Addie Joss All-Star Game
On July 24, 1911, the first ‘all-star game’ in Major League history took place. While not recognized as an official all-star game by Major League Baseball, the game was one of the first of its kind and featured the American League all-stars against the Cleveland Naps in a benefit game for the fallen Addie Joss.
It was hard to fathom. Eleven days earlier, on the 3rd of April, the Cleveland Naps took the field for warm-ups before a scheduled exhibition game against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Cleveland star pitcher, Addie Joss, sought out an old friend of his, Chattanooga shortstop Rudy Hulswitt. While catching up with Hulswitt, Joss fainted and he was later returned to his doctor in Toledo. Now, eleven days later, baseball players and fans awoke to the news that Joss had died from tubercular meningitis, only two days after his 31st birthday.
Joss’ funeral was held on April 17th in Toledo. The funeral fell in the midst of a three game series in Detroit against the Tigers. Originally, American League president Ban Johnson ordered the Naps to play their scheduled game but after Cleveland captain George Stovall threaten to strike if Johnson didn’t postpone the game, the president relented and postponed the game. Around 11 o’clock, all twenty-five members of the Naps as well as a handful of Tiger players, arrived in Toledo for the funeral of Adrian C. Joss.
The fact that members of the opposition arrived at his funeral showed how high Joss’ character was perceived around the league. After receiving the news he passed away, Stovall said, No better man lived than Addie. Added Napoleon Lajole, In Joss’s death, baseball loses one of the best pitchers and men that has ever been identified with the game.
Shortly after the funeral, members of the Cleveland club decided to organize a benefit game for Joss’ widow, Lillian, and their two children. Players and coaches off the Naps began recruiting players off the other seven American League teams to form the opposition team that would play the Naps, July 24th in Cleveland. Jimmy McAleer, manager of the Washington Senators, gladly volunteered to lead the all-star team on the field as the skipper. He said of Joss, “The memory of Addie Joss is sacred to every one with whom he ever came in contact. The man never wore a uniform who was a greater credit to the sport than he.”
15,270 fans stuffed inside Cleveland’s League Park to watch one of the greatest ensembles of talent ever to play on the same baseball field. One of those spectators was eighteen-year old George Sisler, who had traveled to Cleveland to visit his uncle and take in his first major league baseball game. Four years later, Sisler would make the St. Louis Browns and begin a career that would eventually land him in the Hall of Fame. He said of the game: “When I saw those great players, the first big leaguers I ever had seen, I made up my mind I was going to be a big league player and, I might confess, I wanted to be on the Cleveland team.”
The talent on the all-star club was amazing and that was due to Joss’ popularity around the league. When asked if he would attend the contest by his Washington manager McAleer, star pitcher Walter Johnson replied, “I’ll do anything they want for Addie Joss’ family.” That sentiment was echoed across the league.