City by the Bay a memorable host
Wind, flurry of K's highlight past San Francisco All-Star Games
Like the city itself, All-Star Games in San Francisco are known for being buffeted by the wind.The first, in 1961, will be forever remembered for how Mother Nature's air currents affected pitcher Stu Miller. The second, in 1984, featured breezes generated by mighty All-Star bats flailing away at nothing. Say this about Candlestick Park, where both games were played: It had a way of placing its stamp upon the action. AT&T Park, where the All-Star host San Francisco Giants began playing in 2000, is bound to enhance the lore of the Midsummer Classic with its picturesque setting, if nothing else. Anything beyond that will have to be quite extreme to top Miller's freakish balk and the record-setting strikeouts that have accented San Francisco's All-Star history. 1961 Having opened a year earlier, Candlestick had already gained a reputation as a wind tunnel by the time the season's first All-Star Game arrived on July 11 (the second was at Boston; two games were played annually from 1959-62). So the overflow crowd of 44,115 -- and the All-Stars themselves -- was stunned by the broiling conditions. Ninety-five spectators were treated for heat prostration and five others were checked for suspected heart conditions. The July San Francisco fog, which reputedly drove Mark Twain to say, "The coldest winter I've ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," was nowhere to be seen. Stifling pitching matched the heat. Through eight innings, the National League led, 3-1, as Bill white and Roberto Clemente hit sacrifice flies and George Altman homered. Harmon Killebrew's sixth-inning homer off Giants left-hander Mike McCormick accounted for the American League's lone run. But the wind made its inevitable appearance. The atmosphere had changed from baking to breezy by the time Pittsburgh relief specialist Elroy Face (the term "closer" wasn't yet in vogue) took the mound in the ninth inning to protect the NL's lead. With one out, Norm Cash doubled and Al Kaline drilled an RBI single. Relieving Face, Sandy Koufax a yielded Roger Maris single that left runners on first and second. In came San Francisco's Miller, whose changeup made him one of baseball's most effective relievers. If such a low-velocity pitch could be feared, his was. Unlike most deliveries of its ilk, Miller's changeup broke sharply.
"I was playing catch with him one day in the outfield and he threw me a changeup that hit me in the chest," said Felipe Alou, Miller's former teammate. "It didn't hit me hard; it was so slow. I don't believe that changeup ever hit 70 [mph]."As Miller prepared to face Tigers slugger Rocky Colavito, a sudden burst of wind rocked him from his set position atop the mound. He delivered a pitch, but after the AL bench howled, umpire Stan Landes had no choice but to call a balk, advancing the runners. Kaline scored the tying run on third baseman Ken Boyer's throwing error.
Reports in the media trumpeted that Miller was blown off the mound, but he has steadily maintained that this wasn't the case."An extra shot of wind came along, and I just weaved in the wind back and forth," Miller said in "SF Giants: An Oral History." As recently as the Giants' season opener on April 3, a 79-year-old Miller said, "No, I wasn't blown off the mound. I committed a balk. The wind pushed me into a balk, but it was still just a balk." Giants legend Willie Mays recently concurred. "Stu didn't get blown off the mound," said Mays, who played the entire game in center field. "Give me a break, man!" The AL got a break when another Boyer error helped generate a run that broke the tie in the top of the 10th. But the NL, widely regarded as possessing superior talent to the AL in that era, displayed its greatness in the bottom half of the inning. Facing future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, four more Cooperstown-bound stars -- Hank Aaron (single), Mays (RBI double), Frank Robinson (hit by pitch) and Clemente (RBI single) -- collaborated on the two-run rally that lifted the Senior Circuit to a 5-4 triumph. 1984 During pregame festivities, a reminder of 1961 came when an American flag spanning nearly the entire outfield was unfurled. So spirited was the wind that a couple of the folks gripping the flag's edge to stretch it out were practically lifted airborne as gusts kept the banner undulating almost out of control. Reminders of 1934 soon followed. Exactly 50 years earlier, left-hander Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants staged a remarkable All-Star pitching display by striking out five consecutive American Leaguers -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. The 1984 reprise was a combined effort. Los Angeles' Fernando Valenzuela concluded two scoreless innings by striking out Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and George Brett in the fourth. Brett had homered to dead center field -- an impressive drive through Candlestick's crosswind -- in his previous at-bat in the second inning. Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets, all of 19 years old, replaced Valenzuela in the fifth and resumed the pattern. Down on strikes went Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. The six strikeouts in a row eclipsed Hubbell's mark. Each of the 10 pitchers who appeared for both teams recorded at least one strikeout, including Oakland's Bill Caudill, who duplicated Valenzuela and Gooden by striking out the side in the seventh. The ultimate strikeout total of 21 eclipsed the All-Star mark of 20 set in 1968. To get the telecast on prime time in the East Coast, the game was played mostly in the twilight, which likely hampered the hitters. But not the power hitters. After Brett homered, Montreal's Gary Carter homered in the bottom of the second to snap a 1-1 tie. Atlanta's Dale Murphy added an eighth-inning homer to give the NL a 3-1 lead that San Diego's Goose Gossage preserved in the ninth. The win marked the NL's 20th victory in 22 All-Star games. Fittingly enough, Gossage struck out Eddie Murray to open the inning and slipped a called third strike past Rickey Henderson with Winfield on second base to end the game.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.