On July 7 in 1933, Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The brainchild of a determined sports editor, the event was designed to bolster the sport and improve its reputation during the darkest years of the Great Depression. Originally billed as a one-time “Game of the Century,” it has now become a permanent and much-loved fixture of the baseball season.
Between 1930 and 1933, attendance at major league baseball games, which had skyrocketed during the 1920s, plummeted 40 percent, while the average player’s salary fell by 25 percent. Fans who could still afford tickets migrated from the more expensive box seats to the bleachers, which cost 50 cents. Owners of baseball teams across the country economized by shrinking their rosters, firing their coaches and slashing wages. Many teams also experimented with discounts and other innovations designed to woo back fans, including free admission for women, grocery giveaways and the first night games in baseball history.
Surprisingly, the most enduring promotional event to emerge during this period—the midseason All-Star Game between the American and National Leagues—was the brainchild of several people with no direct connection to baseball.
Arch Ward’s All-Star Game proved so popular that its organizers held another “midsummer classic” the following year. Since then, it has become an annual fixture of the baseball season, bringing together the sport’s most talented and beloved players every year with the exception of 1945, when it was cancelled due to wartime travel restrictions.