Mark Redman of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The All-Star Game is supposed to celebrate the best of the best in baseball. Here are some players who were picked for the game who don't qualify for that status.
Every year, there's debate and discussion of who did not get picked for major-league All-Star teams, even after some of those who were originally left out are added to the squads due to injury (A.J. Pierzynski is still on the outs this year, and that's a real snub -- he definitely deserved to go).
But what about players who do get to go to the Midsummer Classic despite, and I'm trying to be charitable here, being mediocre-to-awful? There have been some real head-scratching choices in All-Star history, yet those players will always have the "All-Star" banner on top of their pages on baseball-reference.com. Here are eight of the worst picks of all-time.
1942 American League: Eddie Smith. Smith, perhaps one of the most generic ever due to his name, pitched for some terrible Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox teams in the 1930s and 1940s. He was actually a better-than-league-average hurler in 1940 and 1941, with ERA+ figures of 138 and 129 respectively. In 1942, though, he muddled about under league norms and at the time of his selection, was 2-13 with a 3.72 ERA, that in an era when pitcher wins and losses actually meant something. The White Sox weren't very good that year, but AL manager Joe McCarthy could have taken 41-year-old Ted Lyons, then known as "Sunday Pitcher" because they saved him for infrequent starts; Lyons had a much better year than Smith, who led the AL in losses with 20. It was Smith's second straight All-Star selection; he didn't pitch in the 1942 game, though he did record the victory for the AL in 1941 despite giving up two runs in two innings.
1944 National League: Frankie Zak. You've probably never heard of this man, whose name sounds like he could have picked up an accordion and played in a big band of that era. He had a very strange 1944 season; for the first two months he did nothing but pinch-run and play a few innings as a defensive replacement. Suddenly placed in the lineup starting June 1, he hit .412/.459/.441 in his first 12 games for a pretty good Pirates team that finished second in the NL. That must have gotten the attention of NL manager Billy Southworth, who selected him. Zak didn't play in the game, and barely played at all after that; he had just 208 major-league at-bats.
1948 National League: Clyde McCullough. McCullough, who had some decent years as Cubs catcher in the 1940s, did not have a good year in '48; at the time of his selection he was hitting just .180/.232/.202 and wasn't even the Cubs' regular -- Bob Scheffing was. Manager Leo Durocher, almost two decades before becoming Cubs manager, picked him anyway. McCullough didn't play in the game, nor did he play when selected again in 1953, though he had a better year in '53 (hitting .273/.301/.374 at the time he was chosen). The Cubs already had a good All-Star rep that year in third baseman Andy Pafko; McCullough's selection is inexplicable.
1960 American League: Dick Stigman. Stigman had pitched in just 23 major-league games, with little distinction, for the Indians (eight starts) when AL manager Al Lopez chose him. Despite the fact that there were two All-Star games in 1960 (they played a pair from 1959-62 to raise extra money for the players' pension fund), Stigman did not appear in either one, and never made another All-Star team in his six other major-league seasons. Again, another Tribe player (Harvey Kuenn) was on the team, so Stigman's selection was largely irrelevant.
1963 American League: Don Leppert. Another inexplicable pick of a backup (Ken Retzer was the starter) on a horrible team (the 56-106 Washington Senators), Leppert was batting .256/.329/.421 at the All-Star break. Outfielder Don Lock (who hit 27 home runs that year) or starting pitcher Claude Osteen would have been better selections; there were at least half a dozen other catchers with better numbers than Leppert, who, like most of his predecessors on this list, didn't play in the game. Leppert didn't have a long playing career (190 games over four seasons), but later spent nearly 20 years as a major-league coach with the Astros, Pirates and Blue Jays.
1976 National League: Steve Swisher. Swisher, perhaps best known in baseball for siring current Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, was hitting a somewhat-respectable .268/.304/.346 at the All-Star break in '76, but much better catchers such as Ted Simmons and Manny Sanguillen were passed over to make Swisher the Cubs' only All-Star rep. In so doing, NL manager Sparky Anderson also skipped picking outfielder Rick Monday, who was hitting .288/.370/.521 at the time of the break. Swisher did not play in the game.
2003 National League: Mike Williams. Williams, who'd had a few decent seasons as a closer before 2003 (including an All-Star selection, 46 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 2002), had a 6.62 ERA and five blown saves when he was picked again to represent the Pirates in 2003. Reggie Sanders (who hit 31 home runs) or even Kip Wells (who had his best major-league season that year) would have been better choices to represent the Bucs, who thought so little of Williams that they traded him to the Phillies just six days after the All-Star Game, in which he sat on the bench and cheered on his NL teammates as they lost.
2006 American League: Mark Redman. Redman, who had some decent seasons prior (including for the 2003 Marlins, where he got a World Series ring), was pretty bad by the time he was selected as the Royals rep to this game -- he had a 5.27 ERA at the break, and did not play in the All-Star Game. He was probably the best pick, though; I couldn't find a better 2006 Royal who could have been their lone All-Star; that team was 31-56 at the break and their best overall hitter was probably Mark Teahen, who was hitting .260/.319/.448 at All-Star time.
Who's the worst of the worst? Vote in the poll, or if you have another choice who you think is one of the worst All-Star selections in history, leave his name in the comments.
Thanks to Mike Bojanowski for research help for this feature.
Who is the worst All-Star selection of all time?
Eddie Smith (13 votes)
Frankie Zak (45 votes)
Clyde McCullough (48 votes)
Dick Stigman (14 votes)
Don Leppert (14 votes)
Steve Swisher (33 votes)
Mike Williams (189 votes)
Mark Redman (157 votes)
Someone else (leave in comments) (58 votes)
571 total votes