All Star games seem to have lost popularity in all sports over the past decade or so. Many fans feel a meaningless exhibition game doesn't hold their interest, and does nothing but take away the flow of a season for a handful of days.
That feeling was felt during the initial All Star game in 1933. Calls for a game featuring the game's top players were heard as early as the 1910's, and baseball's inaugural midsummer classic would be the first of it's kind, and was a product of the World's Fair being held in Chicago that year. Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, had the idea after Chicago's Mayor had approached the newspaper about a major sporting event to coincide with the Fair, and help boost morale during the Great Depression. The game, held during the Fair, was to show off the "Century of Progress" for the city.
Many players, such as Lou Gehrig of the Yankees, felt a meaningless exhibition took away from the pressure and rhythm of the pennant race, and increased chances for injury.
Owners also needed a boost to get fans excited to go to the park again. From 1930-1933, some of the worst years of the Depression, attendance dropped about 40 percent, and player salaries were slashed roughly 25 percent. Fans that used to sit in the box seats around the baselines moved to the less expensive bleachers. Because of this, roster sizes shrunk, player-managers became in vogue (as a way to pay one person for two jobs),and wages were slashed. Owners also tried bringing back fans by giving free admission to women or kids on certain days, giveaways such as groceries, and eventually, night baseball.
So as a way for fans to become more involved, a tie in to the All Star Game included allowing fans the chance to vote for the players they wanted to see in the game. Ballots were printed in newspapers nationwide, and for the first time fans became involved in roster decisions and the game itself.
The event was an immediate success, with NBC and CBS both broadcasting on radio nationwide. It was immediately decided the game would be played in 1934, and became a fixure in most future baseball seasons (with the exception of 1945 due to wartime travel restrictions). Other leagues soon followed suit, with the College Football All Star Game starting in 1934, the Pro Bowl in 1951, the NHL in 1947, and the NBA in 1951.
Yes, it was the man with the grand flare for the dramatic, Babe Ruth, who was the hero of the first game, going 2-for-4 with a 2-run home run that opened the game up as the American League won 4-2.
Sources: sabr.org, history.com, gettyimages