Reggie Jackson’s first All-Star Game appearance gave us very little to remember about the man who would become Mr. October.
He was the starting centerfielder (Frank Robinson started in right) for the American League in his first Midsummer Classic, batting second at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium on July 23, 1969 – three days after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Jackson went 0-2 with a walk in three plate appearances, and the National League clobbered the AL 9-3 as MVP Willie McCovey clubbed homers off Oakland’s Blue Moon Odom and Detroit’s Denny McClain.
So why do we bring this up?
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Because only three years earlier, Jackson was patrolling the outfield for the Modesto Reds in their single season as an affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics, hitting 21 home runs in only 56 games. In all, 12 players off that California League championship team reached the major leagues, and three – Jackson, pitcher Rollie Fingers and second baseman Tony LaRussa – would find their way to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Jackson became the first player off that 1966 team to play in an All-Star Game, and there was no way to know it at the time but he began a streak linking Modesto to the annual exhibition remains alive to this day.
With the naming of Tim Hudson (a member of the 1997 Modesto A’s), Nelson Cruz (2004 Modesto A’s), Troy Tulowitzki (Modesto Nuts, 2005) and Charlie Blackmon (Modesto Nuts, 2009,) baseball’s All-Star Game has featured a former Modesto minor league player or coach in every season since Jackson’s 1969 apperance.
That streak will reach 47 years on Tuesday, and it’s believed to be the longest such streak in Class A history.
The streak was close to being broken on several occasions. It took the selection of Sparky Anderson as an American League coach in 1993 to keep it alive. In 1997, Tony LaRussa was the only former Modesto player in the game when he managed the National League team, and he kept the streak going as the lone ex-Modestan again when he managed the NL in 2012 - the year after he retired as St. Louis manager.
In every other year, the streak has been kept alive by at least one former Modesto player, and our minor league history has been represented by as many as five players on four occasions (1974, 77, 78 and 2010.)
The run is yet another feather in Modesto’s minor league baseball cap, which already is a few sizes larger than most considering the franchise’s Hall of Fame credentials.
When LaRussa is inducted on July 27 he will be the sixth former Modesto player or coach enshrined in Cooperstown, joining Jackson, Fingers, Joe Morgan (1963 Modesto Colts), Rickey Henderson (1977 Modesto A’s) and Sparky Anderson (1967 Modesto Reds manager.)
So by my count, this All-Star streak includes 109 All-Star Game appearances as players by former Modestans, nine appearances as manager and five as coaches.
Hudson, BTW, is the first former Modesto player to reach the All-Star Game while representing the San Francisco Giants.
The entire list, in PDF form, is attached. A note on the list. It was converted to a form compatible with this site before the addition of Hudson to the NL team, so he’s not included here. In addition, just this morning I uncovered an additional player who needs to be included. Tom Burgmeier, who pitched for the 1962 Modesto Colts, made the 1980 American League All-Star team while a member of the Boston Red Sox.