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Wednesday was the 84th birthday of Hermitage High graduate and former Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Gene Alley. Thursday is the 57th anniversary of the only MLB All-Star Game in which Alley played.

The day after his 27th birthday, he started at shortstop for the National League in the 1967 exhibition game in Anaheim, California, and lasted 15 innings, setting the record for the longest game in history. The 2008 All-Star Game also lasted 15 innings.

It wasn’t the longest game Alley played in. In 1972, his walk with the bases loaded gave the Pirates a 1-0 victory in 18 innings over the San Diego Padres in a game that lasted 4:27.

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The 1967 All-Star Game, in which Alley participated, began at 4:15 p.m. ET and ended 3:41 a.m. A 15th-inning home run by Cincinnati’s Tony Perez against Kansas City’s Catfish Hunter in his fifth inning gave the NL a 2-1 victory.







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Hermitage High graduate Gene Alley threw a double play against the Chicago Cubs during his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.


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The other two runs were also scored by home runs, a home run by Dick Allen of Philadelphia in the second inning and a home run by Brooks Robinson of Baltimore in the sixth inning.

Alley was eighth for the NL and had no hits in five at-bats. There were 30 strikeouts in the game and Alley had three of them. He was in good company. Roberto Clemente struck out four times and fellow Hall of Famer Tony Oliva missed three times.

When he attended Hermitage High in the late 1950s, Alley hoped to attend the University of Richmond on a basketball scholarship. However, the Spiders did not offer him a scholarship. Instead, Alley signed with the Pirates and headed to Dubuque, Iowa, at age 18 to begin his professional career.







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Gene Alley and his grandson Jack Lamb spent some time together in 2003. Alley was a shortstop at Hermitage High School and later played for the Pittsburgh Pirates.


CINDY BLANCHARD, TIMES-DISPATCH


He eventually played 11 seasons (1963-73) for the Pirates, was named a National League All-Star twice, and won a pair of Gold Gloves as one of the best shortstops in the major leagues. Alley missed the 1968 All-Star Game due to injury.

Pittsburgh won the 1971 World Series by defeating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. The Pirates triumphed over an Orioles team that included four 20-game winners (Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson).

Alley played in 114 games during the 1971 season and had a batting average of .227, but did not play much in the final period or in the World Series.







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“By the end of the year, I was having problems with my arm and my knee,” said Alley, who was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

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Both problems began years earlier. The arm problem probably stemmed from years of pitching, Alley concluded, and that came and went. He still remembers the game in which he injured his left knee. In Houston during the 1969 season, a Houston runner was on first base and a grounder was hit to the Pirates’ first baseman.

“I went over to cover and (the first baseman) threw the ball up and to the pitcher’s side,” Alley said. “I kept my foot on the bag and reached up. The guy caught me good and sprained my knee.”

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Several operations followed.

“I’ve had problems ever since,” Alley said of his knee.







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EMPLOYEE PHOTO


After retiring from baseball, Alley worked for a printing company in the Richmond area. He finished his major league career with a batting average of .254.

In 2013, Alley received the Paul Keyes RBI (Richmond Baseball Impact) Award, which is given annually in memory of the late VCU baseball coach Paul Keyes to an individual who has made a significant contribution to baseball within the Richmond community or the expanded Richmond community. Keyes died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 50 after leading the Rams for 18 years.

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