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Pitcher offers retelling of '61 All-Star Game in 'Frisco

7/10/2007 - MLB

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stu Miller wants to set the record
straight. Despite the headlines, myths and stories, he wasn't
actually blown off the mound at Candlestick in the All-Star Game.

One of the most famous plays in All-Star history is a topic once
again as baseball's midsummer classic returned to San Francisco for
just the second time since that truly blown save in 1961. And the
central figure in the play wants to clear some things up.

"The next day in the paper there was a banner headline: 'Miller
Blown off Mound,' " he recalled. "They couldn't have made it any
bigger. They made it out to be like I was pinned against the
center-field fence. It wasn't about Mays scores winning run but 'Miller Blown off Mound.' "

Miller entered the game for the National League trying to
protect a 3-2 lead with runners on first and second and one out in
the ninth. With Rocky Colavito at the plate, Miller relieved Sandy
Koufax -- "Take that hacker out of there," he joked.

A calm day had turned windy, some of the harshest gusts Miller
saw in the three years that Candlestick was his home park while he
played for the Giants. He remembered Harvey Haddix chasing his hat
as it was buffeted around the infield and the flags nearly blowing
off the poles.

"Just as I was ready to pitch, an extra gust of wind came along
and I waved like a tree," he said. "My whole body went back and
forth about 2 or 3 inches. The AL bench all hollered balk. I knew
it was a balk, but the umpires didn't call it at first. I went
ahead and threw the pitch and Colavito swung and missed. The umpire
then took off his mask and motioned the runners to second and
third."

An error by third baseman Ken Boyer allowed the tying run to
score. Then the wind played havoc with another All-Star.

Catcher Smoky Burgess dropped a foul pop by Tony Kubek before
Miller recovered for a strikeout. Don Zimmer's error at second base
loaded the bases before Miller escaped the jam by retiring opposing
pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

But it's Miller's balk that became symbolic of the wind at
Candlestick.

"If they played at 12 o'clock, there might not be no wind. Then
by 1:30, all hell breaks loose almost every day. It was crazy,"
Zimmer said. "He was a little guy. He might have been lighter than
a guy like [Greg] Maddux. I remember him going backward to throw a
pitch and he just kept going. With the wind, Candlestick could do
that to you."

Miller allowed an unearned run in the 10th inning on another
error by Boyer, but he also struck out the side that inning. He
ended it by fanning Roger Maris with a runner on third, striking
out the man who was on his way to becoming baseball's single-season
home run king.

"Why would I have memory of that? I struck out nine of those
guys that year," said Miller, who also pitched in a second
All-Star Game later that year at Fenway Park.

Miller earned the win at Candlestick when Willie Mays hit an RBI
double and scored on Roberto Clemente's single in the bottom of the
10th. But it was the balk that became the defining moment in a career
that included 103 wins, 154 saves, an NL ERA title in 1958 and a
changeup considered one of the best of its time.

"I guess that's better than 'Stu Who?' " he said. "I'd rather
be remembered for something."

When the All-Star Game returned to San Francisco in 1984, the NL
All-Stars were hoping the elements would play as big a factor as
they did 23 years earlier. Expos catcher Gary Carter said before
the game that he hoped the AL All-Stars would experience the
frustrations NL players got each year on their visit to
Candlestick.

His wish came true.

"What I remember most about Candlestick was how cold it got,"
said Royals manager Buddy Bell, an All-Star third baseman for the
AL that year. "I had never played there before. I'd always been in
the American League. The game started at 5 and it was beautiful.
But by about 6:30 we were all freezing, especially the American
League guys."

It was the twilight start that played the biggest role, making
it nearly impossible for batters to see the pitches.

Carter's home run in the second inning gave the NL the lead for
good in that game and earned him the MVP award, but it was the
pitching that was the story of this game.

On the 50th anniversary of former Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell
striking out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al
Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession, the NL pitchers combined to
better the mark by one.

Fernando Valenzuela struck out future Hall of Famers Dave
Winfield, Reggie Jackson and George Brett in order in the fourth
inning. Then 19-year-old Dwight Gooden, the youngest All-Star ever,
whiffed Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis in order in the
fifth, sending the NL on its way to a 3-1 victory.