KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chicago Cubs summoned a young Ernie Banks to the major leagues in 1953, he didn’t want to go. That’s how much he loved playing for the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs.
So imagine how thrilled Mr. Cub was to return to Municipal Stadium for the 1960 All-Star Game.
“I loved Kansas City because there were two of them,” Banks said in a phone interview.
Known for the expression, “Let’s play two,” Banks added with a laugh, “There was Kansas City, Kansas, and Missouri. So I played two.”
Actually, everyone played two in 1960 when the Kansas City All-Star Game — contested five years after the Athletics moved from Philadelphia to 22nd and Brooklyn Streets — was one of two Midsummer Classics held that year.
Two All-Star Games were staged during 1959-62 as a means of funding the players’ pension program; after the game in Kansas City on Monday, July 11, the second was held July 13 at Yankee Stadium.
The nationally televised game at Municipal Stadium, played the same week that the Democratic National Convention nominated John F. Kennedy for president over Missouri’s Stuart Symington, was the biggest sporting event held to that point in Kansas City. It was a searing hot, 100-degree day, but that did not deter the sellout crowd of 30,619 and more than 150 media members — the largest assemblage of press to cover a single event in Kansas City.
“We had an announcer with the Cubs named Jack Quinlan,” Banks said, “and he came down to the batting cage, and said, ‘I’m going to be doing the first four innings of the game, Ernie, so do something so I have something to talk about.’
“I looked at him. I didn’t answer him …”
But Banks heard him. And the reigning two-time National League MVP answered with a two-run homer as part of a three-run first inning that sparked a 5-3 NL victory. It was Banks’ first All-Star home run in his sixth All-Star Game appearance.
“I wanted to do it …. in Kansas City,“ said Banks, who also had a double in the game. ”I was just a young kid when I came there the first time, and I really enjoyed that city. It was so nice – the people, the food, nice hotel … great location in the center of the United States …
“I went back to see all that, went back to visit with my manager with the Kansas City Monarchs, Buck O’Neil, and took a tour of Kansas City.”
Actually, there wasn’t a lot of time for pregame hoopla because all 16 major-league teams played on Sunday, and the All-Stars didn’t begin arriving until late that night for the Monday game. And in those days, the focus of the All-Star Game was the game itself, not all the peripheral activities.
“It wasn’t as big a deal as it is now,” said retired Kansas City Star baseball writer Sid Bordman, who was part of the newspaper’s coverage of the game. “They didn’t have the Home Run Derby, the FanFest, the Futures Game, the celebrity softball game … they just came in town, played the game, and you knew they had to save some pitchers for the game two days later.
“The Athletics weren’t tearing up the league … there was a lot of interest, but it’s not like it is now with that big buildup. The All-Star Game gets bigger every year now because they keep adding stuff.”
Still, it was a spectacle for Kansas City, which was all dressed up for the dignitaries and thousands of other visitors. Sixty downtown utility poles were draped with flags, bunting and banners adorned with the slogan, “Welcome to Kansas City, the All-Star City.”
Making a good impression was especially important for Kansas City because civic leaders were looking for new ownership for the Athletics. The franchise’s owner, Arnold Johnson, who brought big-league baseball and the All-Star Game to Kansas City, had died during spring training.
“It was a thrill to be there,” Bordman said. “It was the first All-Star Game I had ever seen, and a lot of people here hadn’t seen one. In those days, the American League and National League were bigger rivals because they didn’t play each other during the regular season.”
In fact, in the pre-interleague days, the National League took the All-Star Game so seriously that league president Warren Giles would visit the clubhouse for a pregame pep talk.
“He said, ‘We’re going to win this game … give it all you got,’ ” Banks said of Giles. “He said, ‘We’re going to prove to them we’re the National League, we’re the best, and you get out there and do it.’ ”
Of the 60 players selected for the game, 17 were future Hall of Famers, including National Leaguers Willie Mays – who had a single, double and triple – Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Eddie Mathews and Banks; and American Leaguers Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson and Yogi Berra.
The biggest pregame ovations, however, were reserved for longtime All-Star Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, who delivered a pinch-hit single to extend his record for most All-Star hits, with 18; and Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who also appeared as a pinch hitter.
The National League jumped to a 5-0 lead after three innings and left the bulk of the pitching to Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend, Roy Face and Vern Law. Friend worked the first three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, and when the American League broke through with a run in the sixth, Face ended a threat by getting Luis Aparicio to ground into a double play.
After the American League drew to within two runs at 5-3 on Al Kaline’s two-run homer, Law, the eventual Cy Young Award winner for the pennant-winning Pirates, got the final two outs and the save — 48 hours before he would start the game in New York, a 6-0 National League win.
Kansas City’s lone representative to the game, pitcher Bud Daley, had pitched on Sunday. With a 12-4 record at the break for a lowly 29-48 team, he could either start the Wednesday game in New York or pitch the ninth inning in Kansas City.
He chose Kansas City.
“One of the great thrills I ever had in baseball was that game,” said Daley, who’s now retired in Wyoming, “because the bullpen was in center field in old Municipal Stadium, and when I opened that gate and started walking toward the mound, I got a standing ovation all the way.
“It was one of those days when we had a full house – and it was one of the greatest thrills I ever had.”
Daley struck out Vada Pinson and Orlando Cepeda before walking Ken Boyer. Daley made a throwing error trying to pick off Boyer but got Clemente on a hard liner to left.
It was Daley’s second All-Star appearance in two years. Daley, a 16-game winner in both 1959 and 1960 for the downtrodden Athletics, retired both batters he faced in the 1959 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, including a strikeout of Banks.
“The year before in Pittsburgh, I felt like, ‘Gee, here I am with all these guys, I don’t know whether I should be here or not,’ ” Daley said. “The next year, when I had the 12 wins at the break, I felt, ‘Yeah, I should be here,’ and I was fortunate enough to be there.”
Daley, like most good Kansas City players at the time, eventually wound up with the Yankees and appeared in three World Series games in 1961 and ‘62, winning the final game of the 1961 Series.
But even that wasn’t as satisfying as the stroll to the mound and appearance in the 1960 All-Star Game.
“Because,” Daley said, “Kansas City was my favorite town I played in.”