Despite rarely winning the popularity contest required to get a starter into the All-Star game, the Indians have had a long and storied history in the All-Star Game. From the very first game in 1933 that featured Earl Averill, Oral Hildebrand and Wes Ferrell to the 2016 game that saw Indians starter Corey Kluber earn the win for a scoreless inning in relief, there are plenty of great games to choose from. The ten who follow are not necessarily those with the best stat lines, but those with the most important performances to their American League All-Star brethren.
10. Kenny Lofton – Center Field (Entered in 6th) – 1994
Lofton had one of the greatest seasons by any hitter ever in 1994 and it’s largely been ignored because of the strike that ended that season early. In the All-Star Game, he came in for Ken Griffey, Jr. who had already knocked in one with two hits. Lofton had his first at bat in the 7th and it came just after the game was tied when Scott Cooper doubled home Pudge Rodriguez. With two on and one out, Lofton brought everyone home with a single to left. Will Clark then singled and the pair pulled off a double steal to get into scoring position. Lofton was eventually out at home and the AL would lose in an extra inning walk off when Moises Alou hit an RBI double to score Tony Gwynn against Jason Bere.
9. Cal McLish – Relief Pitcher (Entered in 8th) – 1959
Going into the 8th in the 1959 All-Star Game, the AL had a slim one run lead, but Indians slugger Rocky Colavito homered off Roy Face to expand that to two. With a slightly larger cushion, the AL went to Indians pitcher Cal McLish for the final two innings and the save. He retired Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks in order to finish the 8th and allowed just a single to Frank Robinson and a walk to Wally Moon before retiring the final three NL batters without allowing a run.
8. Cliff Lee – Starting Pitcher – 2008
On his way to a Cy Young award, Lee was first awarded the starting job for the AL in the 2008 All-Star Game. Managed by Terry Francona (then with Boston), Lee started the game with strike outs of Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley as part of a 1-2-3 first. He’d allow a single to Chipper Jones in the second, but struck out Ryan Braun to end the inning and his night. The NL would score first in the 5th, but the AL tied it in the seventh and again in the 8th, waiting until the 15th to win the game that Lee started so well.
7. Omar Vizquel – Second Base (Entered in 5th) – 2002
The All-Star Game that will live in infamy would never have happened if it weren’t for the only Indians player in the game, Lil’ O. Vizquel entered the game in the 5th defensively with the NL ahead by two, replacing Alfonso Soriano at second after the Yankees slugger had just homered. The NL would increase their lead by one in the bottom half, but the AL would finally come back in the 7th. Johnny Damon lead off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a Vizquel fly to left. He would score along with three others to give the AL the lead. After the NL took the lead in the bottom half, Vizquel would come up again and this time he hit a triple to score Robert Fick (how was Robert Fick ever an All-Star?) and tie things up again. No team would score again as the game ended after both teams ran out of pitchers following the 11th. Vizquel would get one more at bat in that final inning and he walked and moved to third, but was unable to score to end the game in an acceptable manner.
6. Victor Martinez – Pinch Hitter (Entered in 8th) – 2007
Ichiro Suzuki‘s two run, inside-the-park home run was the story of the 2007 All-Star Game, but if it wasn’t for Martinez, the AL would not have went home victorious. Selected as the back-up catcher, he entered the game as a pinch hitter for pitcher Johan Santana in the 8th. He would be replaced the next inning by Jonathan Papelbon, but in his very short time in the game, he blasted a two run home run off Billy Wagner to push the AL’s lead to 5-2. They’d need every bit of that as J.J. Putz gave up two runs in the ninth before Francisco Rodriguez closed it out.
5. Bob Feller – Relief Pitcher (Entered in 6th) – 1939
While the save isn’t beloved anymore because it encompasses such a wide variety of situations, this performance by Feller was why the stat was invented. In a pitcher’s duel, Feller came in for Tommy Bridges (Red Ruffing started) with a 3-1, the bases loaded and only one out in the sixth. Against his first batter faced, Feller induced Arky Vaughan to hit a double play and end the inning, saving the lead. He would then finish the game while allowing just two baserunners, a walk in the 7th and a single from Mel Ott in the 9th. He struck out only two, but thanks to the bases loaded double play, his WPA of .461 was the greatest ever by an Indians pitcher in an All-Star Game and second among all players to #1 on this list.
4. Bob Feller – Starting Pitcher – 1941
Feller earned the win for his start in the 1946 All-Star Game, but given his performance and the blow out nature of that game, there’s little question that the 1941 game was his best start in the Mid-Summer Classic. Against the NL’s best, Feller started off the 1941 game with two strike outs and an infield fly, then retired them in order again in the second, adding one more K. In the third, the NL had their only batter reach base against Feller when Lonny Frey hit a single, but Feller picked him off first and ended the inning with his fourth and final strike out.
Feller was pulled from the game after three innings, but it would remain scoreless on both sides until Ted Williams‘ RBI double in the bottom of the fourth. Things would get wild after that, but the AL would come out victorious in the end with a walk-off win. Indians, Yankees and Red Sox would join together in the effort as Ken Keltner and Joe Gordon (then with New York) singled and Joe Dimaggio brought one home with a ground out before Ted Williams ended it with a home run off Claude Passeau.
3. Sandy Alomar, Jr. – Catcher (Entered in 8th) – 1997
Alomar was always one of best offensive catchers in baseball, but he always took a back seat to Ivan Rodriguez when award season came around. In 1997, it was Cleveland’s year in the AL, however, and he replaced the Rangers catcher in the 6th defensively and took over the game.
The AL had scored in the second (an Edgar Martinez solo shot against Greg Maddux), but neither team would score again through the sixth. In the 7th, Javy Lopez tied the game with a solo home run off Jose Rosado, but the AL would finally get the offense going in the bottom of the inning. Bernie Williams walked with one out and was on second when Alomar came up with two outs. Off Shawn Estes, Alomar hit the two run home run that would win him All-Star Game MVP and a place in history as the first player to win the MVP in his home ballpark and, eventually, the first player to hit a home run in the All-Star Game and each round of the play-offs.
2. Mel Harder – Relief Pitcher (Entered in 5th) – 1934
In the second official All-Star Game ever, it was an Indians pitcher who saved the day. Lefty Gomez started the game and allowed four runs in three innings and his relief, Red Ruffing, only made things worse by allowing the first four batters to reach in the fifth. Harder then came in with two on and a two run lead. He retired Mel Ott and struck out Paul Waner to start, but a double steal brought home Pie Traynor and put the tying run in scoring position. After a walk of Bill Terry, Harder induced an Arky Vaughan ground out to end the inning with the lead intact.
From then on, he’d allow only two more base runners in the final five innings, one on an error by Lou Gehrig on a throw to Harder covering at first and another with a ninth inning double off the bat of Billy Herman. Of his 15 outs recorded (and one error) 10 were on ground balls and two were strike outs as Harder earned the first of five Indians pitcher wins in the All-Star game. Another Indian, Earl Averill, was also instrumental with a double, triple and three RBI.
1. Al Rosen – Starting 1B (Moved to 3B in 9th) – 1954
Many, many years before Sandy Alomar was the home town hero in 1997, the 1954 All-Star Game was completely full of Tribe stars. In a back and forth affair, Bobby Avila, Larry Doby and Bob Lemon all played an integral part, but no player on either side had a bigger game than Al Rosen.
After two and a half scoreless in front of a record crowd of 68,751 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Rosen started off the scoring with a three run home run in the bottom of the third that scored Avila and former Indians outfielder Minnie Minoso. Another former Indian, Ray Boone, went back-to-back with Rosen to gain the AL a four run lead. The NL would take the lead, however, in the bottom half of the inning by scoring four off Sandy Consuegra with one more of his runs coming in off Lemon who finished the inning.
Avila hit a sac fly in the next inning to score future Indian Chico Carrasquel, but the NL would take the lead again in the top of the fifth with another home run, this one a two pointer. Rosen wouldn’t let that stand and he blasted out his second home run of the game in the bottom half, scoring Yogi Berra from first to tie the game. This home run came off Giants ace Johnny Antonelli who would be a big part in the San Francisco sweep of Cleveland in the 1954 World Series.
With the game tied and Antonelli still on the mound Avila would come through again, knocking in Ted Williams to take the lead. The NL retook the lead in the top of the 8th thanks to another two run home run and it took some more Indians offense to turn things around. In the bottom half, Larry Doby pinch hit and knocked one out against Gene Conley. Mickey Mantle and Berra followed with hits before Rosen walked to load the bases. Nellie Fox would score the first two with a single of his own and the American League would win thanks to not only the best individual performance by an Indians player in an All-Star Game, but the best performance by the Indians as a team. To make it better, it all happened at home and in a pennant winning season.