The ’57 Reds, the ’15 Royals, and St. Louis pearl clutching

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SI Cover: Cincinnati Reds: Klu, Post, Bell July 16, 1956

Originally appeared on PineTarPress.com – a now defunct website – on June 9, 2015

“I want the voting in the hands of the fans, but not if they make a joke out of it.” –Frank Lane St Louis Cardinals General Manager 1957,Redszone.com

“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, 1970, Sporting News

1957mlballstargameHistory goes in cycles. The newest mouse-trap is really just an updated version of an old mouse-trap. Unless you’ve been trapped in said mouse-trap, you likely know the controversy surrounding the online vote stuffing for the 2015 Kansas City Royals. As of this week, seven Royals were in line to start the midsummer classic, with a great chance at a having an all-Royals starting field save Mike Trout.

Many have never seen this before. The pearl clutching! The outrage! “They’re stuffing the ballots!! Think of the kids!!”

“Wake up and smell the barbecue. That’s the smell of the Royals taking over the baseball world.” –Stephen Mast, 2015, FoxSports.com

Yet, this is just another example of history repeating itself.  It has all happened before, and it’s about to happen again.

Enter the story of the 1957 All-Star Game to be held four hours east in St. Louis, Missouri. While the Cardinals and the Cubs have one of baseball’s most heated rivalries, there is no love lost between the STL and Cincinnati either. And part of it is because fans of the Reds stuffed the ballot box and elected SEVEN starting players for the National League team to start the game. From legendsrevealed.com:

Ted (Big Klu) Kluszewski was a slugging first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1950s. A popular player, he was an All-Star in 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956. However, in 1957, Kluszewski was injured most of the season, so his back-up, George Crowe, became the everyday first baseman for the Reds, and it was Crowe who was on the All Star Ballot as the Reds’ First Base representative.

That’s notable only because, when the voting results were in for the 1957 All Star Game (to be held in St. Louis), Crowe was the ONLY one of Cincinnati’s EIGHT players on the ballot to NOT get elected to be in the All-Star Game!!!  Yep, Catcher Ed Bailey, Second Baseman Johnny Temple, Shortstop Roy McMillan, Third Baseman Don Hoak, Left Fielder Frank Robinson, Center Fielder Gus Bell and Right Fielder Wally Post ALL got elected by the fans to start for the National League in the 1957 All Star Game!

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SI Cover: Kansas City Royals: Hosmer, 10-7-2015

This has got to start sounding familiar. There was a national outcry and it really upset the Commissioner of Baseball, Ford Frick. “It would be terrible to have eight Redlegs in the starting lineup,” said Frick according to Redszone.com.

Bars in Cincinnati refused to serve alcohol unless their patrons submitted completed ballots. Newspapers circulated pre-completed ballots to be submitted. Both activities were against the rules, but both exercises were common in the time period. Cincinnati reportedly got the idea from Chicago. The stuffing was underway.

Commissioner Frick put his foot down, however and threw three Reds off the team and only Hoak, McMillan, Temple, Bailey and Robinson started in St. Louis.

“Even an effigy of Frick was dragged through downtown Cincinnati by the back of a truck, with signs posted on the rear condemning him for his decision to remove the three Reds players.” –Redszone.com.

CHwC9dkUAAA4YllFrick also removed fan voting for future All-Star games and didn’t reinstate it until 1970. (The first All-Star game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, ironically.) Frick stated that no teams’ fans could make “a burlesque” of the game.

You’ll detect a number of differences with this year’s vote which threatens to include Omar Infante and Alex Rios in the starting line up in Cincinnati. But there has been no specific outrage from inside the MLB offices that has been made public, to date.  However, there has been a ton out on the Internet.

Now, keen observers will detect a number of similarities between the 1957 Reds and the 2015 Royals. Perhaps MLB could step in and kick off a few Royals for the good of the game? There’s a precedent for it, certainly. It’s already assumed that something will come of Kansas City’s digital barrage of voting for an all Royals ASG.

One thing is certain, Cincinnati will certainly be an interesting place in a month – as it was in 1957. The Redlegs and the Boys in Blue have much to discuss. Maybe it’s that we both just hate St. Louis?

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