Royals fans have been under scrutiny the last few weeks for the incredible vote totals received by Royals players for the All-Star Game. Some have accused Royals fans of "hacking" into the system, or fraudulently voting, but the simplest explanation is just that Royals fans are just really, really, really excited about baseball year, moreso than any other market right now. But they are not the first fanbase to get rabid about voting for their hometown nine to the Midsummer's Classic.
"I strongly object to our league making a burlesque out of the All-Star Game. I never want to see such an exhibition again."
-Commissioner Ford Frick
The most famous case of ballot-stuffing occurred in 1957 in Cincinnati, when seven Redlegs players were elected to the National League squad along with Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial. The Redlegs were coming off a solid 91-win campaign in 1956, and were in first place much of the summer of '57. However, National League officials found that half of the ballots cast came from Cincinnati, discovering that the Cincinnati Times-Star was printing pre-filled ballots in their Sunday edition. Even bars got into the act, requiring patrons to fill out a ballot full of Redlegs players before they received their drink.
The Reds had a good offensive team with future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, MVP candidate Don Hoak, former All-Stars Gus Bell, Johnny Temple and Ed Bailey, and slugger Wally Post, who had hit 76 home runs combined over the previous two seasons. Most of the players elected had a decent case to be made for the All-Star Game. Post and shortstop Roy McMillan were the only starters hitting under .290 by the Midsummer Classic.
Still, the number of Redlegs to be represented at the game in St. Louis seemed excessive, and Commissioner Ford Frick ordered two of the All-Stars off the team. Curiously, he did not bench McMillan in favor of future Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, instead taking Bell and Post out of the lineup (Bell was still a reserve) and replacing them with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Frick prohibited fan voting for the All-Star game until 1970.
"The commissioner wants to let the fans know they are part of the All-Star Game. It was a good idea when it was introduced in 1970. Now it has gotten out of hand."
-Angels outfielder Don Baylor
Fan voting had returned for almost a decade when calls resurfaced to take it away again. Teams were responsible for setting up ballot boxes at the stadium for fans to fill out paper ballots, but some teams flooded their fans with ballots. Philadelphia set up 56 ballot boxes around Veterans Stadium, compared to just four ballot boxes in all of County Stadium in Milwaukee. The Phillies weren't alone, Red Sox and Yankees fans also took the voting seriously, stuffing the ballot for their players as well.
Philadelphia fans got each of their infielders in the top four in voting, getting Mike Schmidt in at third base, and light-hitting Larry Bowa in at shortstop despite solid seasons from St. Louis' Garry Templeton and Cincinnati's Dave Concepcion. Templeton was so upset at the snub he rejected an All-Star appearance altogether. No Phillies outfielders were voted in, although all three were in the top seven in balloting.
In the American League, the outfield was full of Red Sox hitters - Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Carl Yastrzemski (despite the fact Yaz was really a designated hitter), nudging out Angels slugger Don Baylor, who would go on to be named Most Valuable Player. A late surge in voting prevented some curious results, like Boston's Carlton Fisk getting in despite missing most of April and May with an injury, or light-hitting Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent going in over Alan Trammell, Robin Yount, and Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, who was enjoying a fantastic season.
Nonetheless, the results irked players enough that 300 of them signed a petition to remove fan voting, a request that would be denied.
"I'm not begrudging Japanese baseball fans the right to vote for Major League Baseball's All-Stars -- well, maybe I'm a little begrudging -- but is it fair to the non-Mariners on the ballot, when nearly every game played by the Seattle Mariners -- alone among the 30 major-league clubs -- is telecast back in Japan?"
In 2001, Ichiro-mania hit the United States, as former Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki played his rookie season in Major League Baseball with the Seattle Mariners. Along the way to winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, Ichiro led the Mariners to a remarkable, near record-setting 116-win season. He also caused a media sensation, with a throng of Japanese reporters following his every move, and every Mariners game televised back home in Japan.
When the vote totals were revealed over the summer it became clear that not only was Ichiro Suzuki dominating All-Star voting, but most of his teammates were also doing well. Internet voting was a relatively new phenomenon, but the Mariners votes weren't coming from online. Some began pointing fingers at the Far East, highlighting that voting could be done at grocery stores around the world including Japan.
In late June, five Mariners were leading their respective positions. Ichiro and designated hitter Edgar Martinez were no surprise. Second baseman Bret Boone was having a fantastic season. First baseman John Olerud was a bit more suspect considering the year A's slugger Jason Giambi was having. David Bell leading the vote at third base was a complete shock. Bell, coming off an 81 OPS+ season, was putting up numbers greatly overshadowed by Angels slugger Troy Glaus. In addition to Bell's strong showing, catcher Dan Wilson was second in voting, and Mike Cameron was fourth - nice players, but certainly not All-Star caliber players.
A late surge in voting for Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken (also certainly not worthy on that season's stats) prevented Bell from getting into the game, but the Mariners still sent four starters to the Midsummer Classic that year.
"We have built in enough safeguards, which we didn't have in the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s and even the '90s, so I'm comfortable where we are."
-Commissioner Bud Selig
The Giants were in the midst of what would be their second World Championship season in three years, and the love was being returned by San Francisco fans. Giants fans may have been one of the first fanbases to discover that the online voting system had holes.
When voting results were released in mid-June, all four Giants infielders were in the top three in balloting, all three outfielders were in the top eleven, and catcher Buster Posey was the leading vote-getter. Even more curious was the fact that second baseman Freddy Sanchez had not played an inning of baseball that season.
Posey would set a National League record in votes that year, and he would be joined by starters Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval's selection drew ire around the league when a late surge pushed him past Mets third baseman David Wright, who had much superior numbers. First baseman Brandon Belt would finish second in balloting, and light-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford would finish second as well, while the mediocre Angel Pagan would finish fifth in outfielder balloting.
Nonetheless, Commissioner Selig insisted no shenanigans had been used to push the Giants vote totals up. The Giants All-Stars quickly shut up critics who mocked Giants fans for being "bad fans" when the National League routed the American League at the All-Star Game in Kansas City, with Cabrera named All-Star MVP.
Over the years, fraud in fan balloting has been a recurring issue. There have been stories of fans taking stacks of ballots and voting with an ice-pick, tales of alleged hacking of online voting, and fans who claim to have voted tens of thousands of times. One common thread in these incidents, is that somehow in the end, the ballot-stuffing falls short, either through Commissioner intervention, or other fans rallying to prevent it. As Commissioner Rob Manfred said recently:
"Fans have a way of correcting things by the end of the voting," Manfred said. "We have seen already markets outside of Kansas City saying ‘Gee it ought to be my guy and not that guy from Kansas City’ and really significant increases in the number of votes and that’s the sort of engagement we want."
My best guess is Omar Infante has three days of rest during the All-Star break. But with the energy and enthusiasm Royals fans are showing this year, I wouldn't be entirely certain of that.