Friday, July 8, 2016


The 1956 All-Star Game was played on July 10th in Washington's Griffith Stadium. The Cincinnati Reds, atop the National League standings, had five position players in the NL All-Star starting line-up, and three other players selected by managers and coaches. The Milwaukee Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers, in second and third, each had four players make the All-Star team, none as starters.

Introducing Your 1956 National League All-Stars (60 Years Ago)

One would think that a club in first place by only a game-and-a-half would not have dominated the vote for starting position players quite the way the Cincinnati Redlegs did. One year before ballot-stuffing on behalf of Reds players caused major league baseball to take the privilege of voting for starting All-Stars away from the fans, leaving it to professionals in the game to select who deserved to play in the game, the middle of the Reds' infield, two of their three starting outfielders, and their catcher were all voted in as All-Stars. It was an honor that rookie Frank Robinson clearly deserved, and arguably so did catcher Ed Bailey, although a strong case might be made for Phillies' catcher Stan Lopata (see tables at end of this article).

The non-Reds who were starting NL All-Stars were Pirates' first baseman Dale Long and Cardinals' third baseman Ken Boyer and outfielder Stan Musial. Boyer was leading the league with 60 runs batted in, and Musial was close behind with 58. Ironically, Long bumped out of the starting line-up the Cincinnati player other than Robinson who was most deserving of the honor first baseman Ted Kluszewski, whose 22 home runs led the league. Kluszewski, however, did make the NL All-Star team as a back-up.

While Johnny Temple may have been the most deserving second baseman in the National League, the selection of Roy McMillanfor all his defensive excellenceto start at shortstop deprived Ernie Banks of a deserved privilege. The Cubs' shortstop was right behind Big Klu in home runs with 21; Banks did make the team as a reserve. 

In the outfield, the fan vote for Gus Bell to play alongside Frank Robinson and Musial in the outfield deprived the following three outfielders of a starting role, although all three were named to the NL All-Star team as reservesMilwaukee's Hank Aaron (batting .309 with 40 RBIs); the Giants' incomparable Willie Mays (hitting just .288 with 13 home runs, but successful in 19 of 21 stolen base attempts); and the Duke of Flatbush, Edwin Snider, who was almost half-way to a fourth straight 40-homer season with 19 round-trippers at the break while batting .295.

The Reds also had pitchers Brooks Lawrence, a righty, and southpaw Joe Nuxhall make the squad. Lawrence was leading the National League with 12 wins at the break, and he was undefeated. It was Pittsburgh right-hander Bob Friend (11-7), however, who got the start for the National League All-Stars. 

Notable among the other pitchers was the Phillies' Robin Roberts, whose 8-10 record at the break put potentially at risk the continuance of his string of six consecutive 20-win seasons; he had won 138 games between 1950 and 1955. Roberts went on to just miss a seventh straight 20-win year by one victory, finishing 1956 at 19-18.

The most noteworthy players who did not make the 1956 NL All-Star Game, certainly in historical retrospect, were Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson. At 11-5, Newcombe was second in the league in wins along with Friend, but that wasn't enough to get him on the All-Star squad. Certainly unanticipated was that Big Newk would finish the year with 27 wins.

At 37 years old, Jackie was playing what would be his last year in baseball, although that decision would not be made until after the Dodgers tried trading him to the Giants after the season. He got off to a slow start, then spent most of the month of June on the bench nursing various aches and pains. Robinson was batting just .256. 

In his 10 major league seasons, Jackie Robinson was an All-Star just six times, every year from 1949 to 1954. He did not make the NL All-Star squad in his rookie year of 1947 despite his .310 batting average at the break as the only black player in major league baseball. (Larry Doby made his debut in Cleveland just two days before the All-Star break.) Robinson wasn't on the 1948 All-Star team either. Red Schoendienst was voted in as the starting NL second baseman that year. Chosen instead of Robinson as a backup at second base for the 1948 NL All-Stars was Giants second baseman Bill Rigney, who was batting .275 at the time. Jackie was hitting .295 at the 1948 break. 

It was not until 1949three years after he broke the major league's institutionally-arbitrary color barrierthat Robinson finally made an All-Star team. He had company with Newcombe and Campanella also making the 1949 NL All-Star team, and Doby was named to the AL team. Batting second and playing second base, Jackie Robinson became the first black player voted by the fans and the first black player to start in an All-Star Game. He went 1-for-4 and scored 3 runs of the National League's 7 runs. Jackie Robinson was 6-for-18 (.333) with 7 runs scored, 1 home run, and 4 RBIs in his six All-Star games.

The following is the list of the National League's starting position players, reserves, and pitchers for the 1956 All-Star Game with their key stats up to the All-Star break.

Temple, CIN, 2B
45 R
24 RBI
F. Robinson, CIN, LF
58 R
18 HR 39 RBI
Musial, StL, RF
43 R
14 HR 58 RBI
Boyer, StL, 3B
57 R
20 HR  60 RBI
Bell, CIN, CF
46 R
15 HR 41 RBI
Long, PIT, 1B
39 R
17 HR 50 RBI
Bailey, CIN, C
30 R
14 HR 33 RBI
McMillan, CIN, SS
26 R
34 RBI

Kluszewski, CIN, 1B
22 HR 55 RBI
Aaron, MIL, OF
9 HR  40 RBI
Mathews, MIL, 3B
13 HR 28 RBI
Crandall, MIL, C
11 HR 27 RBI
Snider, BRO, OF
19 HR 43 RBI
Campanella, BRO, C
11 HR  38 RBI
Gilliam, BRO, 2B
28 RBI
Repulski, StL, OF
7 HR  28 RBI
Banks, CHI, SS
21 HR 48 RBI
Mays, NYG, OF
40 R 19 SB
13 HR 36 RBI
Lopata, PHI, C
43 R
14 HR 45 RBI

Friend, PIT ( SP / ASG )
22 GS
Lawrence, CIN
    21 G    15 GS
Antonelli, NYG *
17 GS
Roberts, PHI,
18 GS
Spahn, MIL *
7-7  3 ShO
16 GS
Nuxhall, CIN *
    22 G       5 GS
Labine, BRO
7-3  11 SV
35 G relief
*  Left-handed pitcher

CORRECTION: In my previous post, "1956 Reds Power Into First Place," I wrote that the 18th home run that Duke Snider hit on July 1 led the league. I was wrong. Ken Boyer and Ernie Banks both had 20 home runs; Banks hit two against the Braves on July 1. 

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