Few things have a longer-lasting relationship with each other than summer in Kansas City and the Ban Johnson League All-Star game.
The contest dates back roughly 80 years to the 1930s, when the first game took place at Muehlebach Field between the Ban Johnson All-Stars and the all-stars from the Industrial League.
Over the years, the game has featured multiple opponents from other leagues and been played at a handful of sites – including Macken Park, C.Y.C. Stadium and Municipal Stadium – before coming to its current home of 43 years at Kauffman Stadium.
One thing is for sure, the game is an honor to be chosen for and an unforgettable experience for all those who have participated in it.
“Last year, in my first year of playing in Ban Johnson, playing in the all-star game at Kauffman was something that I was looking forward to,” said NKC Apartments Giants first baseman Corbin Hare. “Being at first base, you’re playing in the same place that Eric Hosmer plays at every day. It’s definitely a cool experience.”
“The grass is incredible,” Hare said. “It’s perfect, the dirt is perfect, you aren’t going to get a bad hop on that.”
Added Seaboard outfielder Austin Hoegerl: “The field is pretty much everything you could ask for.”
Natural Baseball slugger Jack Pauley recalled from last year’s game he, Hare and some others accidentally running into some major league players.
“After myself and a couple of guys had been taken out of the game, we were checking out the facilities below the dugout,” he said. “We saw a couple of Blue Jays players working out and actually talked to R.A. Dickey for a bit. He signed a few baseballs for us. Danny Duffy ended up coming and watching the game and so did Kris Medlen. All of those guys were really cool.”
Hare actually got a bit of instruction from Dickey.
“He actually showed us how to hold his knuckleball,” Hare said.
Hoegerl also enjoys another aspect of the game.
“It’s fun getting to meet new people. You got to meet a lot of guys you had played against but didn’t really know,” he said. “That was my favorite part about it.”
With most of the Ban Johnson players growing up locally around Kansas City, playing in the all-star game fulfills some childhood dreams.
“Being from Kansas City and growing up watching the Royals, and following them, now through Ban Johnson it gives you a shot to play at Kauffman,” Pauley said. “It’s a great experience to have your family come out and watch you play there. And it’s always nice to be recognized as an all-star.”
The 1962 All-Star game might be the most noteworthy. In that contest, four future Major League Baseball players competed: Chuck Dobson, Paul Lindblad, Steve Mingori and Steve Renko. Lindblad was a two-time World Series champion, with the Oakland Athletics in 1973 and the Yankees in 1978.
From 1967 to 1987, the Ban Johnson All-Stars faced the Casey Stengel All-Stars (later known as the Frank White All-Stars) every year but one.
Future major leaguers David Cone, Russ Morman and Kevin Young played in the game in the 80s.