1957 Ballot Stuffing

Update: Just to see the look on Bud Selig’s face, go Vote for Manny for the All-Star Game.

Or your 26th, which I placed a few weeks ago at Great American Ballpark.

After yesterday’s post about George Crowe, I was interested in the ballot stuffing incident in 1957, so like usual, I looked it up and am regurgitating it to you. There will be more stuff on the All-Star Game when the time comes up.

Held first in 1933 as part of Chicago’s World’s Fair, the All-Star Game was Arch Ward’s idea, but it was only supposed to be a one-time event. Its success, however, caused it to become an annual event. Originally, the managers of the teams selected the entire team. Then in 1947, the fans were the ones who elected the players. This worked pretty well until 1957.

In 1957, the Cincinnati Enquirer had a great idea. They liked their team, so they printed already marked All-Star ballots with every Sunday paper. This made it easy for people to vote. They could take it out of the paper, bring it to the stadium, and put it in the box. The problem, or advantage depending on your vantage point, is that the stadium has them as well, and with all the ballots, Reds fans filled the ballot boxes.

They did it to the point that 7 of the 8 Reds starting position players were elected. Well, this was the point, but to most it seemed quite odd and unfair. Ed Bailey (.297/.423/.522 by the Break), Johnny Temple (.292/.416/.364), Roy McMillan (.246/.351/.308), Don Hoak (.292/.379/.518), Frank Robinson (.312/.367/.495), Gus Bell (.291/.330/.411), and Wally Post (.231/.276/.424) all made the team with George Crowe losing out to Stan Musial (only Stan the Man could win such a struggle). While most of them are fine players, all 7 were not All-Star caliber players, and the results necessitated an investigation.

The investigation found out what happened (and even that some bars refused to serve drinks until a customer voted), and Commissioner Ford Frick was ticked. Bell and Post were removed from the starting lineup, and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were named as replacements. Bell would be put back in the starting lineup, but Frick promised changes. In fact, he took away the vote from the fans, and for the next 13 seasons, the managers, players, and coaches voted.

Today, ballot stuffing is pretty much the norm. Sure, there are some restrictions. The same number of ballots are given to each team to have people vote in the ballparks. People can vote online, but they can only vote 25 times. Nomar Garciaparra received 14,000 votes in 1999 due to an automatic computer program, but steps have been taken to prevent this from happening again. Other than that, ballot stuffing is pretty much common practice and even encouraged. The differences are the slight restrictions and the non “pre-marked” ballots and coercion (okay, that is illegal). Actually having to put in the votes makes it a bit more troublesome and cuts down on the ballot stuffing. But how else do you explain the amount of Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs in All-Star Games? It’s not a coincidence, is it?

Now, all this is not to say that I discourage it. Frankly, I don’t care. If the fans of New York, Boston, and Chicago are going to or are going to watch the game and make up most of the fans doing so, then fine. If they put the time in to vote, then it’s okay with me.

As for my voting, I usually vote for who deserves it that season. That seems perfectly normal and appropriate, but unlike most, I have no qualms with those who vote for players based on prior performance, within limits. Certain players deserve to be there based on a career’s performance (but not a few years, I’m looking at you David Wright) because they are the faces of the game, the faces people know. To me, it’s always seemed more appropriate to award a few seasons worth of performance instead of a fluky first half, but if we continue to base it on that, I won’t complain (and will continue to vote that way because that seems to be the general feeling). I like watching the game because it’s a baseball game with lots of guys I know playing with guys they never play with. Granted, I would prefer it didn’t have World Series implications or a player from every team (those arguments are for another time), but I’ll never complain about the game itself.

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