It was the Summer of Love, and America's pastime was headed on a road trip to the West Coast for its annual All-Star Game festival. The 1960s were in full bloom with Flower Power in the air, and baseball's power was planted squarely on the mound, where pitching was in
It was the Summer of Love, and America's pastime was headed on a road trip to the West Coast for its annual All-Star Game festival. The 1960s were in full bloom with Flower Power in the air, and baseball's power was planted squarely on the mound, where pitching was in its heyday.
The 1967 All-Star Game came at a pivotal time in modern American history, when changes in culture and attitudes were rampant. The transformation was particularly evident that summer, when the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco became a hippie mecca. And although it had not yet been a decade since baseball had made the move to California, the grand old game took its summer celebration several hours down the road from the Haight to Southern California, right across the highway from the Happiest Place on Earth. Anaheim Stadium, Disneyland's next door neighbor and the Angels' full-time home, would be the venue for the game's longest foray into extra innings -- a nearly four-hour exhibition of pitching prowess under the Big A and its lighted halo.
The show lasted 15 innings, an All-Star record that stood until it was matched in 2008. It featured a record 30 strikeouts, including the most ever for a pitcher, with six by future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, as well as the most for a hitter, with another future Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente, donning the golden sombrero.
Despite featuring a gathering of Hall-of-Fame talent, the '67 game wound up being a tight, 2-1 affair in favor of the National League. Three solo homers provided all the scoring, and it was Tony Perez who finished things off with a solo shot in the 15th against Catfish Hunter -- yet another matchup of future Cooperstown residents.
For Perez, it was a whirlwind experience that began in the wee hours of the morning, when he arrived at the hotel to find that there wasn't a room for him. Although the snafu meant he couldn't take his family to Disneyland before he had to go to the ballpark, he made up for it by resting in the presidential suite.
"I felt like a king," he later said.
And with just one stroke, Perez assumed his throne, putting the finishing touch on a game in which little contact was made. Overall, players connected for a total of just 17 hits in those 15 frames -- a fitting precursor to the Year of the Pitcher in 1968, after which baseball needed to level the playing field and boost offense so much that it lowered the mound.
"It was possibly the best pitching in any All-Star Game I've seen," National League Manager Walter Alston would say afterward -- and he'd seen plenty, as he was managing his eighth of nine career Midsummer Classics. "You'd have a hard time picking the best [pitcher] today."
Certainly, Alston had plenty to choose from. His nine-man National League pitching staff included five future Hall of Famers, with Juan Marichal getting the starting nod, Don Drysdale the win and Tom Seaver the save. Seaver was one of 19 players on the roster age 25 or younger, and he would go on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award that season. He faced his counterpart in that game, as well, as eventual AL Rookie of the Year Rod Carew was making his first of 18 All-Star appearances in the infield.
The game lasted 3 hours, 41 minutes -- the longest in All-Star history until 2008, when another 15-inning affair blew its predecessor away with a time of 4:50. Bill Freehan, one of six American League position players to go the distance, caught all 15 innings. Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda and Gene Alley also went the full 15 for the Senior Circuit squad.
It was a 4:15 p.m. start time on the West Coast, setting up a primetime showing back east. A record 55 million people watched the 1967 Midsummer Classic, the largest audience for a non-World Series baseball game. The start time might have been a contributing factor to pitching's dominance that day -- at least according to Clemente, who whiffed in four of his six plate appearances.
"Those late afternoon and early twilight shadows made breaking pitches especially tough to follow," Clemente said. "No wonder everybody was swinging at the wind."
Indeed, the game showcased quite an assemblage of Hall-of-Fame hitters, too: Aaron, Cepeda, Clemente, Perez, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski and Joe Torre on the National League side; Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski on the American League side. While this was far from a light-hitting bunch, the bats were pretty quiet throughout the game.
Dick Allen hit the first of the three solo homers in the second inning, and Robinson tied the game in the sixth with a shot off Jenkins. The game remained knotted at one for eight full frames after that until Perez stepped up in the 15th against Hunter, who was in his fifth inning of work.
The 21-year-old ace had actually been named to his first Midsummer Classic the year before, but he acknowledged afterward that his nerves lingered for his first All-Star appearance: "I got butterflies just sitting in the bullpen last year," he said.
Hunter and Perez already had met in the 12th inning, with Perez striking out to end the frame. But Perez took what he learned from that earlier at-bat to get the pitch he wanted and bring this pitching-centric evening to its end.
"He threw me a curve the first pitch, but I was looking for a fastball because he threw me two fastballs the first time when he struck me out," Perez said. "The second pitch was a fastball, and I hit it good. I knew it was a homer."
The game wasn't over just yet, though. Drysdale had thrown two shutout innings but was pulled for pinch-hitter Tommy Helms in the top of the 15th, two batters after Perez's homer. So, in the bottom of the frame, Alston signaled for Seaver to come on in a closing situation. He worked around a Yastrzemski walk -- the Red Sox slugger would win the Triple Crown that year -- to shut down the AL batters, striking out pinch-hitter Ken Berry to end the lengthy affair.
"I figured I had a job to do," said Seaver, then just 22. "The guys would have been disappointed to have gone that far and then lose. It would have been tragic."
"That was quite a spot to put that young man in, wasn't it?" Alston said.
The 1967 All-Star Game wasn't a trip to Fantasyland, although this was the Summer of Love, and pitching was the object of the baseball world's affection. On that steamy summer evening, those who were enamored with the art of pitching were in an extended state of nirvana, treated to a four-hour demonstration of the best arms in the game.
"If you told me before this game that it would be played 15 innings with this type of hitting talent and there would be only three runs," Alston said, "I would not have believed it."
This article appears in the 2017 MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Read more features on allstargame.com.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB.