What killed the traditionally lucrative baseball barnstorming tour as a big moneymaker? Television, of course, did its part by making the big league players familiar in every home. But those who remember will swear that the extraordinary fate that befell the biggest tour of all was also responsible: the night-mare of Bobby Riggs' touring "All-Stars" in 1950.
Riggs, the former great tennis champion and then tennis entrepreneur, had made a handsome profit promoting the Jack Kramer-Pancho Gonzales exhibition tour the year before. He was all set to launch Gussie Moran on the pro tennis circuit in 1950, and he figured there was still more money to be made in a touring major league baseball squad. He and his partner John Jachym conceived an extravaganza that would feature the National League All-Stars vs. the American League All-Stars in a 32-game traveling series.
The plan of signing all the bona fide all-stars faltered at the start, however. Ted Williams went fishing. Joe Di Maggio was tied down by television and radio commitments. Stan Musial signed but begged off because of a leg injury. Roy Campanella and Vern Stephens also had injuries that kept them from joining the tour.
But even without these headliners the promoters were able to recruit two star-studded squads of 18 men each. The National League lineup included Ralph Kiner, Ted Kluszewski, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Red Schoendienst, Don Newcombe, Howie Pollet, Alvin Dark and Larry Jansen, among others. The American Leaguers had standouts like Dom DiMaggio, Al Rosen, Gus Zernial, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Dizzy Trout, Ned Garver, Sherman Lollar and Jerry Coleman, star of the 1950 World Series, on the roster.
When the squad gathered in Montreal for the first game of the tour, the sun was shining brightly, the temperature was in the mid-70s and the advance ticket sale was brisk. By midafternoon, however, the skies darkened, and it started to rain. It was still raining when the squad chugged out of Montreal, leaving all that fine Canadian money behind.
The rain followed them to Syracuse. Happily, it cleared by dinner time and permitted the playing of the inaugural game. But the damage had been done. Only 3,200 showed up in the dampness.
The advance sale at Toronto, the next stop, was the heaviest in the history of the ball park. The rain was heavy, too, and the game was called off. After two trips to Canada, the All-Stars had nothing to show but heavy expenses and wet feet.
They finally got good weather when they arrived at Chicago for a night game at Comiskey Park. But the presence of the All-Stars was a well-kept secret. Dizzy Trout summed up the sad situation when he scanned the grandstand just before game time. "I know there's somebody up there—I can hear them," he said, "but I'll be darned if I can see them." They weren't easy to find—only 3,030 people turned out in a ballpark designed to accommodate 46,550.
In Cincinnati, too, the weather was perfect for the Saturday night game. A big harvest moon hung over Crosley Field, and a big crowd was expected. But it was also a fine night for football. Shortly after dinner there was a mass exodus from Cincinnati in the direction of a college game in neighboring Kentucky. The collegians sold out. The All-Stars drew 3,500.