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Ken Berry's All-Star experience far from ideal

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Despite being voted in by the players, it took injuries for two Hall of Famers on one fateful day to get Ken Berry in the 1967 All-Star Game, and for what?

1967 AL All-Star team. Chicago White Sox, Ken Berry, is second row to left.
1967 AL All-Star team. Chicago White Sox, Ken Berry, is second row to left.
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Baseball fans have a certain expectation when it comes to stats when selecting their All-Stars. Hitters need to have a lot of home runs, runs batted in, and a high batting average compared to their respective peers at a position. Sure, these are "Back of the baseball card" kind of stats and fans are starting to progress by using more advanced metrics like WAR to determine who should get the nod.

Which is why its weird to see a player who had this first half stat line ever make it to an All-Star game:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
79 333 301 37 77 8 3 4 26 6 6 28 39 .256 .322 .342 .664

Despite not having the most glamorous of stat lines, Ken Berry made the 1967 All-Star team. A generation of White Sox fans know him as "The Bandit" for his ability to cover a lot of ground in the outfield, and having a flair for the dramatic robbing home runs. Berry did win two Gold Gloves, but those came in 1970 and 1972, which even adds to the confusion on how he got to play in the midsummer classic.

The history books tell us that Berry was an injury replacement for Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. The reigning MVP and Triple Crown champion, Robinson injured himself on June 27, 1967 against the White Sox. After leading off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single, Robinson hustled with reckless abandon to second after Brooks Robinson grounded to third. With the throw coming from White Sox third baseman, Dick Kenworthy, Robinson collided with second baseman, Al Weis. The collision knocked both players out of the game, Weis leaving with a knee injury and Robinson suffering from "blurry, double vision." Thanks to the injury of Robinson, Ken Berry was named to the American League All-Star team as a injury replacement.

According to Ken Berry, the history books are wrong.

During the 1967 season, fans were not allowed to vote for the All-Star Game. They can blame Cincinnati fans in 1957 for stuffing the ballot boxes and electing Reds players to start at each position except first base (sorry, George Crowe). Fan voting would be restored in the 1970 season to restore interest in the exhibition game, which meant that Berry was elected into the All-Star Game by his fellow players. Player voting took place on June 16, at which point Berry's splits were .308/.370/.403 - the highest his batting splits would be at any point in the season.

"I wasn't an injury replacement for Frank Robinson. I was voted fourth out of the five outfielders by the players," said Berry. "They always took the first five guys [in the outfield] that were voted. [Manager] Hank Bauer said 'I'm not going to take Berry.'"

Hank Bauer was manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 1967 and decided for whatever reason he was not going to take Berry. On June 26, Chicago started the four-game series against Baltimore. The White Sox were in first place at 40-26, and the defending world champion Orioles were struggling at 32-35. Down 4-3, with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the ninth inning, Ken Berry pinch-hit for Don Buford. The Bandit pulled through with a clutch single to left field, driving in the game-winning runs as the White Sox came back to win, 5-4.

"After that hit, when I came around third base, I told Bauer what I thought of him," Berry said. "The next night, Robinson slid into Al Weis and tore Al's knee up. [Robinson] got double vision and I thought, 'Well, Bauer might take me now, but I doubt it because I yelled at him.'"

"He didn't take me. I didn't make it until Al Kaline broke his knuckle punching the water cooler."

The game Kaline knocked himself out was also on June 27, after striking out against Cleveland Indians starting pitcher, Sam McDowell. One day, two All-Stars and the greatest players of a generation had to leave the game due to injury. Imagine how Twitter would have reacted hearing the news.

Still to this day, Berry has no idea why Bauer didn't want him on the team.

"I never did find out what the problem was. For some reason, he didn't like me, I guess," said Berry.  "I hunted with him and Whitey Herzog up at Fort Riley for quail. Maybe I shot a bird that he was pulling down on and I knocked it down before he did? I don't know. I could not tell you exactly what transpired."

When Berry got final word that Bauer was adding him to the roster, he wasn't overcome with joy, nor was he excited to be a part of the All-Star game experience.

"It was anticlimactic," said Berry. "It was, 'Yeah, I'll go,' and it turned out to be exactly what I figured it was going to be. Going to the celebratory dinner and the pregame ceremonies. It was fine."

Being on the roster, of course, didn't guarantee playing time for Berry. Baseball historians remember the 1967 All-Star game as being one of the longest games in the Midsummer Classic's history, lasting 15 innings. It was a horrible display of offense, or a spectacular display of pitching, depending on how you look at it. The two teams combined to strikeout 30 times. In the top of the second inning, Philadelphia Phillies third baseman and future White Sox cult hero Dick Allen hit a home run to start the scoring for the National League. The American League All-Stars finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning, as Brooks Robinson hit a home run to tie the game up, 1-1.

Neither team would score for another nine innings.

As the game dragged along, Ken Berry sat at the end of the bench hoping for a chance to play some defense to showcase his ability.

"I was hoping all day that [Bauer] would just put me in so I could play some defense and show people what I could do," said Berry. "Then, in the bottom of the 15th, he yelled at me to grab a bat."

On the mound was Hall of Fame pitcher, Tom Seaver. Down 2-1 with Carl Yastrzemski on first and two outs, Berry finally entered in the game hitting for pitcher, Catfish Hunter.

"I struck out against Tom Seaver," said Berry. "He was in his prime and I had been sitting on the bench for 2½ hours. Not an excuse, but I wasn't hitting very well at the time. I wasn't much of a threat against Seaver."

That is how the 1967 All-Star Game ended and it was the only All-Star appearance in Berry's 13-year career. It what was supposed to be a moment of pride by being elected by his fellow players, it became a sour experience.

"It wasn't a pleasant situation like it should have been being named to the All-Star team," said Berry. "I'm not complaining. I'm just telling you how it happened and I still to this day have no idea why."