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The reason why the Cincinnatians succeeded so easily was that voter interest had been waning. In 1955 five players had pulled over two million votes each, but by the next year the highest vote-getter was Mickey Mantle, with slightly over 200,000 votes. The way was open for '57 and the apparent election of George Crowe at first base, Johnny Temple at second, Don Hoak at third, Roy McMillan at shortstop, Frank Robinson in left field, Gus Bell in center, Wally Post in right and Ed Bailey as catcher. On the Friday before the results were to be announced Ford Frick, then the Commissioner of Baseball, declared that Bell, Post and Crowe were disqualified as starters. As the last votes trickled in from around the country Musial did surpass Crowe's total, but Mays—hitting .308 at the time—was 170,000 votes behind Bell, and Aaron was 110,000 short of Post.
People laughed and screamed, and some in Cincinnati even threatened lawsuits. In announcing his decision Frick said, "I took this step in an effort to be entirely fair to all fans and with no reflection on the sincerity or honesty of the Cincinnati poll. A restudy of the ballots had to be made on the percentage of ballots cast in all cities.
"The rules as set up provide that the eight men receiving the largest number of ballots would constitute the starting lineup and remain in the All-Star Game for three innings. The National League, while recognizing this rule, feels that the overbalance of Cincinnati ballots has resulted in the selection of a team which would not be typical of the league.... Aaron and Mays had no chance in view of this late rush from Cincinnati."
Both Gillette and Commissioner Kuhn insist that this year the ballots cannot be maneuvered into positions favoring one candidate over another. Gillette is using a sales force of 150 men to check and see that the ballots are prominently displayed and that people are not picking them up by the fistful to vote for a certain player. With the 28 million ballots spread across the U.S., Canada and overseas with servicemen, it is conceivable that the policing could go well and that the ballot boxes will be stuffed only occasionally. But there also could be some big swings. If baseball is lucky the largest one will be to the deserving Rico Carty and not to the entire starting lineup of, say, the Milwaukee Brewers or the new, young Phillies.
Among ballplayers, Carty is generally considered to be the Latin-American version of an Oscar Meyer weiner. He puts on tremendous exhibitions of friendship toward fans, throws balls into the stands and sometimes does little dances on the outfield grass. In the trade he is said to have a pair of hands like the Venus de Milo, but he can hit. Early this season Carty went on a 31-game batting streak, the second longest in modern National League history, and two weeks ago, in Atlanta Stadium, he slugged three homers in one game. Carty has played 50 games this year and has hit safely in 45 of them. Should he not make the All-Star team, this would make it the second time in two years that he would have been seriously overlooked. After spending more than 160 days in a hospital bed with tuberculosis in 1968, Carty came back in 1969 to hit .342 as Atlanta won the Western Division championship, but he did not win the National League's Comeback of the Year award. That went to Tommie Agee of the New York Mets.
When Carty was 13 he worked in a sugercane field in the Dominican Republic. Following work one day, he ran to try to get one of the baseball gloves that had been sent by an American firm. "They were so pretty," he recalls. "I never see a glove before and I grab a left-handed one, but my Uncle Louis told me to put it down because I would never make it as a player. I ran home and cried."
In 1958 Carty was one of 18 selected for the Pan-American Games from a try-out of 500. He was so good and so obliging at Chicago during play that he signed more professional contracts than a Chicago policeman could shake a stick at—four with American clubs, four with Dominican clubs. It was finally decided that he should be the property of the Braves and receive a bonus of $2,000. Carty maintains that he struck out 45 times in a row at a minor league camp, but he quickly overcame that, and in his first major league season he hit .330.
Last week Henry Aaron asked his 13-year-old son to take a ballot to his room and select his own All-Star team. Young Hank punched out the names of three National League outfielders and then came and asked his dad, "Now where do I write in Rico's name?"
Henry, when asked what he thought of the idea of returning the vote to the fans, said, "I know the commissioner has tried hard to get the fans involved in the All-Star Game, but eventually I think he will have to give it back to the players. I also think that Rico's chances of making the starting team are very slim, because All-Star voting is often a sentimental thing. People want to see the players who have been in it before. In places like San Francisco, for instance, they are going to write in their own favorites, and newspapers in various towns will write about and bring attention to those local players who have not been put on the ballot. It is a shame that it is Rico Carty's dilemma this year, and it will be someone else's dilemma this time next year."
Through the years the All-Star Game has been the vehicle for some of baseball's most legendary accomplishments. In 1934, at the Polo Grounds in New York, Carl Hubbell of the Giants struck out in order Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, each a Hall of Famer. Ted Williams helped win a game for the American League in 1946 by hitting a homer off Rip Sewell's famous "eephus ball." Four years later he broke his elbow in the All-Star Game at Comiskey Park while making a catch and did not know it was broken until the following day. In 1956 Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams all hit homers. In 1967 Tony Perez, who probably will draw more votes than any other player on the ballot this year, ended the longest All-Star Game (15 innings) with a home run, and last July, in Washington, Spiro Agnew, working in long relief of President Nixon, threw out the first ball and hit nobody at all.