It takes a darn good player to make a bad All-Star.
None of the members of this Weakest-Ever All-Stars Team was a truly bad player. Some were one-year wonders, or even half-year wonders. Others were journeymen or utility players who stumbled into the Midsummer Classic thanks to a few hot weeks. Many were the best players on horrible teams that needed a representative. Most of them had careers that were more fascinating and strange than great; their stories are checkered with odd milestones, random accomplishments, freak surgeries, horrible luck, and nicknames like "Losing Pitcher" or "the Lou Gehrig of UPS." They became broadcasters, coaches, ambassadors of switch-hitting to Japan, baseball academy owners and delivery men.
The only things all of these players have in common: they all appeared on an All-Star roster, and none of them had the kinds of careers that we would normally associate with All-Stars.
Catcher: Greg Olson, 1990. Olson spent seven full seasons in the minors and actually began the 1990 season with the Braves' Triple A Richmond affiliate, before he earned a call-up as an insurance catcher behind aging backstops Jody Davis and Ernie Whitt. As fate would have it, Davis could no longer hit his weight in kilograms, Whitt got hurt, and Tom Glavine liked the way Olson called games. Olson was batting .289 with six homers at the break, and the Braves -- still a year away from dominating the National League -- needed an All-Star representative. Olson batted .227 for the rest of the season, and his offensive levels stayed right about there for the rest of his career.
A collision at the plate with Ken Caminiti ended Olson's 1993 season early, and the rise of Javy Lopez ended his baseball career a season later. Olson played in just five seasons, one of which consisted of three plate appearances, but he got to catch in the World Series and call games for one of the best rotations in history -- better claims to fame than "weakest All-Star catcher ever."
First Base: Mike Hegan, 1969. Every team is represented by at least one player in the All-Star game, even the Seattle Pilots. Hegan was that team's representative in its lone season, carrying a .293 batting average and 7 homers into the break, including the first home run in Pilots history. (He also had a sweet .426 on-base percentage at the break, but no one cared in 1969.) Unfortunately, Hegan was already injured, so Don Mincher replaced him as the designated Pilot, and Hegan came to the plate just 48 more times in his best season.
Hegan hung around for most of the 1970's as a defensive replacement at first base and a corner outfielder with no pop, flirting with history every now and then. The son of great Indians catcher Jim Hegan, Mike was a member of the 1972 A's and was the last player to bat in old Yankee Stadium. He set a record with 178 errorless games at first base, which would be more impressive had it not taken him four years of partial games to do it. (Kevin Youkilis recently broke that record.) Hegan backed up everyone from Mickey Mantle to Gene Tenace and had a long career as a broadcaster, but he was a career .242/.341/.371 hitter at a power position. Making the All-Star team on a technicality for a team that only existed for one season, and never actually playing in the game, fits well within his strange resume.
Second Base: Dave Nelson, 1973. Nelson was a sabermetrician's nightmare. He had rudimentary on-base skills and no pop at all, and he was just fast enough to be a low-percentage, high-volume base stealer. When his batting average was high, his hits and stolen bases made him look like an All-Star. That's what happened in 1973 for the Rangers, when Nelson took a .287 average and 22 swipes into the break.
Nelson was a pretty good player in 1973 but was brutal in other years. In 1972, he batted .226 with 2 homers in a full season at third base, and he put up a .236/.292/.287 line in 1974, with 25 stolen bases but 13 times caught stealing. Nelson became a successful coach for decades and is now a Brewers announcer and respected philanthropist. As a player, he was a reminder that it is impossible to steal first.
Third Base: Billy Grabarkewitz, 1970. Grabarkewitz was batting .374 at the end of May, 1970, but he was not on the All-Star ballot because (a) he was an obscure young utility infielder who had batted .092 the previous season, and (b) his name probably would not have fit, anyway. Dodgers fans started a write-in campaign for Grabarkewitz, often listing him simply as "Billy G." on their ballots. Grabarkewitz did not win the vote, but manager Gil Hodges selected him as a reserve. Grabarkewitz finished the 1970 season batting .289 with 17 home runs. Two seasons later, the Dodgers released him after he batted .167 in 144 at bats. (They also had guys like Ron Cey and Davey Lopes playing Grabarkewitz's positions.) Grabarkewitz spent the rest of his career flirting with the Mendoza Line, which would have renamed the Grabarkewitz Line if anyone could spell it.
Shortstop: Frankie Zak, 1944. Zak was not even the Pirates' starting shortstop in 1944. He was a rookie who batted just 97 times before the All-Star break, amassing a .305 batting average with exactly one extra-base hit. But when Reds shortstop Eddie Miller got hurt, Zak got the nod as his replacement -- because the game was held at Forbes Field, and every train ticket mattered during World War II.
Zak never batted in the All-Star Game, as Marty Marion played the whole game at shortstop. Zak returned to his role as a bench player among wartime replacements, ending his career with 208 official at bats, a .269 average, zero homers, and the distinction of being the weakest player ever to appear on an All-Star roster. He served his country well, though, by preventing a trip that wasn't really necessary.
Outfield: Myril Hoag, 1939. Hoag was the Yankees' fourth outfielder in an era when their first three were typically Babe Ruth, Earle Combs and Ben Chapman; or Joe DiMaggio, George Selkirk and Jake Powell. He saw spot duty, started for the mighty Newark Bears in the minors, and batted .301 off the bench in seasons when that was close to the AL average. In 1936, he slammed so hard into DiMaggio in the outfield that he needed brain surgery. Brain surgery in 1936 sounds a lot like brain surgery in ancient Egypt, but Hoag was back on the bench in the Bronx in 1937, and the silver lining for his baseball career was that occasional dizzy spells kept him stateside for most of World War II. (He was briefly in the military, but unfit for active duty.)
Hoag hit .295-10-75 for the 1939 Browns in a rare stint as a starter. He had a .319 average at the break, and a St. Louis team that would lose 111 games needed an All-Star representative. Hoag played through most of the war for the White Sox and Indians, then returned to the minors, where he became a pitcher and played into his 40s. Hoag wasn't a great player, but you have to admire a guy who did not let cranial trauma, the Nazis, or being stuck behind Hall of Famers hold him back.
Outfield: Richie Scheinblum, 1972. Scheinblum was related to both Moe Berg and Allen Ginsberg, but he was not a catcher, poet or spy. Rather, he was a slow-footed, powerless, switch-hitting right fielder with decent on-base skills. Scheinblum batted .300 with a .383 on-base percentage for the Royals in his All-Star 1972 season, and he batted .328 in limited action for the Angels the following year. But in most of his other seasons, he struggled to stay around .200, which is a bad thing if you have no power or speed. Scheinblum hit just 13 home runs and stole zero bases in 1,397 major league plate appearances before heading to Japan to finish his career. He became the first player in Nippon League history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game.
Outfield: Gino Cimoli, 1957. Many of our weakest All-Stars have odd claims to fame, but Cimoli has them all beat. He was the first person ever to step into the batter's box in a major league ballgame on the West Coast. (He struck out). He was the last person to cross the plate at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. His 1958 Topps baseball card is a collector's item, because someone airbrushed the bat out of the picture, which makes it look like he is taking an imaginary swing. Finally, after leaving baseball, Cimoli was dubbed "the Lou Gehrig of UPS," after delivering packages for the shipping company for 20 years without an accident.
Cimoli earned his All-Star nod with a .293-10-57 line, with nine of those homers coming before the break, while playing next to Duke Snider and Carl Furillo for the 1957 Dodgers. He also led the league in triples once, for the 1962 Kansas City A's. For most of his career, however, he was a knockaround fourth outfielder, fast enough to play center but not powerful enough (44 homers over 10 seasons) for a starting job on a good team. Cimoli passed away in 2011, and like many players on this list, his lone All-Star appearance was one of the least interesting things that happened to him. He played with legends, christened California for Major League Baseball, innovated the "error card," and always delivered.
Designated Hitter: Dave Engle, 1984. Engle started his career as the Twins right fielder, but the team made him a catcher/designated hitter/utility player after he misjudged several fly balls against the old Metrodome roof; a childhood eye accident had left him unable to pick up the baseball against a gray background. Engle moved behind the plate and caught about as well as you might expect under the circumstances, but he scratched out a .305 batting average in 120 games in 1983, and his .310 average at the break earned him an All-Star appearance. He batted .192 (509 OPS) for the remainder of 1984, and then he slowly worked his way around and out of the majors, as a bench bat who could catch without killing you and play outfield as long as he was outdoors.
Starting Pitcher: Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy, 1940. The name does not quite say it all. Mulcahy lost 20 games in 1938 and 22 games in his 1940 All-Star season, but writers and fans at the time knew he was stuck on a terrible Phillies team that routinely lost over 100 games per year. Mulcahy sometimes earned a smattering of MVP votes and was generally hailed as a long-suffering workhorse. The "Losing Pitcher" nickname was part gentle ribbing, part early Philly sports negativity. At any rate, he was 7-10 before the break in 1940, which was like being 14-3 for him, so he earned an All-Star selection. A few months later he earned a draft selection, becoming the first major leaguer drafted into the armed forces several months before Pearl Harbor.
Mulcahy lost four full seasons to the war, and he was not the same pitcher when he returned, which meant he could only go 2-4 instead of 8-18. Mulcahy is sometimes recast as a hard-luck pitcher who would have been great in better circumstances, but he often led the league in walks, wild pitches, hit batsmen and other categories that cannot be blamed on the phutile Phillies. He finished his career with a 45-89 record, which could have been better if not for the war, but also could have been far worse.
Pitcher: Joe Mays, 2001. Perhaps asking a 160-pound, 25-year-old to pitch 233 innings is not the wisest long-term strategy. Mays was magnificent for the 2001 Twins, carrying an 11-5, 3.02 line into the break en route to a 17-13 season, but he was never the same pitcher after that. Or perhaps he was: Mays posted high walk totals and low strikeout totals in every season before and after 2001. Sabermetricians will note that his batting average on balls in play (a kind of randomizer of pitching results) dipped to .246 in his career year but hovered around .300 in most other years. Mays needed Tommy John surgery in 2004 and was out of the majors by 2006, a skinny guy with so-so stuff who was magical for a few months.
Pitcher: Dave Lemanczyk, 1979. Lemanczyk amassed a career 37-63 record and 4.62 ERA. A Tigers long reliever who became a Blue Jays starter after the 1976 expansion draft, Lemanczyk carried a 7-7, 3.33 line into the 1979 All-Star break, earning the right to represent his still-weak team. That season was the only year Lemanczyk's ERA was below 4, and he was out of baseball by the end of the 1980 season. Lemanczyk is now best known for the baseball academy he runs on Long Island.
Relief Ace: Derrick Turnbow, 2006. Turnbow will go down in history as the first major leaguer to test positive for steroids; he flunked the test during trials for the 2004 Olympic team, just months before the official policy for penalties and suspensions kicked in. Turnbow was amazing for the 2005 Brewers, with 39 saves and a 1.74 ERA, as pitching coach Mike Maddux worked carefully on Turnbow's control. Turnbow's 23 saves the following year got him to the Midsummer Classic, but he was already in the process of collapsing; his second-half ERA ballooned to 11.29, as he walked 17 batters in 18.1 innings. Turnbow's wildness soon metastasized into Steve Blass disease, and by 2008, he was walking 41 batters in 18 innings in Triple A ball. Turnbow packed a lot of baseball history into a few short seasons. For 67 innings, he looked like a superstar.
Honorable Mention: The Greatest Generation Guys. Some of the weakest All-Star resumes are held by guys whose careers were interrupted by World War II. Eddie Kazak was a paratrooper who suffered a bayonet wound and had his right elbow torn apart by shrapnel at Normandy. After 18 months of meatball surgery and rehabilitation, he somehow regained enough of his batting stroke to work his way through the minors and reach the Cardinals in 1948. He earned an All-Star appearance with a .304 batting average in 1949, then slowly slipped back to the minors. Ray Lamanno batted .267 with 12 homers as the Reds rookie catcher in 1942, then shipped off for the Navy. He made an All-Star appearance in 1946 but hit just six more home runs in three big league seasons, his career derailed by three seasons overseas. Men like these earned their places on more distinguished lists than this one, and they probably would have had more distinguished baseball careers had not spent their prime years dodging bayonets.
Dishonorable Mention: The 1957 Redstuffs. The Cincinnati Enquirer distributed pre-filled out All-Star ballots in 1957, sending Cincinnati fans into such a frenzy of ballot stuffing that an embarrased commisioner Ford Frick removed two Reds from the roster and took voting away from the fans for a while. What most fans don't know is that none of the "ballot stuffer" Reds was a truly terrible All-Star selection, at least by the standards of this list. Outfielder Gus Bell, kicked off the team by Frick, was coming off a 29-home-run season. Wally Post, also removed, had hit 76 home runs over the previous two seasons. Roy McMillan was a respected defensive shortstop who would win several Gold Gloves, and Don Hoak batted .293 that season and led the league in doubles. So it wasn't like Reds fans were voting for Shooty Babbit or anything. Still, there is something inherently wrong about a process that leaves Ernie Banks on the bench so McMillan and Post can have their moment in the spotlight, and no listing of weak All-Stars is complete without mention of the game's weakest moment.