Kansas Citians have no shortage of players to root for in baseball’s All-Star game.
Of course, six Royals players are in Cincinnati, but other teams are sending Kansas City talent, too.
Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols graduated from Fort Osage and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Trevor Rosenthal hails from Lee’s Summit West. On the Kansas side, it’s a different story.
No one who attended high school in Johnson, Wyandotte or Leavenworth counties has been an All-Star since 1953.
“I think that’s an astounding fact,” said Donna Dickson, daughter of the late Murry Dickson, the last All-Star from any of those counties. “With so many sports and athletes that we have in the area, I think probably there should have been more.”
Murry Dickson attended Leavenworth High School and later with the St. Louis Cardinals threw a spring training no-hitter against the New York Yankees.
In a 1948 recording, Dickson talked with Cardinals broadcaster Harry Carey.
“When did you realize that you had a no-hitter cooking?” asked Carey.
“Well, I knew in the fifth inning. I was thinking about it. It goes through my mind all the time,” Dickson responded.
Pitcher Ralph Terry became teammates with Dickson when they played on the Kansas City Athletics in the late 1950s, but Terry had previously known about Dickson through the Cardinals broadcasts.
“I remember listening to him, growing up listening to Harry Caray when he was a St. Louis Cardinals announcer, and he was a great pitcher with the Cardinals,” Terry said.
At the 1953 All-Star game in Cincinnati, Dickson pitched the last two innings for the National League, four years after the Cardinals sold him to Pittsburgh.
“The family is very proud of his accomplishments,” Donna Dickson said.
Talk of the next Kansas City-area All-Star — regardless of the state line — inevitably turns to Gardner-Edgerton’s Bubba Starling. He got his first invitation to a big league spring training last February. His initial impression?
“Lots of energy around the clubhouse and out on the field,” Starling said.
It was the Kansas City Royals’ first full squad workout since Game 7 of the World Series. Starling, a centerfielder, had a chance to size up his abilities against big league pitchers.
“The top level guys. It was just great to see them, what they kind of had with (them),” Starling said. "I got to see how everyone went about their business and how they took care of stuff on the field and off the field. I was learning every day from them.”
There was hardly any fanfare in Tulsa as the visiting team in late April, but it was big for Bubba Starling because he was promoted to Double A ball. He started the season in Class A, but with a hot bat — a .386 average in a dozen games — and he was ready to move up. It’s been four years since Starling was paid $7.5 million as the fifth overall pick in the draft.
“Bubba, obviously being a multi-sport athlete with baseball being really his third sport, it’s taken him some time to mature really as a baseball player,” said his current manager for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Vance Wilson, a former big league catcher.
“You can’t forget how hard the game is," Wilson said. " You can’t forget that you played with guys that it took longer.”
Despite learning the game and moving up in the Royals organization, Starling lags behind his peers. Of the seven top picks in the 2011 draft, five have played in the big leagues and the top pick, Pittsburgh pitcher Gerrit Cole, is an All-Star.
Lack of consistent hitting has held up Starling. His fielding, however, is more polished.
“He doesn’t panic in the outfield. He never looks like he’s out of control,” Wilson said. “Not only a plus arm, but an accurate arm. The way he positions himself, a very, very good centerfielder.”
Starling says baseball history interests him, but he has never heard of Murry Dickson.
“I don’t know Murry Dickson,” said Starling with a laugh. “Not for sure.”
Donna Dickson knows a player will eventually emerge from Johnson, Wyandotte or Leavenworth counties to join her father in the All-Star ranks.
“New people enjoying the All-Star game. I think that would be terrific for our area,” Dickson said.
Maybe it will be Starling. Maybe someone else.