Several former New Orleans players had their day in MLB All-Star Classic

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The 89th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday in Washington, DC at Nationals Park.  The Midsummer Classic, as it’s often referred to, is a showcase of the game’s best players representing the American and National Leagues.

While there aren’t any New Orleanians in this year’s contest, over the years there have been a handful of local players who turned in noteworthy performances on the national stage.

The first MLB All-Star Game was conceived by Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward as a one-time promotional event associated with the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the sport’s biggest stars participating, the first game was a tremendous success, and it became an annual event.  With the exception of 1945, when commercial travel restrictions were in place during World War II, the game has been played every year since 1933.  During 1959 to 1962, Major League Baseball hosted two games each season.

The New Orleans metropolitan area has supplied the major-leagues with over 80 players over the years, inxluding eight of those who made all-star game appearances.

Gretna native Mel Ott was the first local to play in the All-Star Game in 1934, while Houston Astros relief pitcher Will Harris, who prepped at Slidell High School, has been the most recent in 2016.

As part of his Hall of Fame career, Ott was selected for the All-Star Game in 11 consecutive seasons from 1934 to 1944.  In the 1938 game, he tripled and scored a run in the National League’s 4-2 victory.

In Connie Ryan’s lone all-star appearance in 1944, the former Jesuit High School infielder representing the Boston Braves went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base in the National League’s 7-1 win.

Former S. J. Peters High School pitcher Jack Kramer was instrumental in the American League’s 12-0 shutout in the 1946 classic.  Following Bob Feller and Hal Newhouser in the rotation, Kramer pitched the last three innings without giving up a hit and striking out three.  Representing the St. Louis Browns, Kramer also got a hit and scored a run in the American League’s blowout.  Kramer was also selected for the 1947 AL team.

Another Peters graduate, Boston Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell got the starting nod for the American League team in 1949.  However, he didn’t fare too well, as he gave up three runs, including a home run to Stan Musial, in just one complete inning.

In that same game, former Fortier High School pitcher Howie Pollet made a relief appearance for the National League.  He, too, struggled when he gave up three runs on four hits.  The American League wound up winning, 11-7.  Parnell also made an all-star appearance in 1951, while Pollet was named to the National League all-star teams in 1943 and 1946.

Rusty Staub was selected for six MLB all-star games during his 23-year career, representing Houston, Montreal and Texas.  The former Jesuit High School star’s best all-star performance came in 1976 when he went 2-for-2 as the starting right-fielder in his team’s 7-1 loss to the National League.

Will Clark, who broke some of Staub’s Jesuit batting records, made six MLB all-star appearances.  In 1992, the San Francisco Giants first baseman hit a three-run homer in the National League’s 13-6 win.  Representing the Texas Rangers in 1994, he collected two hits in two at-bats in the National League’s 8-7 win in 10 innings.

Will Harris, who played college ball at LSU, struck out the only batter he faced in the eighth inning of the 2016 game to help hold the American League’s 2-1 lead.

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Richard Cuicchi

New Orleans baseball historian

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Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.

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