ALL-STAR GAME: A LOOK BACK : You Like All Stars? Now Back in ’24 . . . : Anaheim Classic Stirs Memories of 1967 Game and Babe Ruth-Walter Johnson Confrontation
Remember way back when the All-Star game was first played in Orange County?
Dave Sommers remembers. He was one of 46,309 fans nestled comfortably in their seats at the nearly new Anaheim Stadium on July 11, 1967, when the Big A marquee stood right behind the outfield fence and when there was no permanent seating behind center field.
Chris Clair remembers. He was there too. He even has a memento of the game, a program that sold for 50 cents at the gate. This year’s All-Star program costs $5.
And 89-year-old Ernie Johnson remembers.
But Johnson wasn’t at Anaheim Stadium in 1967 when the National League All-Stars clipped the American League All-Stars 2-1 in 15 innings.
Johnson recalls an Orange County all-star baseball game a few years earlier--1924 to be exact. That was when a barnstorming team headed by New York Yankee immortal Babe Ruth played in Brea against another touring team captained by favorite son Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, who, like Ruth, ended up in the Hall of Fame.
“The only thing I can lay claim to is that I was there when Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson played,” said Johnson, president of Brea Canyon Oil Co. and no relation to the illustrious pitcher. “I was quite a follower of Babe Ruth and Johnson. They put on quite a show.”
Johnson the oil man said that Johnson the pitcher grew up in Olinda, which is known today as Yorba Linda.
“He persuaded Babe Ruth to come,” Johnson said.
On that November day nearly 65 years ago, Ruth hit a home run off a Johnson pitch but another time he went down swinging. “He could throw that ball hard,” Johnson said of the pitcher. Nevertheless, Ruth’s team won 12-1.
“When Babe Ruth struck at that ball and he missed it, he turned clear around,” recalled Johnson, one of 5,000 to 16,000 Orange County residents on hand that day, depending on which yellowing newspaper account you believe.
“Baseball’s quite a thing,” Johnson concluded. “It attracts a lot of people.”
One of those who will resist the attraction of this year’s All-Star game is Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley. Like Johnson and Johnson (Walter and Ernie, that is), Riley played baseball as a young man and has remained a fan. But Riley will miss the midsummer classic in Anaheim just as he did in 1967.
“Just this morning, I had a call from a friend who invited me to sit in their box,” Riley said. “I have tickets, but I’m going to give them to a member of the staff.
“I am pretty much of a baseball fan . . . but Emma Jane (his wife) is not such an enthusiastic fan. We sort of compromised and will forgo this one.”
Had Riley an opportunity to attend the 1967 game, however, he would have leaped at the chance, he said. At that time he was recently retired from the Marine Corps and vice president of a Newport Beach manufacturing company.
Riley does not recall the hoopla that led up to the 1967 game. But he clearly has noted the changes in Orange County that have taken place since.
“Some of us are still having difficulty with that feeling that we are really big boys now,” Riley said. “We are really an urban county, second or third largest in the state, depending on which day you count.”
“We’ve developed that tremendous stadium. We’ve really developed a whole lot.”
“Don’t you think it was kind of a remarkable thing that we had 63,000 people?” Riley said of the Fourth of July crowd at the stadium for the California Angels’ game and fireworks display.
Like Orange County, Anaheim Stadium has grown in the past 22 years. The 1989 All-Star game is a sellout, but there will be about 17,000 more seats occupied this year than at the 1967 sellout, a dozen years before the addition of two tiers of seating beyond the outfield fences.
Another difference this year is that Genevieve Linhoff plans to see the entire game from her seat--and a choice location it is too, right down in the front row, smack behind the American League third-base dugout.
In 1967, Linhoff missed about three innings of the game when unexpected last-minute emergencies required her to help out in the stadium ticket office where she was employed as secretary to the ticket manager. This year she is assistant ticket manager.
“I’m going to be sitting in the seats this time. I’m going to see the whole game,” Linhoff said.
“I think Anaheim has changed” since 1967, Linhoff said. “We were more intimate . . . now we’re big. Particularly at the stadium. You knew so many of the customers. We had fewer people.”
Like so many baseball fans, Linhoff is a traditionalist. She wasn’t even real fond of expanding stadium seating and moving the distinctive Big A from behind center field to exile in the parking lot.
“I didn’t like that too well, but it’s progress, more capacity,” she said.
Ernie Johnson recalled how progress altered forever another Orange County baseball tradition.
In the early 1920s a large crowd used to gather outside an Anaheim coffeehouse, where the proprietor kept the baseball-hungry throng posted on play-by-play developments of the World Series by relaying telegraph bulletins from the East.
On a large board erected outside the eating establishment, the restaurateur had denoted bases, the outfield and the players.
“We stood on the opposite side of the street and watched it and sat on the curb,” Johnson recalled. “He got the reports by telegraph, and he played the game out.”
“He had . . . lights and he’d ring a bell when there was a hit and he’d tell who the batter was. He yelled it out through that window.”
Alas, progress intervened and in later years radios became commonplace. There soon was always someone who would have more up-to-the-minute news than could be provided by the quaint coffee-shop scoreboard, Johnson said.
“That began to kind of spoil the thing a little bit,” he said.
Back to the future. Johnson intends to attend Tuesday’s All-Star game. Like Supervisor Riley, he missed the one in 1967.
Even if his wife were enthusiastic about attending, Riley has decided that considering “the traffic and all involved, I think I’d feel better if I watched it at home” on television.
Times staff writer Jean Davidson contributed to this story.
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