Memories of 1964 All-Star Game at Shea
Fregosi felt intimidated by future Hall of Famers; Torre fond of NL's win in New York
NEW YORK -- He was 22 years old, playing in his fourth big league season and his first Major League All-Star Game. He was an uncommon mix of youth and experience who already had received support in a Most Valuable Player Award election. He was playing the most critical defensive position for Bill Rigney and the Los Angeles Angels, as they were known then. Jim Fregosi had made it, and, to a degree, had it made.
Though he singled and scored in the first inning of his first All-Star Game, he felt more than a tad intimidated by his surroundings.
"I was a member of the team. But I wasn't," Fregosi said the other day.
He was a bona fide All-Star who played all nine innings as the American League shortstop in the 1964 game, played in the first year of Shea Stadium and the only All-Star engagement ever staged in the 45-year history of the Mets' ballpark.
Fregosi was in the vicinity of second base in the ninth inning when Willie Mays stole the base. He shared a clubhouse with Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew. He played beside Brooks Robinson and batted in front of Tony Oliva.
As he stood among the recognized elite of the game, he felt quite out of place. "The day before the game, I probably didn't speak to any of them," Fregosi recalled. "I was scared to death." But he remains proud of his standing then. A leadoff man, a shortstop and a significant contributor in a big league All-Star Game.
It was Fregosi, a scout for the Braves these days, who delivered Elston Howard with a go-ahead run by hitting a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. And with Dick Radatz, Boston's other Monster, waiting to close, the AL had a chance to interrupt the National League's recent dominance of the event. The older league had won 12 of the previous 18 games.
"I know guys from our league wanted to put an end to that," Fregosi said. "We had pride."
And in those days, decades before Interleague Play blurred the leagues' identities, league pride was a formidable force.
A four-run rally, completed by a three-run home run by Phillies right fielder Johnny Callison against Radatz, denied the AL and created a 7-4 victory score and more midsummer lore. Callison had done what only Ted Williams (1941 in Detroit) and Stan Musial (1955 in Milwaukee) had done -- decided an All-Star Game with a final-pitch home run.
Callison was a fine player with a brawny left-handed swing and an extraordinarily powerful and accurate arm. Gene Mauch, his manager with the Phillies, had identified him as "the next Mickey Mantle" in 1960. But Callison's image often was obscured by the grandeur of Mantle, Mays, Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente, and the success of their teams.
"He was overlooked," Fregosi said. "Those guys were going to Cooperstown. They were gods. But Johnny was an excellent player who could do everything well."
Even Callison's terrific '64 season was obscured. He almost certainly would have won the league's Most Valuable Player award if not for the Phillies' infamous gun-lap flop. He placed second to Ken Boyer of the pennant-winning Cardinals. But on July 7, 1964, at Shea Stadium, Callison was the MVP of the day.
Mays had scored the tying run from second base on a bloop single by Orlando Cepeda in the ninth inning. Radatz, in his third inning, then retired Boyer, intentionally walked Johnny Edwards and struck out Aaron, who was pinch-hitting. Radatz needed to get by Callison to push an All-Star Game into extra innings for the fourth time.
The 10th inning never happened. Callison pulled Radatz's first pitch into the lower stands in right field.
Joe Torre had been the starting catcher for the NL. He was in his second All-Star Game, his first as a starter. A New York Giants fan and Brooklyn native, he was playing in his hometown and was thrilled by the opportunity. He had been replaced by Edwards. He showered and dressed quickly because he had to catch a flight to Pittsburgh. But he stayed in the clubhouse and was there to salute Callison and his other teammates.
"It was important to us to beat the American League," Torre said earlier this week. "The National League had been winning pretty regularly, and we wanted to continue what had been the case before our generation started playing."
Torre has fond memories of the game and the hours before it. Don Drysdale was the NL's starting pitcher. Torre met with the future Hall of Fame Dodger to discuss the signs they would use.
"Just simple, basic stiff," Torre says. "Fastball, curve and anything else he expected to throw. And then -- now I tried to be as nice about this as I could -- I asked him what sign he wanted to use for his spitter.
"No problem. He said he'd just throw it off the fastball. Well, after I'd chased two or three balls to the backstop [Torre was charged with one passed ball, Drysdale with one wild pitch], I told him 'Don, no more of those.'"
Dean Chance, Fregosi's Angels teammate and the '64 Cy Young Award winner, was the AL starter. He provided three scoreless innings, a performance in marked contrast to what he had done two days earlier in a start for the Angels at Fenway Park. He faced 12 batters, surrendering six hits, a walk and three runs.
"He didn't want to throw too much that day in Boston," Fregosi said chuckling. "I know Dean really wanted to start in the All-Star Game."