July 13, 1954: Dean Stone’s weird All-Star victory

April 7, 2019:

Dean Stone had a good enough rookie season with Washington in 1954 that he made the All-Star team, albeit as an injury replacement. Bob Porterfield, a 20-game winner the year before, and Senators first baseman Mickey Vernon were the Nats’ representatives before Stone was added after Ferris Fain of the White Sox was hurt.

“He’s a young left-hander who can go the route and isn’t troubled by wildness,” manager Bucky Harris had said about Stone earlier in the season.[1]

The July 13 game was played at Cleveland’s huge Municipal Stadium. Derisively referred to as the “mistake on the lake,” the stadium set many single-game attendance records because of its massive capacity. A crowd of nearly 70,000 fans showed up for the year’s All-Star tilt.54 Topps Dean Stone

Porterfield pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh. He yielded two runs on a two-out homer by Ted Kluszewski in the fifth to give the N.L. a lead, but he left with the A.L. ahead, 8-7. He faced 13 batters, the most of any A.L. pitcher that day.

With two out in the top of the eighth, Red Schoendienst reached on an error when neither Minnie Minoso nor Nellie Fox could catch his pop fly near the right-field line. Schoendienst ended up on second. He moved to third on Alvin Dark’s infield single. Casey Stengel, managing the A.L. team, summoned Stone to face Duke Snider.  Leo Durocher, coaching third for the National League, encouraged Schoendienst to take a big lead off third.

“He’s just a kid,” Durocher told Schoendienst. “He might balk. I’ll draw a marker down the line and you come that far, maybe on the first pitch or two. Then if he is still watching Dark on first, go the next time.”[2] Stone indeed kept an eye on Dark before pitching to Snider. As Stone was in his stretch for his third pitch, Schoendienst took off for home. Stone stepped off the rubber and threw to Berra, who tagged out Schoendienst. The N.L. coaches claimed Stone has balked, but the umpires said he didn’t.

In the bottom of the eighth, Larry Doby pinch hit for Stone and homered. Mickey Mantle and Berra followed with singles before Al Rosen walked. The Dodgers’ Carl Erskine was brought in to face Vernon and struck him out on 3-2 pitch, but Nellie Fox’s bloop single drove in two runs to give the A.L. an 11-9 lead and make Stone the pitcher of record. The N.L. didn’t score in the ninth, so Stone won the game without retiring a batter or putting anybody on base.

Stone joined righty knuckleballer Dutch Leonard, who started the 1943 game, as the only Senators pitchers to win an All-Star game. Two other Senators, Walt Masterson in 1948 and Dave Stenhouse for the expansion Nats in 1962’s second All-Star game, also were A.L. starters. Neither was involved in the decision. Pete Richert of the expansion Nats, pitching in relief, was the loser of the 1966 All-Star game.

Stone lost four games in August, but the Senators were shut out twice and scored just a run in another game. On September 11 he delivered his first major-league shutout with a 5-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles. Six days later Stone followed with a three-hit whitewash of the Boston Red Sox. The two shutouts were part of  a string of 32⅔ consecutive innings in which the lefty did not surrender an earned run. By season’s end, he was 12-10 with a 3.32 earned run average.

Stone finished among the leaders in nearly every pitching category on a Nats’ staff that featured four left-handed starters, a record at the time that’s since been matched by the White Sox in 2013 and 2015. The ’54 season turned out to be by far Stone’s career best, although he managed to make appearances in the majors for four more teams – the Red Sox, Cardinals, Colt 45s and Orioles – into the 1963 season before calling it quits.

Stone was 88 when he died on August 21, 2018.

[1] Shirley Povich, “Nats’ Fans Now Whooping for Ex-Whipping Boy Pete.” The Sporting News, July 14, 1954: 14.

[2]  Joe Marcin, “When Dean Stone Made All-Star Trivia History,” The Sporting News, July 21, 1979: 7.

This is a version of my GamesProject essay that appears on SABR.org

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