Today's Dodgers All-Star memory takes us back to 1949, the first and last time Brooklyn hosted the midsummer classic. The Dodgers that year would win 97 games, in a 154-game season, and finish with a .630 winning percentage, the eighth-best in franchise history. The Dodgers were becoming a powerhouse in 1949, and would win the second of their six pennants in a 10-year span. As such, the National League's best team had seven All-Stars to show off to the home crowd.
Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson comprised the starting middle infield for the NL, with catcher Roy Campanella and first baseman Gil Hodges as reserves. Pitchers Ralph Branca, Preacher Roe, and rookie Don Newcombe made the team as well. Newcombe relieved starter Warren Spahn in the second inning, and pitched 2 2/3 innings and got stuck with the loss, allowing two runs.
Robinson was the showcase in his home park. He doubled and walked in his first two plate appearances, then in the sixth he reached on a force play and scored on a Ralph Kiner home run. Robinson is one of just five players ever to score three runs in an All-Star Game, and nobody has done it since that 1949 game. But aside from the on-field performance of Robinson, this game was important because it was the first integrated All-Star Game.
Robinson debuted in 1947, but it took until his third season to make an All-Star team, and he, Campanella, Newcombe, and Larry Doby of the Indians were the first African Americans to play in the midsummer classic. Last year, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times caught up with Newcombe, who remembered that 1949 game:
How can Robinson win rookie of the year and finish fifth in MVP voting in 1947, have a similar start the following season, then not even make the All-Star team that year? Why did it take baseball's greatest figure 2 1/2 good seasons before being asked to play in its marquee game?
"You tell me, where was the game in 1948?" asks Newcombe.
It was in St. Louis' Sportsman's Park, a noted hotbed of racism.
"Well, that could be your answer," Newcombe says.
Robinson would go on to win National League MVP honors in 1949. Imagine these numbers from a second baseman: .342/.432/.528, 203 hits, 38 doubles, 12 triples, 16 home runs, 122 runs, 124 RBI, 37 stolen bases, 86 walks. Newcombe was 17-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 1949, taking home Rookie of the Year honors. Campanella was in his first full season, and all he did was hit .287/.385/.498 with 22 home runs, the first Dodger catcher ever to hit 20 home runs, a mark Campanella would eclipse six more times, including each of the next four years.
The American League may have won the game, but for being at Ebbets Field, and with three Dodgers (plus Larry Doby) making it the first integrated All-Star Game in history, the 1949 All-Star Game is definitely one of the top Dodgers All-Star moments in history.