Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game has been around since 1962, but in all that time, only one Philadelphia Phillie has been named the game’s most valuable player. Is it possible that one of the Phillies’ representatives in tonight’s game can put an end to that long drought?
Part of the reason for the lack of MVPs is that the Phillies are a National League team. Since 1988, the American League holds a 25-6 advantage in the game (including the last nine in a row), and since the MVP is usually awarded to player on the winning team, that puts Phillies players at a disadvantage. (Of course, if the Phillies players had played better, maybe the National League would have won a few more times.)
As far as the one Phillie who did win it: Many of you were probably not around back in 1964 when outfielder Johnny Callison hit a game-winning home run in the ninth inning of the game. The best thing about that blast was that the Phillies rode the momentum all the way to the playoffs. (Or maybe not.)
Apparently Johnny used up the Phillies’ quota for big All-Star Game moments, because in all the years since, none of the team’s reps have been able to similarly capture MVP moments. Honestly, Phillies players haven’t really shined much in All-Star Games. When you think of Phillies in the All-Star Game, what’s the first thing that probably comes to mind?
If you’re having trouble remembering All-Star home runs by Phillies, that’s because only three Phillies besides Callison have hit them. Dick Allen knocked one out in 1967, Greg Luzinski did the same ten years later, and then Mike Schmidt hit one in 1981. Schmidt made 12 appearances, including seven starts, but that was the only time he was able to hit a homer.
So can either Zack Wheeler or J.T. Realmuto break the “Curse of Callison” this year?
It will be difficult for Wheeler to do so. Due to usually getting one inning or less of work, pitchers usually only capture the award if they’re pitching in their home stadium (as Shane Bieber of the Indians did in 2019), or if MLB pre-ordains that he’s going to win (Mariano Rivera in 2013). Since this year’s game in being held in
Atlanta Colorado, barring a last-second trade, we can safely assume Wheeler won’t take home the honors.
Realmuto has a better chance. As the starting catcher for the NL squad, he’ll probably play a few innings and get multiple at bats. Since he likely won’t play the entire game, he won’t have a chance to get a clutch hit late in the game, but if he has a big multiple run-scoring hit early on, that could carry some sway.
It would be nice if Realmuto could have such a heroic moment, but barring an undeniably great showing, I don’t think this is his year. It feels like much like Rivera in 2013, the powers that be in Major League Baseball want this year’s game to be the Shohei Ohtani show (and I can’t really blame them). If Ohtani does anything even slightly productive, I think he’s taking home the honors.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani will be the American League All-Star team starting pitcher and bat leadoff as designated hitter less than 24 hours after competing in the Home Run Derby as the No. 1 seed.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 12, 2021
The best chance for ending the drought may come in 2026 when the game will be held in Philadelphia. It will be thrilling to watch wunderkind pitcher Andrew Painter as he strikes out three batters, leading the National League to victory, and joining Johnny Callison among the ranks of the immortals.