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Tuesday, July 11, 2006 | Nothing bespeaks good citizenship in this country more than voting. I have voted in most every election since Ike v. Adlai in 1952. The responsibility is simply too great to be taken lightly, or to be done by rote. In a 2004 political debate at Grossmont College, I pointed out that I’d voted for four Republicans, five Democrats, and three so-called third party candidates for president.
As seriously as I take it, others take it even more seriously. A while back I visited my old stomping grounds of Sevastopol, Indiana. Had a wonderful time visiting old friends, but when I confided to my sweetheart of the fourth grade (1940) that I’d voted for Nixon twice, she got really upset at me.
I think Marcella and her husband, Mumps, may be the only Democrats in Kosciusko County. I ended up sending her a photo of Lionel Van Deerlin to calm her down. It worked, or maybe she was afraid I’d send her another picture.
But we must remember that some elections are important, others not so important, and, still others are for all-star games. Believe me folks, the lineup of a baseball exhibition game isn’t worth fussing over. So far as I can tell there isn’t even a criterion for voting. I remember how folks carped because Mantle and Mays kept being elected years after their prime.
Nonsense! If those guys aren’t all stars, the term has no meaning. I voted for each several times each year and never felt bad about it. I’d vote for Willie today, possibly the Mick as well.
But among writers I’m in the minority here. Pundits across the country line up to make their annual whine over ballot stuffing. Last Wednesday, Nick Canepa of the other San Diego daily, spent his 700 words telling us how current voting procedures destroyed the meaning of the game. He cited the 1966 game as an example of how things should be.
I like Nick and agree with about everything he says. A lineup starting with Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Henry Aaron and Willie McCovey would be worth paying big bucks to see. And people did. Box seats for the 1966 game ran a good four or five bucks.
But we must remember that those guys didn’t represent the fans’ voting. In 1957 a Cincinnati newspaper had headed a ballot stuffing campaign to elect Reds players. That lineup did not include Willy Mays or Hank Aaron. Ford Frick woke up long enough to make one of his two decisions as commissioner. He didn’t allow fan voting for twelve years, a decision about as silly as denigrating Maris’s 61 homers as something less than a record.
Stuffing the ballot box for an all-star game is as American as apple pie, and a lot of fun to boot. During the doldrums of baseball in San Diego in the 70s, the Moser Insurance Agency where I worked had season tickets right behind first base. ‘Twas a lot of fun. To start with, there were seldom enough people coming to San Diego Stadium to cause a traffic jam. Also the folks in section 35 all got to know one another.
My favorite was a lady named Ruby. She may have been the world’s greatest fan. She kept score and even counted the pitches. Sometimes she listened to the Dodgers’ game on her portable radio and counted the pitches in that game as well. Ruby had two baseball passions. First, she wanted to see Mike Ivey become a star player with the Pads. Poor Mike scuttled that by developing a phobia. He couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher. Gosh we had some lulus in the 70s!
Foiled in helping Mike Ivey, she decided to ensure that her other passion would come to pass. She would make Dave Winfield become the first Padre elected to the all-star game! Every night she’d urge all of us in section 35 to vote for her hero. Ever helpful, I would dutifully get as many ballots as the usher would let me have. Then I’d punch in “Whitfield,” an outfielder for the Giants and pass them to Ruby to turn in. She’d have a regular conniption over that.
My protesting of innocence didn’t assuage Ruby’s feelings a bit. I’m sure she thought me as un-American as if I’d voted for Nixon. Or, in Ruby’s case, for Van Deerlin. Ruby more than made up for my Whitfield votes by getting her bridge club to vote an entire case of ballots for her hero.
I like to think Ruby, probably more than any other person, sent Winfield off to the 1978 All Star Game. I betcha that’s one of the big reasons why, in 2001, when elected to the Hall of Fame, Dave chose to be entered as a Padre.
By the way, when Winfield made his choice it reportedly irked Yankee owner George Steinbrenner so much he tried to get the Hall of Fame to disallow his choice and have him installed as a Yankee.
Any real baseball fan has to take delight in seeing the idiot from New York stymied, and it all started with stuffing the ballot box. Let’s not stop a good thing.