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Northern Kentucky All-Stars

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The region is at the eve of the Mid-Summer Classic or to the casual baseball fan the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Cincinnati and the region are set to take center stage as baseball’s best converge to face off on the diamond. What ties does Northern Kentucky have to the All-Star Game? Since the All-Star Game was first played in 1933 Northern Kentucky has had a handful of native sons break into the majors. A larger portion played before the inception of the All-Star Game. Thus we cannot really discuss them in the terms of being all-stars; many of them had fine careers that may have been all-star worthy. However a small number have stood out since then and were selected to the All-Star Game. We will talk about four individuals in this article. Two were from Northern Kentucky; well one was from Fleming County which is a neighbor of Mason County which is part of Northern Kentucky but it is close enough and we could argue all sorts of technicalities but he counts, the other was from Campbell County. The third player was born and raised in Cincinnati but played baseball in high school and college here in Northern Kentucky. The fourth was an umpire from Kenton County. So who were they? Jim Bunning, Woodie Fryman and David Justice were the players selected more than once in their careers to the All-Star Game. The umpire selected as an All-Star was Randy Marsh also a Northern Kentucky native.

Jim Bunning from Southgate, Kentucky played professionally from 1955-1971. He was a 9 time All-Star. While playing for the Detroit Tigers Jim was selected to the American League squad 7 times (1957, 1959 and 1961, 1962 and 1963 as a pitcher). He was elected 2 times to the National League squad while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies (1964 and 1966 also as a pitcher). He was the starting pitcher in his first All-Star appearance in 1957. He pitched 3 innings and did not give up a hit. He also struck out Willie Mays for his only strike out in his first appearance. During the 1961 season there were 2 All-Star Games, one on July 11 and on July 31. He was the starting pitcher for the American League during the July 11 game tossing 2 innings. Again in 1962 two games were held and Bunning was tapped as the starter for the July 10 game. He did not make an appearance in the second game which was held on July 30. He was elected to the squad again in 1963 and pitched in 2 innings allowing a run and earning the loss for the American League. In 1964 Bunning made his first appearance as a National League all-star pitching 2 innings and striking out 4 batters. His final appearance in the All-Star Game was in 1966. He pitched 2 innings allowing 2 hits and striking out 2 batters including Frank Robinson of the Orioles (a one-time Cincinnati Red). In his 9 all-star appearances he allowed 3 runs, gave up 7 hits and struck out 12 batters. Reflecting on his all-star experiences in a 1988 Kentucky Post article Bunning was grateful for having had the chance to take the field with the greatest players of that time period. After baseball Bunning began a career in politics serving in both local political roles and as state Senator in Kentucky before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. He then went on to serve as a Senator from 1999 to 2010 when he did not seek re-election. In 1996 Bunning was enshrined into baseball’s hall of fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Woodie Fryman was born in Ewing, Kentucky which is in Fleming County next to Mason County. Like Bunning, Fryman was a pitcher. He made his Major League debut in 1966 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His career spanned from 1966-1983. Fryman was elected to the All-Star Game twice both on the National League team. He was selected with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1968 and with the Montreal Expos in 1976. Although selected as an all-star in 1968 and 1976 he did not pitch in either game. In 1988 the All-Star Game was in Cincinnati and the Kentucky Post ran an article about Kentuckians who had been all-stars.Fryman was included in that article and shared some of his experiences as an All-Star. In the 1968 game he told the KY Post in 1988 that he and fellow pitcher Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinals) warmed up in the bullpen but never got the call to come in to pitch. Fryman spent the 1977 season with the Cincinnati Reds as part of the trade that sent ‘The Big Dog’ Tony Perez of the Big Red Machine to the Expos. Not liking the way he was being used in Cincinnati he left the Reds midway through the season returning to his farm in Fleming County. He returned to the Expos in June 1978 would spend the next five seasons in Montreal. In July 1983 his career came to an end after feeling something pop in his elbow. Mr. Fryman passed away in 2011.

Born in Cincinnati David Justice is included as a Northern Kentucky All-Star because his road to the majors went through Kenton County. Justice played High School baseball for Covington Latin High School in Covington and went on to play in college at Thomas More in Crestview Hills. He was a standout basketball player and he played a little baseball as well. He only played baseball for two seasons at Covington Latin. His last two years there Latin did not have a baseball team according to a December 2007 Kentucky Enquirer article by John Erardi. In June 1982 he signed to play basketball at Thomas More and planned to play baseball there as well. By his sophomore year in school he had given up basketball and concentrated on baseball according to a biography page of the 100 greatest Cleveland Indian’s players at www.letsgotribe.com. After his junior year at Thomas More Justice was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 4th Round of the 1985 Draft as the 94th pick overall. He made his MLB debut in May, 1989. In 1990 he was selected as the National League Rookie of the Year. During his 14 year Major League career he was selected as a starting outfielder in 3 All-Star Games. He was on the National League squad in 1993 and 1994 while playing for the Atlanta Braves. He started in right field in the 1993 and 1994 games. In his first All-Star appearance he went 1-3 with a single to center field off Mark Langston of the California Angels (now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). In his 1994 all-star appearance he went 0-2. In 1997 Justice while playing for the Cleveland Indians and was elected to be in the starting lineup for the American League squad but due to injury he did not play. Justice would finish his career in the American League playing with the New York Yankees from 2000 to 2001 winning a World Series in 2000. He played with the Oakland Athletics during the 2002 season which would be his final season in baseball. After hanging up his cleats after the 2002 campaign Justice became a broadcaster with ESPN and the Yankees YES Network.

The final Northern Kentucky all-star is Randy Marsh. Marsh was an umpire in Major League Baseball from 1981 to 2009. He was selected as a member of the umpiring crew for 4 All-Star Games. His first All-Star appearance came in his fourth season as an umpire in 1985 where he was the umpire in right field for the game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis Minnesota. During the 1985 All-Star game the Home Run Derby contest was held for the first time. Marsh took part in the contest as an umpire down the left field line the night before the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as an umpire in an All-Star Game not much action happened out in right field that night. His next all-star appearance came in front of a hometown crowd in 1988 when the All-Star game was held at Riverfront Stadium. Randy was the umpire in left field. In a July 13 Kentucky Post article Randy stated that the game itself was the calmest period of time during the All-Star event. His home phone was said to have been ringing off the hook leading up to the game. In 1996 he called the game from behind the plate. In the 1996 contest not a single batter was walked during the contest. As one of the most consistent umpires in the game I don’t think no walks being issued with Marsh behind the plate was a coincidence. In 2006 he umpired in his final All-Star Game making the calls over at first base. He also umpired in five World Series as including the 1990 contest the last time the Reds won the championship. His other World Series appearances include 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2006. Recently Marsh was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015. Marsh continues to work in baseball as Director of Umpires for the commissioner’s office.

Only time will tell if or when another Northern Kentucky native will go on to appear in an All-Star Game. It could be that left handed kid playing catcher turning a 2 to 3 double play or the kid hitting off the tee for the very first time, the kid ripping a game winning home run or any other kid out there playing on the fields of Northern Kentucky. The area has a long history of producing talented players eventually one of them will break through and shine bright in the All-Star Game.

Luke Groeschen

Library Associate

Local History and Genealogy Department

Luke.Groeschen@kentonlibrary.org

 

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