The 1971 All-Star game, played at Tiger Stadium, had what could be described as a convention of living legends.
Johnny Bench summed it up.
"It wasn't a game, it was the world," said Bench. "In 1971, the fans and managers picked all the guys who were sure to be in the Hall of Fame."
National League All-Stars included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Ron Santo, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins. That’s 10 Hall of Famers and really includes 11.
The nine American League Hall of Famers were Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Luis Aparicio, Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer.
The American League won the game 6-4, which was memorable for many reasons.
Frank Robinson became the first player to hit a home run as a National League All-Star and then as an American League All-Star.
In the second inning, Bench hit a home run into the right center field upper deck. He was thrilled, saying that it was the longest home run of his career.
Then along came Reggie. Jackson hit one of the longest home runs in All-Star history off Dock Ellis in the third inning. The ball hit the light tower on the roof of the upper deck in right field. It was still rising when it hit.
"I was so happy about my home run going so far," Bench told the media. "Then Reggie hit his. I said, 'Oops, mine just went from the sports headlines to the obituary page.'"
Each league hit three home runs, as the American League broke a nine-game losing streak. But the 1971 win would be the only blemish on the National League, which went on to reel off another 11 consecutive wins.
It is difficult for some modern fans to believe, but the National League once won 19 of 20 All-Star games.
Hank Aaron, who was around for most of the wins, gave his explanation.
"They always had good players, but we approached the game a lot differently than the American League did. We went for the win. So many times, I saw American League guys going into the clubhouse during the game. We stayed in the dugout and rooted.
Today, the All-Star game is merely a showcase. Not even the “reward” of the winner getting a potential extra home game in the World Series is much of an incentive.
Ryan, Jeff. “All-Star game 1971.” Sport. Aug. 1993. P. 103.
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