Nope, this post isn’t about relievers.
Baseball’s All-Star Game is tomorrow. That’s right, we’re always breaking news at the Hall of Miller and Eric. Anyway, with the game coming up, I have some thoughts. No, I don’t much care whether or not this game decides home field advantage for the World Series. I don’t really care about the final vote or the home run derby. Heck, I don’t even think I’ll watch much of the game. Maybe none. Yet I’m still fascinated by parts of it.
And not the parts of it normal people would suspect.
Royal catcher and minor star Salvador Perez was this year’s leading vote getter. How??? I’d have guessed it would be Mike Trout. Or Bryce Harper. Or maybe even David Ortiz. So I looked around the interwebs for a few minutes to find vote totals. I couldn’t. Maybe I’m not as talented a researcher as I claim. Or maybe vote totals aren’t available these days? I have no idea.
But there was certainly a day when those totals were available. They appeared daily in these things we used to call “newspapers”. As a kid I remember looking at these totals every day for weeks (whether or not my memory is accurate is a question for another time). I remember rooting for my favorites and wondering why the paper would even list guys who had about 10% of the leader’s totals.
And I remember learning about Steve Garvey and Rico Carty, two guys who became All-Star Game starters because thousands and thousands of people grabbed a writing implement and wrote their names on ballots that were, I have to imagine, counted by hand. The notion of such a count is kind of unimaginable to me today in our click-y society. Thus, the title of this post being about pens. The things people used to use to write.
Back in 1970, fans wrote in the name of the often injured and talented singles hitter Rico Carty over Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, and others. The one thing Carty did well was something beloved by fans in 1970. He hit for a high average – .342 in 1969 and .372 before the 1970 game. That July he went 0-1 with a walk starting alongside Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in the National League outfield. I have little doubt that his children and grandchildren are still talking about that outfield configuration.
Carty was never again an All-Star. Beeg Boy, as he was known, finished with 1677 hits and 204 homers if fifteen seasons. And I rank him as the 57th greatest left fielder ever, in a group with Gene Woodling, B.J. Surhoff, and Lefty O’Doul – all better than Hall of Famer Chick Hafey.
Four years later, the fans were at it again, this time writing in Steve Garvey’s name. Garvey’s election surprises me somewhat less than Carty’s. To start, Garvey was the second such guy. Things are always less surprising the second time. Also, his competition, great as it was, wasn’t Roberto Clemente and Pete Rose. The two most famous NL first basemen of the time, other than Garvey, were Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Tony Perez. Also less impressive for Garvey were his infield mates. Yes, there was Joe Morgan. But the other two were Larry Bowa and Ron Cey (Mike Schmidt, pretty amazingly, didn’t get a start until 1979). Garvey played the entire game, had a pair of hits in four trips, and won the game’s MAP trophy.
Garvey was a far more popular player than Carty, making ten All-Star teams in total. However, he wasn’t really any better than Carty, certainly not much better. Garvey, of course, was healthier, still standing as the NL leader in consecutive games played. Garvey finished his career with 2599 hits and 272 homers. In terms of my MAPES rankings though, Garvey is just 60th among first sackers in history, sitting with Dave Orr, Tioga George Burns, Cecil Cooper, and George Scott. Not that great, yet still better than Hall of Famers Jim Bottomley and High Pockets Kelly.
Are write-in winners still possible?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
I literally don’t know if write-ins are even possible. So I looked for this year’s ballot to see if there was a place for a write-in. A google image search for “2016 mlb all-star ballot” didn’t reveal this year’s ballot (though I did pretty easily find the 1975 ballot). Does baseball even allow you to write or type someone’s name in?
Let’s say they did. Let’s say you could write in anyone’s name you want. Would we ever again? Part of me wants to say that since we haven’t done so in over 40 years, it’s incredibly unlikely. The old man in me wants to suggest that society has changed, and maybe it has. The two presumptive major party candidates for President, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, were certainly the most well-known candidates when the campaign began. Society didn’t have to work too hard to “familiarize” itself with them. Before smart phones became so heavily relied upon to conduct Internet research, I remember reading something about 90%+ or 99%+ of Google searches not moving beyond what could be seen on the first screen.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re a bit lazy. Others may say we have so many options that we decreasingly choose that which we once did. Others say we prioritize differently. I really do think that we’re a little lazy. I think we work to come up with an answer rather than trying to find the answer.
Maybe I’m a pessimistic person.
Or maybe not.
I don’t think we can predict how society or any segment thereof will behave in 20 years, let alone 100. Could we have another write-in winner? I don’t know. But I’m not prepared to say we can’t.
Enjoy the All-Star Game!
Or don’t. Like I said, I don’t imagine I’m going to much of watch. If I could see Clayton Kershaw against Mike Trout, Manny Machado, David Ortiz, and Mookie Betts, I would. But Kershaw’s not pitching. The game just isn’t special to me these days.
Back when Rico Carty and Steve Garvey received starting nods due to fans writing in their names, sure. Today, not so much.
Just so nobody mistakes this for a “grrrr, get off my lawn” post, let me say the following. The real games get going again on Friday. Another even numbered year, another title for the Giants? Can the Pirates crush the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans? Will the Yankees look to rebuild? Will Michael Fullmer continue to shine with the Tigers? Will David Ortiz continue to hit like he’s 25? Will Giancarlo Stanton continue to hit like he’s closer to 45? Will Andrew McCutchen turn it around? Will Mike Trout again lead the game in WAR?
See, I still love the game, just not the All-Star Game.