right. But in the course of the game, the NL outfield also included Musial, Mays and -- playing his first All-Star Game -- Aaron. So there were seven future Hall of Famers who played the outfield that day in Milwaukee.
As remarkable as that outfield action was then, it is hard to argue against 1956 as the greatest overall assemblage of outfield talent the All-Star Game ever has seen -- at least in hindsight. That year they went even one better: eight future Hall of Fame legends. Once again, the AL outfield was Williams in left, Mantle in center and Kaline in right. In the NL, Robinson of Cincinnati started in left, teammate Gus Bell (David Bell's grandfather) started in center, and Musial started in right. Snider replaced Robinson in the lineup, Mays replaced Bell (with a homer), and Aaron ended up pinch-hitting for Musial.
And in 1957 -- the year Reds fans stuffed the ballot boxes and the fan vote was taken away until 1970 -- six future Hall of Famers comprised the game's six starting outfielders. For the AL, it was Kaline in right, Mantle in center, Williams in left; for the NL, it was Aaron in right, Mays in center, Robinson in left. For the typical baseball fan at Griffith Stadium in Washington that July 10, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime starting sextet.
1965-66: Aaron, Mays and new Pirate friends
The NL half of the 1965 box score began:
Mays, cf 3 2 1 1
Aaron, rf 5 0 1 0
Stargell, lf 3 2 2 2
Mays led off that game with a home run. Stargell, a young Pirates slugger who would go on to the Hall of Fame with 475 career homers, went deep as well.
The NL half of the 1966 box score began:
Mays, cf 4 1 1 0
Clemente, rf 4 0 2 0
Aaron, lf 4 0 0 0
It was the fifth of 11 All-Star Games for Roberto Clemente. The Pirates outfielder would play his last one in 1972, the year he also tallied his 3,000th and final hit before losing his life after the season when a humanitarian relief flight he was on crashed.
1971: Introducing Reggie
This All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium still is remembered by many fans vividly because of the power display. The NL outfield starters were Stargell in left (future Hall of Famer Lou Brock replaced him), Mays in center, and Clemente in right (Aaron replaced him).
Although he had been named to the 1969 event, this also was the game that a young outfielder from Oakland named Reggie Jackson truly became "Reggie." When called upon to pinch-hit, the slugger launched one that hit a light tower on the roof, some 520 feet from home. Jackson paused to admire his work and then began trotting around the bases. It was one of 14 All-Star Games for him.
1986: Another Cooperstown collection
Puckett and Dave Winfield were together in the 2001 Hall of Fame induction class, and they started this game for the AL in center and right, respectively. It was the first of 10 in a row for the Twins' Puckett, and the 10th of 12 for Winfield, then with the Yankees. Starting in left field was the preeminent base-stealing threat in the game, who, to this day, amazingly, still goes by the words of "future Hall of Famer." It was Rickey Henderson, then with the Yanks.
So many greats have taken their place in the outfields of All-Star lore, and they were the best of their times in the best of times. Now that fans have decided on Bonds, Griffey and Sosa to start in the NL outfield at Minute Maid Park, there is yet another special moment waiting to happen.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.