HELLER: Stone’s fluky All-Star win a fading memory

As he started his windup to deliver a 1-1 pitch to Duke Snider, the rookie left-hander with the uncurly “W” on his uniform spotted the runner starting down the line from third base. Quickly, he hurled the ball to catcher Yogi Berra, who stepped outside and tagged Red Schoendienst in plenty of time.

That was the third out in the top of the eighth inning, and when the American League scored three runs in the bottom half, Dean Stone of the original Washington Senators became the winning pitcher in an 11-9 All-Star Game victory at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on July 13, 1954, despite not retiring a batter.

Perhaps it’s true that history always repeats itself. Fifty-seven years later, another Washington pitcher, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, gained the victory in last week’s All-Star Game without getting anybody out.

At 80, Stone is the retired owner of a landscaping company living in Silvis, Ill., three hours southwest of Chicago. So when Clippard matched his mini-feat, did Dean leap off his couch and shout, “That’s me!”

No way.

“It never entered my mind,” Stone said in a telephone interview. “I never think about that All-Star Game. After all, it was, what, nearly 60 years ago?”

Perhaps that’s no surprise. Stone had the briefest of periods as a major league star, winning seven games in 40 days for a Washington club that finished the 1954 season in sixth place with a 66-88 record. Victory No. 7 was a 7-4 decision over Yankees ace Whitey Ford that apparently persuaded manager Casey Stengel to pick Stone for the All-Star team.

“I wasn’t a starting pitcher early in the season, but then [manager] Bucky Harris put me in the rotation,” Stone said. “He didn’t say anything to me. In those days, when you found a new ball in your locker, you knew you were starting that night.”

Stone says he wasn’t surprised at making the All-Star team “because I was having a pretty good season.” Yet the Midsummer Classic pretty much represented both the highlight and the end of his career as a significant major league pitcher.

He went 5-8 the rest of the year, finishing 12-10 with a 3.22 ERA. The following season, he was 6-13 with a 4.15 ERA. When Stone retired in 1963, he had a 29-39 record pitching for six clubs.

“I don’t really know what happened in 1955,” Stone said. “I didn’t have a sore arm or anything, but I guess the guys didn’t score many runs for me.”

Unfortunately, that was a few years before the Senators erupted as a high-scoring outfit with Harmon Killebrew, Roy Sievers, Jim Lemon and Bob Allison bashing home runs hither, thither and yon. But to paraphrase “Casablanca,” Stone always will have Cleveland and that ‘54 All-Star Game.

What if Schoendienst, the Cardinals’ star second baseman, hadn’t tried strangely to steal home with the National League leading 9-8 or had been called safe? Third-base coach Leo Durocher claimed Stone had balked before throwing home, but plate umpire Bill Stewart told the Lip to zip his lip.

“Aw, Red was out by 40 feet,” Stone recalled, perhaps exaggerating a bit. “I saw him go, just threw home and Yogi Berra jumped outside and slapped the tag on him. But you know how Durocher was [meaning a world-class yowler at umps]. I guess he had to say something.”

In the bottom of the eighth, Larry Doby of the Indians batted for Stone and thrilled the hometown crowd of 68,751 by hitting a solo homer to tie the game. A few minutes later, Nellie Fox of the White Sox delivered a two-run single for the winning runs. After Chicago’s Virgil Trucks retired the National League in the ninth, the box score included this legend for all to see: Winning pitcher: Dean Stone (Washington).

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