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All-Star Game Started as a Political Gimmick

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Bryce Harper represented the Nationals in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game. Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By Evan Weiner |

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game started off as a gimmick and remains a gimmick 85 years after the first game was played in Chicago. Neither American nor National League owners ever thought about pitting their stars against one another in the previous 30 years that the American League claimed major league status.

The All-Star Game concept came from a meeting between Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly and the Chicago Tribune newspaper editorial staff as Kelly looking for a major sports event to be part of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Arch Ward, the Sports Editor, proposed the idea of an all-star game which was supposed to be a one-time deal. The baseball owners agreed. Baseball always had a close relationship with newspapers as newspapers gave the sport free publicity and fans, through newspapers, were able to vote for the starters. The net revenue from the game went to former players who needed money.

The first almost All-Star Game took place in Cleveland in 1911 and didn’t even feature the National League. A combined American League team played the Cleveland Naps in a fund raiser. Arch Ward has a place in sports history. In 1934, Ward was able to convince National Football League owners to allow the defending champions to play a college football all-star team in a Chicago summer charity event and that annual game lasted until 1976. Ward was also a force behind the creation of the All-American Football Conference which started in 1946 and ended in 1949 when the NFL took in three teams.

Major League Baseball got rid of the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series after the 2016 season because that gimmick did not create additional TV viewers. TV ratings have slipped over the past 38 years, in 2017, America’s Got Talent drew more viewers than the All-Star Game.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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