Mays’ pinch-hit homer leads National League to victory in 1956 All-Star Game

Written by: Janey Murray

Willie Mays didn’t make the starting lineup for the 1956 All-Star Game. But that didn’t stop him from powering the National League to victory.

At the 23rd edition of the Mid-Summer Classic on July 10, 1956, the New York Giants’ slugger stepped into the box as a pinch hitter in the top of the fourth with his team leading 1-0.

Mays promptly sent an offering from Whitey Ford into the bleachers at Griffith Stadium for a home run that extended the National League’s lead to 3-0.

“Mays’ pinch homer was the turning point,” National League manager Walter Alston told the Associated Press. “It gave us a comfortable lead and put them on the defensive. After that it was just a matter of getting good pitching from everybody.”

The game wasn’t lacking in star power, and Mays wasn’t the only future Hall of Famer to put on a show for the fans in Washington, D.C.

The four home runs in the game were hit by four of the 18 future Hall of Famers selected for the game.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, two of the American League’s most revered hitters spoiled the National League’s shutout bid.

After Nellie Fox singled, Ted Williams slugged a two-run shot, tying Stan Musial’s All-Star Game home run record with his fourth ASG home run.

Mickey Mantle came to bat next and hit a solo homer to make it a 5-3 contest.

But the All-Star home run record didn’t stay tied for long.

Musial quickly took back what was his in the top of the seventh, responding with a solo homer to extend the National League lead to three.

After walking in the same inning, Mays scored his team’s seventh run on a double by Ted Kluszewski.

Giants’ left-hander Johnny Antonelli took it from there, tossing four scoreless frames to hold off the American League and close out the 7-3 victory.

“They had good pitching and good hitting,” American League manager Casey Stengel said. “That’s a tough combination to beat. We didn’t get either. If you get good pitching, you can win any place.”

The rosters were so talent-rich that three future Hall of Famers on the National League roster – Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks and Robin Roberts – didn’t even make it into the game.

“That’s the only bad part about an All-Star Game,” Alston said. “Leaving out such fine players as Banks, Eddie Mathews, and others. But they tell me the most important thing is to win.”

And win they did, as the National League captured its second consecutive victory and sixth in the last seven contests, led by Mays’ game-defining homer.

“You can’t win when your pitchers don’t stop the other fellows,” Stengel said.

Mays’ 1956 performance came early in his run of dominance in midsummer classics. He went on to play in 24 All-Star Games in his career, including a stretch of 23 consecutive selections from 1954-1972. He batted .307 in those 24 games with three home runs and nine RBI.

“They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays,” Williams once said.

Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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