If youâ€™re a long-time Greensboro baseball fan but you have to search your memory banks to recall the last all-star game played here, donâ€™t feel bad. There has been a gap of 18 years.
The city has seen these affairs before â€“ seven times, in fact â€“ but Tuesday nightâ€™s South Atlantic League All-Star game in NewBridge Bank Park will be the first here since 1990. The array of players includes the likes of the original â€œCrashâ€ Davis, Emo Showfety, Ray Jablonski, Joe Cunningham, Jim Bouton, Dick Radatz, Don Mattingly and Otis Nixon.
Four of the games were held when Greensboro was a member of the Carolina League. Tuesdayâ€™s game will be the fourth South Atlantic League contest.
Hereâ€™s a recap of the previous all-star games, all played at Memorial Stadium.
JULY 11, 1948
In its fourth season, the Carolina League staged its first all-star game, divided into teams from the East and West. According to the Greensboro Daily News, the West was a â€œheavy favoriteâ€ but the East would have none of that, rolling to a 19-2 win.
Crash Davis â€“ it was his name that the movie â€œBull Durhamâ€ borrowed â€“ was a second baseman for Durham and got the East going with a grand slam home run in the first inning. He later added a solo homer. Another Durham player, 40-year-old Willie Duke, also cracked a homer.
Three players represented the hometown Greensboro Patriots and combined to go 9-for-10. Third baseman Sheepy Lamb went 3-for-4, while local hero Emo Showfety, the right fielder, and outfielder Bobby Falk each went 3-for-3.
In an odd sidebar, three players for the league-leading Danville Leafs failed to show until half an hour before the game. According to newspaper reports, one was legitimately injured and the other two suspiciously claimed they were hurt and sat out the game. The attendance was 3,862.
JULY 22, 1951
The format changed with Reidsville playing an all-star team from the rest of the league. Reidsville had won a one-game playoff over Durham for the right to host the game, but it was scheduled for a Sunday and local â€œblue lawsâ€ prohibited playing baseball games then.
The league wouldnâ€™t change the date, so the game was moved to Greensboro because it was closest to Reidsville. The Patriots were in seventh place but a lot of Reidsville fans showed up and helped push the attendance to 4,145.
The game was tied 4-4 going into the eighth inning, when the All-Stars scored eight times. Joe Cunningham of Winston-Salem hit two home runs in the inning to spark a 12-4 win. Another Winston-Salem player, Ray Jablonski, went 3-for-3. Both eventually went up to the St. Louis Cardinals and played several years in the major leagues.
Greensboroâ€™s lone player, Jack Mitchell, went 4-for-5. Davis, then playing for Raleigh, went 0-for-3.
There was a home-run hitting contest before the game, perhaps one of the first of its kind. Durham manager Ace Parker, the former Duke football and baseball standout, threw five pitches to 13 different batters. Reidsvilleâ€™s George Souter and Burlingtonâ€™s Dick Lindermuth were the only players to hit homers. Souter was declared the winner because his homer measured 335 feet, besting Lindermuthâ€™s by five feet.
JUNE 30, 1960
The Greensboro Yankees, better known as the G-Yanks, won the first half and the right to host the game against a team of league all-stars. Down 4-3 in the sixth inning, the G-Yanks scored six times to take the lead. Jim Bouton pitched the final four innings to earn the 9-7 win.
Bouton went on to win 21 games for the New York Yankees in 1963 and 18 more in 1964. He gained his greatest fame when his book â€œBall Fourâ€ was published in 1970. It remains perhaps the best â€œinside baseballâ€ book ever written.
Only 2,502 fans showed up to watch. G-Yanks shortstop Phil Linz missed the game when he cut his foot on a piece of glass during the teamâ€™s celebration picnic for winning the first half.
JULY 17, 1967
The Carolina League devised an odd format for this one. Greensboro hosted the West All-Stars while on the same night Raleigh hosted the East All-Stars. While the West was pummeling Greensboro 10-3, behind two homers and five RBIs from Ashevilleâ€™s Danny Walton, the East All-Stars edged Raleigh 7-6. The attendance in Memorial Stadium was 2,346.
Baseball was losing momentum here and this was Greensboroâ€™s next-to-last year in the Carolina League. The team spent 1968 as an affiliate of the Houston Astros, then the franchise folded. The city went without minor-league baseball until 1979.
JUNE 23, 1980
This was the South Atlantic Leagueâ€™s first all-star game after it resurrected the name from a defunct league. In 1979 and years prior, it was known as the Western Carolinas League. This was Greensboroâ€™s second year back in baseball following a 10-year absence, and the league was anxious to show off what it considered one of its marquee franchises. Major League commissioner Bowie Kuhn was the speaker at the banquet on the day of the game.
The format was unusual â€“ the SAL All-Stars played the Double-A Charlotte Orioles. Using a six-run sixth inning, the more experienced Orioles took a 7-2 win before 2,108 fans. Greensboroâ€™s Don Mattingly, leading the SAL with a .374 average, went 1-for-3 and teammate Otis Nixon contributed an RBI single, although he committed two errors at third base.
Memorial Stadium had seen its share of distinguished players over the years â€“ Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Carl Yastrzemski, to name a few â€“ but missed out on Cal Ripken. The future Iron Man was one of three Charlotte players who played in the Southern League All-Star game the same night in Jacksonville, Fla.
JUNE 20, 1982
The game returned to Memorial Stadium two years later and the North beat the South 5-4 in an exciting contest before 2,342 fans. Eight Greensboro Hornets were on the North team, including current Hoppers manager Edwin Rodriguez. He started at second base, scored a run and hit an RBI double.
Hornets catcher Bill Lindsey drove in the game-winning run with a single and made a crucial tag at the plate to keep the score tied at 4-4. He was named the gameâ€™s MVP.
Greensboro was en route to a record of 96-45 and its third straight league championship. The roster included future major-league third baseman Mike Pagliarulo.
JUNE 25, 1990
This was a forgettable contest with the South dominating the North 8-0. The All-Star luncheon featured speaker Mel Allen, voice of the Yankees, who regaled the audience with stories for about an hour.
The Hornets were seriously considering a move to Double-A and wanted to showcase the city. The pre-game festivities included a barbershop quartet, the National Anthem played by a 10-piece ensemble from the Eastern Music Festival, and five Army paratroopers skydiving and hitting their marks on the infield.
Despite the hoopla, the attendance was just 3,000, not enough to help or hinder the attempt to move up in classification.
Ultimately, the bid failed and the franchise has continued in the SAL since.
Excellent piece from Bill Hass, at gsohoppers.com, who has watched and covered minor league baseball in Greensboro since 1979. I gave thought to editing some of this content, but what are you going to leave out? Everything in here makes for an interesting read about some of the best baseball history in Greensboro.