Justin Verlander won’t list his performance in last night’s All-Star Game on his résumé. The Tiger ace was rocked for five earned runs in the first inning of the Midsummer Classic. But fortunately, the outing doesn’t count toward his regular season stats, and in spite of the “this Time It Counts” ad campaign of MLB, the All-Star Game is still played like an exhibition game.
Verlander isn’t the first Tiger pitcher to get a loss in an All-Star Game. Back in 1976, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych suffered the same fate after his start against the National League, and Jack Morris lost the ’85 ASG. But Verlander, Fidrych, and Morris aside, there have been big moments for Detroit players in MLB’s signature exhibition game, which started back in 1933. Here’s my pick for the top five performances by a Detroit Tiger in an All-Star Game:
Parrish guns down a trio of NL speedsters
At the 1982 All-Star Game in Montreal, Tiger catcher Lance Parrish set a record when he threw out not one, not two, but three of the best NL basestealers in the ASG. Parrish didn’t even start the game – he replaced Carlton Fisk in the 5th inning – but he still flashed his strong arm and curtailed the Senior Circuit running game. Manny Trillo singled to open the 5th for the NL and was replaced by Steve Sax, one of the best basestealers in the game. Sax tried to swipe second, but Parrish gunned him down. In the 7th, Ozzie Smith tried to steal second and was caught by Parrish, and finally in the 8th, Parrish threw out Al Oliver. In all, four runners tested Parrish, and only Tony Pena was successful. The performance by Parrish didn’t halt the NL offense much though, as the AL still lost the game, 4-1.
Sweet Lou smashes a homer off Doc
Tiger second baseman Lou Whitaker earned a reputation for rising to the occasion. He delivered clutch hits, had a fine post-season in 1984 as the team won the World Series, and he also performed well in the All-Star Game. Whitaker hit a pinch-hit two-run triple in the AL’s lopsided victory in the 1983 Game, and he went 2-for-3 with a double as the AL’s leadoff man in the ’84 Game. But his best performance came in the 1986 All-Star Game at the Astrodome in Houston. In the second inning against Dwight Gooden – who had fanned three straight batters to retire the side as a teenager in the ’84 ASG (two of those batters were Tigers: Parrish and Chet Lemon) – Whitaker smacked a two-run homer to give the AL the lead. The homer proved pivotal as the Al held on for a 3-2 victory. The homer gave Sweet Lou the cycle in ASG play: he had four hits as an All-Star – a single, double, triple, and homer.
Freehan victimizes two Hall of Fame pitchers
The 1969 Game was played at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., where laws are written and legislation is debated. But there’s no debating the fact that Tiger Bill Freehan had a great performance in a losing cause that night. Freehan was the ASG starter (he was an All-Star 11 times) behind the dish. In the 3rd inning he led off against Steve Carlton, the tough left-hander of the St. Louis Cardinals who would later establish his Hall of Fame credentials as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Freehan lofted a homer to deep left field off Carlton. The next inning, with the AL trying to mount a rally, Freehan laced a single off Bob Gibson, another Cardinal ace and the pitcher the Tigers and Freehan had faced the previous fall in the World Series. The single scored Reggie Smith with the AL’s third and final run of the game. Freehan had delivered two hits and RBI off a pair of future Hall of Fame pitchers.
Rocky goes deep at Wrigley
From 1959 to 1962, MLB scheduled two All-Star Games each season, playing them about 2-3 weeks apart. It was an effort to make money and give exposure to two host cities. In 1962 the second game was played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and Tiger slugger Rocky Colavito showed just how cozy that ballpark is when he belted a three-run homer deep into the left field bleachers to break open the game. Rocky’s blast scored Brooks Robinson and Roger Maris and gave the AL a 7-1 lead. It was the second of two homers Colavito hit in the ASG as a Tiger.
Bunning baffles NL batters
Jim Bunning started three All-Star Games for the Tigers. In his first he was masterful. Perfect, actually. Bunning had a sneaky delivery, a smooth fastball, and a devastating curveball. In the ’57 ASG he had all that working as he toed the rubber at Busch Stadium in St. Louis to face the NL All-Star lineup. He mowed down every batter he faced in his three innings – nine up and nine down. Bunning retired four future Hall of Famers with ease: Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. Mays went back to the dugout after being frozen on strike three by one of Bunning’s bending curveballs. Bunning left the game after three perfect innings and the AL leading 2-0. He got the victory in the AL’s 6-5 win.
Honorable Mention: Jose Valverde strikes out the side in his one inning at the 2010 ASG; Charlie Gehringer gets three hits in the ’37 Game; Dick McAuliffe hits a two-run homer in the ’65 ASG; Al Kaline clubs homers in both the 1959 and 1960 games, and also collects two hits and two RBI in 1957.