1951 All-Star Game was a Home Run Derby at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium

Just ten years after Ted Williams won the Midsummer Classic at Briggs Stadium, the All Star game returned to Michigan and Trumbull as the green cathedral became a home run haven.

Originally scheduled for Philadelphia, the 1951 All-Star game returned to the Motor City after Spike Briggs asked Phillies owner and friend Bob Carpenter if the All-Star game could instead return to Detroit as part of the city’s 250th Birthday celebration, and, because Spike’s father Walter O. Briggs only had a about a year to live, it would be a last opportunity for him to see an All-Star game in Detroit according to grandson Mickey Briggs.

Despite a sunny afternoon and the pageantry associated with an All-Star game, the mood was somber before the action started.

Prior to the game, with the players lining the infield foul lines, there was a moment of silence for former Tiger star and beloved announcer Harry Heilmann who had passed away from cancer the day before.

Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch from his box seat was 64-year-old Ty Cobb, the Tiger legend, who the week before had begun a campaign to have Heilmann inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was the first All-Star game Cobb had attended. (The first All-Star game was played in 1933, four years after Cobb retired.)

The home run ball would once again determine the outcome of an All-Star game in Detroit.

Tied 1-1 for the first three innings, the Cardinals’ Stan “The Man” Musial started the National League fireworks with a shot into the right field stands off of Eddie Lopat. One out later, the Braves’ Bob Elliott homered to left for a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tiger’s Vic Wertz brought the crowd to its feet with a right field upper deck shot that cut the lead to 4-2. In the fifth Tiger teammate George Kell hit a line drive home run over the left field fence to make it 4-3.

“It was very special to play in an All Star game and I was lucky to have played in several, but to play at home in Detroit with my family up from Arkansas and then to hit a home run, well, it was real special and one of my biggest thrills,” George Kell told me in a 2005 interview.

Following Kell’s homer, the National League finished off the American Leaguers with two two run homers by Gil Hodges and Ralph Kiner in an 8-3 victory.

After the game, Ty Cobb had a few remarks concerning the home run bombardment for Detroit Free Press sports columnist Lyall Smith.

“I’d say offhand that the batters now days are a little more generous when it comes to distributing home run souvenirs among the fans than they were back in my day. It’s not too safe for the customers sitting out there in the left and right field stands. They’d be smart if they’d take a glove to the game with them.”

1951’s record-setting six All-Star Game home runs, still a record today, would be matched in 1954 and twenty years later by six future Hall of Famers on a windy and warm evening at the renamed Tiger Stadium.