There is only one stoplight in Rose-mount, Minn., a clean, bucolic village of 1,300 located just south of Minneapolis-St. Paul that truly might be said to be The Sweepstakes Capital of the U.S. Each year the sale of postage stamps increases, and in 1969 over $286,000 worth were sold. In a normal year more than 100 million pieces of mail move into Rosemount as advertising agencies and sampling outfits use the community—conveniently located close by the main airport of the demographically central Twin Cities—to count and record responses in different campaigns and contests. In most ways this is a normal year for Rosemount, with some of its citizens merrily counting away for RCA, Winston cigarettes and the Frito Bandito. In one particular respect, however, the year is not at all usual for Rosemount or its pipe-smoking postmaster, Pat Bohnert. Baseball is moving in on the town, and when baseball moves in on anything, look out!
Within the next two weeks Rosemount, its post office, assorted computers and men and women are going to receive and count votes for both the American and National League All-Star teams that are to play in Cincinnati's new Riverfront Stadium on July 14. This is the first time in 13 seasons that the All-Star teams will be picked by the fans, and already the process is acquiring the status of legend in the conservative little world of major league baseball.
In some quarters this attempt to return the All-Star Game to the people by distributing 28 million ballots at a cost of $2½ million is referred to as "Bowie's boo-boo," a deprecating reference to the wisdom of Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's idea of bringing fan voting back after it seemingly died a controversial death back in 1957. Other quarters refer to the entire thing as "Bowie's baby" and believe that it is a fine idea that will enhance Kuhn's reputation. One way or the other, the commissioner's stature will rise or fall from whatever position it is in now.
Angry words about the project already have been heard from Atlanta, where Rico Carty, currently hitting .428, may not be elected to the team because his name is not one of the 96 listed on the ballot at all despite a lifetime batting average of .311 and a smile as wide as the Savannah. In Detroit Governor Bill Mil-liken has added his name to those thousands of outraged Tiger fans who have discovered that Al Kaline, currently hitting .331 and a perennial All-Star selectee, is not among the 18 American League outfielders considered prominent enough to be placed on the ballot.
California's Alex Johnson is hitting .360 and is one of the major reasons why the refreshing Angels are contenders in the American League West. Yet he is not only not listed but two weekends ago, when voting forms were supposed to be passed out in Anaheim Stadium so that the thousands in attendance could write Johnson's name in and thus get him off to a running start, there were no ballots. They had not arrived and the team soon was to go on the road, far away from its most ardent supporters. By the end of last week 14 of the top 20 hitters in the American and National Leagues were not listed either. While voters can write in the names of their favorites, it is as true of baseball as politics that write-in candidates usually have little chance.
The ballots themselves are typical computer cards. On them are printed the names of six candidates for each position in each league, and a voter punches out a square next to his choice. (The pitchers and reserves are selected by the managers.) Among the missing names are Billy Grabarkewitz, presently hitting .359 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dick Dietz, batting .345 for the San Francisco Giants, Nate Colbert and Clarence Gaston, who are helping to lift the San Diego Padres to respectability by 1) hitting 17 homers and 2) batting .340. Vada Pinson of the Indians (.347) and Felipe Alou of Oakland (.338) are not on the ballot, but Ken Harrelson who broke his ankle in mid-March, is there, and so are many others who are either injured or hitting below .230
Most people believe that the ballots either should have listed 12 candidates for each position or none at all and that they should have been printed closer to the voting time. The Gillette Company, long a friend of major league baseball, agreed to pay for the printing, counting and placing of the ballots in 150 major and minor league ball parks and 80,000 retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada. During spring training this year the commissioner's office gave lists of possible candidates to each of the major league player representatives as well as to the managers. The six highest vote-getters for each position on the returned ballots became the candidates on the ballots distributed to the public. One problem was that four managers and eight player representatives did not vote. Another that might have been foreseen was that rookies were automatically discounted, just as were players who had been traded to the other league.
Only blind luck saved the commissioner's office further embarrassment. Tony Perez was hitting and homering so well at Cincinnati (.375, 20 HRs, 57 RBIs) that the outcry over the absence of two other third basemen, Grabarkewitz and Philadelphia's Don Money, was never as loud as it could have been. Still, to help Money, who was batting .356, the Girard Bank, with assets of over $2 billion, placed a color ad in The Philadelphia Bulletin, saying, "GIRARD BANK DIGS MONEY.... But Don Money's name isn't on the ballot for the National League All-Star team.... There's a place to write it in. Let's do it. All of us."
Nobody thought that there would be much writing in on the ballots, which began circulating around June 1. Of the first batches to go through the computers, though, 40% to 50% had write-ins and thus were spat out and will have to be counted by hand. Estimates on how many of the 28 million printed ballots will be returned to Rosemount range from eight million to 14 million and could go higher. That is a powerful lot of hand counting.
The very idea of an All-Star Game being played in Cincinnati with teams selected by the fans is about as appetizing to some as a breakfast of martinis, dumplings and knockwurst would be to a gourmet. It was Cincinnati's voting in 1957, in fact, that brought about the demise of elected All-Star teams. Bars, radio stations, the Red management and the Cincinnati Times-Star went out and campaigned zealously to get as many Red players as possible onto the team. (One fan admitted, "I voted 800 times myself.") In the week prior to the game the Reds, then in second place in the National League, had eight starters voted into positions. Left off the starting team were such players as Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst.