The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer draws the honor of starting the All-Star Game in Miami Tuesday, but he is not the first to represent the city with the honor.
Confused? If you remember those old brain teasers in Baseball Digest, you are in for a treat.
Logic tells you Walter Johnson should have the honor of starting the Mid-Summer Classic for DC, but the game did not exist during the height of his career. Although plenty of Nats and Senators started in the filed over the years, the one pitcher to take the hill was Walt Masterson in 1948.
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When you think of the players wearing a Washington or Montreal uniform that could have the honor such as Camilio Pascual, Pedro Martinez or Stephen Strasburg to name a few, Masterson’s name fails to come to mind.
An All-Star in 1947, he earned the honor for the 15th annual game against Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mickey Vernon was the other Nats player on the AL roster as a backup first baseman. Old friend Bucky Harris, who won the World Series the year before with the New York Yankees, managed the club. Harris managed Masterson before World War II, but why he chose him to start is a mystery.
Those Nats teams were never good. The 1948 squad was headed for a 55-98 season, good enough for a seventh-place finish in the eight-team American League. When you hear of old-timers use the term second division, these bottom-feeder teams are what they refer too.
Masterson had a marvelous 1947. His 3.13 ERA finished in the top 10. The first half of 1948 went well. A 6-6 record for a team going nowhere with a 3.18 ERA merited another trip to the All-Star Game. Drawing the start over Hall of Famer’s Bob Feller and Hal Newhouser is quite the feat.
On July 2, Masterson pitched a complete 12-inning win over the New York Yankees in The Bronx. He scattered three hits while walking seven. Two days before the ASG, he drew a no-decision over six innings when the Yankees made a return visit. A different time for sure.
Played during the day, Masterson represented the home team. Although Sportsman’s Park was the home field for both the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns, it was the Browns who hosted the affair.
His outing was rough. Stan Musial took him deep in the first for a two-run shot. Over his three innings, the National League worked him for five hits and a walk, but Musial’s blow were the only runs.
Masterson never played in another All-Star Game.
He finished the year with an 8-15 record with an ERA of 3.83. Over the course of a 14-year career, his won-loss mark is 78-100 with a steady 4.15 ERA.
Long forgotten by most fans, Masterson represented Washington well over his career. A swing pitcher by today’s standards, he spent 11 years with the club pitching in 278 games.
As we marvel at Scherzer and his well-deserved status, keep Masterson in mind for his accomplishments from 69 years ago.