All-Star Origins: The First “Game of the Century”

By Michael LeCompte

As Major League Baseball prepares for its 82nd All-Star game to be played in Cincinnati on Tuesday here’s a look back at the first “Game of the Century” and how the mid-summer classic came to be an annual event.

In 1933 the sport of baseball was suffering along with the rest of America. Players salaries were slashed and attendance fell in every stadium as the depression took hold across the country.

Baseball’s first All-Star game was a product of its time, a depression-era publicity stunt, and was the result of one man’s love for sports and penchant for promoting.

Arch Ward (1896-1955) was the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune in 1933 when the idea of a baseball exhibition featuring the game’s best players came to him. Using his connections in the sporting community he worked to make the game a reality, dubbing it the “Game of the Century” and scheduling it to be played in Chicago in July to coincide with the year-long World’s Fair hosted by Chicago.

Baseball enthusiastically agreed to the idea and fans voted for the players on each team with ballots from the national newspapers.

The game was held at Comiskey park with bleacher seats costing 55 cents and box seats $1.65. Thanks to the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig the American League won the game 4-2 and a tradition was born when team owners voted shortly after the game to make the All-Star exhibition an annual event.

Arch Ward intended baseball’s “Game of the Century” to be a one-time event, but if he felt any disappointment over the yearly adoption of his creation he channeled it into other promotional activities, founding both the Golden Gloves boxing tournament and the college football All-Star game during his long career in the sports industry.

From its humble, depression-era beginnings baseball’s All-Star game has persisted, the showcasing of the best the game has to offer, the spectacle has endured. On Tuesday night in Cincinnati the simple beauty of America’s national pastime will once again be on full display in the 82nd “Game of the Century.”

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