Royals All Star Voting Echoes Last Time MLB Fans Stuffed The Ballot Box
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Every year, Major League Baseball fans vote-in starters for the All-Star game. This year, Kansas City Royal fans have been voting early and often. Just a couple of weeks ago in the voting for the eight non-pitching positions, eight Royals were leading. Now it's five Royals who are leading. Casting many votes is permitted. In fact, it's encouraged.
But this year's results have sparked an uproar. It isn't the first time that fans of one team have stuffed the ballot box. In fact, the most egregious case before this was in 1957. It involved the Cincinnati Reds, who incidentally called themselves the Redlegs for a few years for fear of being associated with Communism. Chris Eckes, curator of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
CHRIS ECKES: Nice to be here.
SIEGEL: And how many Reds were voted to the National League All-Star team in 1957?
ECKES: Well, if the actual vote totals had been allowed to stand, it would've been seven of eight.
SIEGEL: The '57 Redlegs were a team that finished fourth out of eight teams in their league. The team had a few good players and one truly great player, Frank Robinson. How did they get so many All-Star votes?
ECKES: Well, a lot of it had to do with the success of the team the year before. The 1956 Reds were the first Reds team to be competitive in quite some time, so a lot of what happened in 1957 was carry-over from 1956. People in this town really fell in love with that team.
SIEGEL: And there were people who were really urging-on the fans to vote a lot.
ECKES: Absolutely. At that time, there weren't real strict rules governing All-Star voting. So here in Cincinnati, one paper in particular really got behind the endeavor, printing a ballot every day. And actually on the ballot was printed, vote early, vote often. And it became really this grassroots civic effort. People talked about doing your civic duty by voting. Waite Hoyt, the longtime Reds broadcaster, reminded people every day on the radio, do your civic duty - go out and vote. Ruth Lyons, who was a broadcasting legend here in a town, she did the same thing on her television show. And there's a brewer here in Cincinnati called the Burger Brewing Co., used to be a longtime sponsor of the Reds back then. They printed-up hundreds of thousands of ballots and sent them bars all over the city. And some of the bars would require that you complete a ballot before you could be served your beer.
ECKES: So it was a lot of fun, people had a great deal of fun with it, and it was one of those things that just kind of snowballed.
SIEGEL: If in fact the National League All-Star team had fielded all of the vote winners, it would've been Stan Musial of the Cardinals and seven Cincinnati Redlegs and then the pitcher. As it turned out though, the commissioner of baseball overruled the fans in this case.
ECKES: Yeah, that's correct. You know, as ballots started coming in, it became apparent that something unusual was happening. And he used his executive power to intercede and dropped two of the Reds and replaced them with some pretty familiar names - Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The bigger after-effect of it all was that fans were no longer permitted to vote after 1957, and that ban lasted all the way up until 1970.
SIEGEL: Well, a National League team heavy with Cincinnati Reds did play in the All-Star game, and what was the outcome of the game?
ECKES: Well, the American league actually emerged victorious in that game. They won the game 6-5.
SIEGEL: Chris Eckes, curator of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Thanks for talking with us.
ECKES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.