At the 1937 All-Star Game, The American League lineup featured five Yankees, or as the Post sportswriter Shirley Povich described it at the time, “A neat packing job by manager Joe McCarthy with President Franklin D. Roosevelt looking on—perhaps wistfully.”
The Yankees’ future and soon-to-be past anchored the lineup at Griffith Stadium that year: outfielder Joe DiMaggio, in his second season, and first baseman Lou Gehrig, still in his prime but in his second-to-last full season. The duo hit third and fourth, just as they did in the regular season, and between innings they ducked down the dugout steps to smoke cigarettes.
Other American League stars included shortstop Joe Cronin, who as player-manager of the Senators in 1933 had led Washington to its last pennant, only to be sold to the Boston Red Sox the following year; Yankees catcher Bill Dickey; and Detroit Tigers second baseman Charlie Gehringer, who would go on to win the American League batting title. The National League lineup was stacked with great hitters too, led by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Ducky Medwick, who finished the season as the league Triple Crown winner.
In contrast to today’s All-Star Game, when managers try to get as many players in the game as possible to give fans a chance to see their favorite players, back then the leagues played to win at all costs. “I never wanted to win a ball game more in my life than I do this one,” said National League skipper Bill Terry of the New York Giants. He played seven of his eight starting position players the full nine innings. His fellow New York manager, McCarthy, was even stingier with substitutions, keeping his entire lineup in for the duration, except for two pitching changes (and one pinch-hitter). That kept several deserving stars withering on the American League bench, including Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg, who would finish the season with 40 home runs, second in the league only to DiMaggio’s 46.
The pitching matchup that afternoon pitted Lefty Gomez of the Yankees, starting for the fourth time in the five All-Star Games to date against the game’s most outsize personality, Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean, who initially said he wouldn’t show up. “I am tired of having people tell me what to do,” Dean declared. But the star right-hander relented, arriving by plane at the last minute, where hundreds of fans flocked to greet him.
Dean got through the first two innings unscathed, striking out Gehrig in their first encounter. But in the bottom of the third, DiMaggio singled and Gehrig homered to right field, giving the American League a 2-0 lead. As he crossed home plate, Gehrig waved his cap to FDR. The next batter, Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians proved far more damaging to the Cardinals pitcher. Averill smacked a ball up the middle, breaking Dean’s toe. (Dean, just 27, wound up making things worse later that season, when he tried to pitch before the injury was fully healed, and his altered mechanics ruined his arm—and effectively his career.)