Star-crossed Picks

Gus Bell instead of Willie Mays: A brief history of All-Star voting irregularities
January 08, 2007

THE CONTROVERSY over the All-Star write-in campaign for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick (SI, Dec. 25, 2006) continued last week as broadcaster Don Cherry called fans who voted for Fitzpatrick "kooks." Maybe, but if Fitzpatrick (right) gets elected, it would be the latest in a long line of kooky All-Star selections.

After baseball fans select seven players from the fourth-place Reds to the NL starting lineup—one third of all votes were cast in Cincinnati, where media outlets distributed premarked ballots—commissioner Ford Frick bumps Gus Bell and Wally Post in favor of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Frick also disenfranchises the fans.

Baseball returns the vote to fans—but only with official ballots. The problem: They are designed before the season with only six players listed at each position. Six of the top 10 NL hitters aren't on the ballot.

Vancouver backup goalie John Garrett makes the team when the Canucks' only All-Star, starting netminder Richard Brodeur, gets hurt. Garrett plays spectacularly and is voted MVP—until Wayne Gretzky scores four times in the last 10 minutes, prompting a revote. "It was something like his 13th car; it would have been my first," says Garrett.

Using a board and nails, an Oakland fan concocts a device that pops the chads of A's players. As a result Terry Steinbach, hitting .217, is the AL's starting catcher. "The fans call the shots," Steinbach says before the game. "I just came here to do my best." He does, winning MVP when he homers and drives in both AL runs in a 2--1 win.

Fans vote the retired Mike Schmidt (left) the starting third baseman for the NL. Says he, "I don't think they were saying I'm the best third baseman, just the guy who is their favorite." Schmidt, replaced on the roster, takes a bow, then sits on the bench before leaving in the fifth inning to go to dinner.

Computer programmer Chris Nandor, 25, casts 40,000 Internet ballots for Nomar Garciaparra. MLB catches on and tosses his votes, but Garciaparra (right) still passes New York's Derek Jeter. Opines Newsday, "Jeter may have the young female vote... but Garciaparra has the geek vote."

The NBA introduces ballots in Mandarin—and Houston rookie Yao Ming (13.0 ppg) outpolls Shaquille O'Neal (26.4 ppg) of the Lakers by 250,000 votes. A nervous Yao (left) must be talked into stepping into the tip-off circle by Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. "He was trying to get one of us to jump for him," says Duncan. "And we were trying to convince him that he was 7' 8" and he could win the tap."