Dodgers All-Star rookies: Don Newcombe, 1949

Don Newcombe throwing out the first pitch in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium last September - Stephen Dunn

Don Newcombe was a Dodgers rookie on the 1949 All-Star team, and one of the first African-American All-Stars in Major League Baseball.

If Yasiel Puig wins Major League Baseball's All-Star Game 2013 Final Vote contest, he will become the sixth Dodgers rookie to be named to the National League All-Star team. Accordingly, True Blue LA will profile each of the five previous Dodgers to be accorded that honor as a rookie.

Not only was Don Newcombe an All-Star as a rookie in 1949, he was one of the first African-American baseball All-Stars, as he, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella of the Dodgers were named to the National League team, and Larry Doby represented Cleveland on the opposing American League squad.

The 1949 All-Star game was played in Brooklyn's home stadium, Ebbet's Field, in front of 32,577 fans in attendance. They watched their National League hosts quickly fall behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning.

Newcombe relieved starter Warren Spahn in the second inning after the lefthand had allowed four runs while recording only four outs. He was given the loss because the National League came back to lead 5-4 during Newcombe's tenure on the mound, but the two-run single he allowed to shortstop Eddie Joost permitted the AL to take a lead they would never relinquish on their way to a 11-7 victory.

"Newk" did strand his two inherited runners, first facing Joe DiMaggio with one out and retiring him on a fly ball, then getting Joost to fly out to end the inning.

Also, in something highly unlikely to be seen in this year's All-Star Game, Newcombe batted as a pitcher and recorded an RBI with a sacrifice fly caught by Ted Williams, cutting the AL lead to one run.

The six-foot, four-inch righthander was an All-Star for his first three seasons in the majors, then missed two full years of baseball due to military service. He was again an All-Star in 1955, but was not named to the team in 1956, when he merely won the MVP and Cy Young Awards. He would not make another All-Star roster.

At the All-Star break, Newcombe had a 6-2 record with a 3.59 ERA, hurling six complete games in 11 starts with one shutout. He would be named 1949's Rookie of Year, leading the NL with five shutouts and a 5.5 (!) K/9 rate, winning 11 of his 17 decisions in the second half, and posting a 2.85 ERA while accumulating 13 complete games with four shutouts in 20 starts after the All-Star break.

Don Newcombe celebrated his 87th birthday in June, and is currently working for the Dodgers as a special advisor to chairman Mark Walter.

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