“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
Current Reds owner Bob Castellini likely remembers the above quote; if not, he certainly remembers the incident that generated it. For it’s his reintroduction of Mr. Redlegs as a brand that pays homage to this era of the mid-1950’s, when the Reds began winning fans in droves and expanded their hold on the Ohio Valley.
This surge was coupled with baseball’s (and the Redlegs’) increased power output in that decade. For the Reds, it hit a peak in 1956; not only did the Reds win over ninety games in 1956 (they are the equivalent of the 1999 Reds to that generation as the almost… but not quite team), they led the league in home runs (221, tying the then-record with the 1947 Giants)
Even better, for the first time in franchise history the Reds drew over one million fans, making them the final team of the original 16 to reach that plateau. Buried in that season of sudden success, pennant races and home runs is a run of civic pride that is best exemplified by the inclusion of 5 Reds as starters at the 1956 All Star Game.
The voting process then, as now, belonged to the fans, who had had control since Happy Chandler became Commissioner. The prior commissioner — the lofty Judge Landis — had previously decided the contest was too important to incur shoddy voting practices, and thus he made the team assembly the responsibility of the All Star game manager, a task no one really wanted (something that still applies today when it comes to replacements and pitchers). Once the vote was given to the fans it was handled by having newspapers print ballots in their sports section that could be filled out and mailed in to the central office of the league (sounds almost caveman-like in retrospect.. point-click-submit). Other sponsors placed their ballots in bars and tavern around town (Burger Beer claimed to have distributed 350,000 around Cincinnati).
When three more reserve Reds were added to the 1956 team there was a bit of rumbling around the league about the eight total players from one team that were going to the All Star game. However, it died down eventually.
Or so they thought… until the next June when it happened again.
“It would be terrible to have eight Redlegs in the starting lineup.”
In mid June of the 1957 season, 55 years ago, the Reds were 1.5 games behind the Cardinals, in second place with three other teams. All in all, the league was closely bunched with only the Cubs and Pirates out of the race at this point. Each day the National League received the votes for the All Star game and by mid-month, the leaders were starting to concern the NL office.
By their estimation, the votes that were coming in from Cincinnati were dwarfing the other cites entries, especially Chicago, where the Tribune, who had helped originate the All Star Game back in 1933, had declined to post ballots in their paper. The other local papers similarly declined, so the voting for the Chicago teams was woeful when compared to the deluge of votes appearing from Cincinnati. It appeared to the league that the Reds were going to win the vote at all eight positions that were up for vote.
Fearing a backlash and a complete farce, Commissioner Ford Frick and the league Presidents decided that they would replace three of the Reds that the commissioner’s office felt had reached their high vote totals in a manner that was not even handed.
“I took this step in an effort to be entirely fair to all fans and with no reflection of the sincerity or honesty of the Cincinnati poll. A re-study had to be made on the percentage of ballots cast in all cities. The rules as set up provide that the eight men receiving the largest number of ballots would constitute the starting line-up. The National League, while recognizing the rule, feel that the overbalance of Cincinnati ballots has resulted in the selection of a team which would not be typical of the league. There is little doubt that the five members of the Cincinnati team who received All-Star positions were either leading or in contention for their places, about the three others there are plenty of questions. “Ford Frick
Reds Manager Birdie Tebbets felt that George Crowe (who had only 703 MLB ab’s prior to 1957) should be made honorary member of the team. He was replaced by Stan Musial, and Gus Bell and Wally Post were replaced by Willie Mays and Henry Aaron. The five Reds starters were as follows.
Don Hoak – 3rd Base
Roy McMillan – SS
Johnny Temple – 2nd Base
Ed Bailey – C
Frank Robinson – LF
In the final tally, Musial did indeed beat out Crowe; however the late votes (550K) from Cincinnati were enough for the commissioner to take the vote away from the fans again and they wouldn’t get it back until 1970 which, oddly enough, was the year the game was played in Cincinnati at the new Riverfront Stadium.
Back in 1957 however, the stories coming out of Cincinnati tended to sound like the following one:
A local Tavern receives ballots from Reds sponsor Burger Beer and leaves them on the counter in stacks, a young girl comes by and takes 1400 home and fills out all her favorite Reds players and then returns the stack to Tavern, to be returned to the Beer distributor the next day, who then mails them in to the league office. The Z-Bar in Cincinnati accounted for over 10,000 ballots and Frick’s decision irked bartender Al Huff, “You can’t change the rules after the game has started” claimed Huff.
Even ex-Red Nelson Pott the leader of the Cincinnati Old-Timers Ballplayers Association had a problem with Frick:
“I voted 820 times myself,” claimed Pott.
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.
Events such as these led The Sporting News to suggest that the voting be limited to the fans at the park (which was what they did when they finally returned the vote to the fans)
Frick’s move so enraged Reds fan Harry Washer that he hired local attorney Charles Keating Jr. (yep, the same one) to sue Frick for his removal of Gus Bell; eventually, he dropped the suit when Bell was named as a backup. However, Post and Crowe were not chosen to be on the team and they instead were promised by the league that they would receive a “Memento” for their troubles. I had a hard time finding any sniff of an acknowledgment or a memento after the contest for either Crowe or Post. This all came on the heels of statements by Gabe Paul, Redlegs GM, and manager Tebbets:
“The votes were cast and the rules were adhered to fairly.”
“Frick should indicate that the three removed players officially were voted in”
Crowe oddly enough was only in the running because Ted Kluszewski was ailing and couldn’t play much that season. The following year, he was handed the job outright, but he didn’t slug as he had before and was eventually traded to St. Louis after the 1958 season, where he, yep… you guessed it… backed up Stan Musial, the man who replaced him at first in 1957.
The Reds were good that year, but hardly good enough to own all 8 positions. Below are the top players who qualified at the end of the 1957 season; there is a list for each position voted on. Below the list is the Reds player leading the vote on 6-23-1957 — included is their batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage on that date. This is the date that Frick took the three Redlegs off the table as far as being starters. In the case of the three who were yanked (Bell, Post and Crowe), I have included the player who replaced them and their batting line at that time.
The leading vote getter that year was new Reds third baseman Don Hoak, an intense player who beat future hall of famer Eddie Matthews out for starting third sacker. Hoak had 481,882 votes to lead all NL players.
1957 1B RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Stan Musial 9.90 .422 .612 2 Dale Long 6.95 .378 .496 3 Ed Bouchee 6.88 .394 .470 4 Gil Hodges 6.78 .366 .511 5 George Crowe 5.47 .314 .504 6 Frank Thomas 5.27 .335 .460 7 Whitey Lockman 3.64 .308 .331 George Crowe - 6/23 .283/.322/.530 Stan Musial - 6/23 - .361/.422/.643 1957 2B RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Red Schoendienst 5.61 .344 .451 2 Johnny Temple 5.40 .387 .341 3 Don Blasingame 4.76 .343 .368 4 Bill Mazeroski 4.52 .318 .407 5 Danny O'Connell 4.08 .324 .364 6 Jim Gilliam 3.82 .323 .314 7 Bobby Morgan 3.08 .294 .299 8 Granny Hamner 2.67 .274 .345 Johnny Temple - 6/23 - .289/.413/.362 1957 SS RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Ernie Banks 7.35 .360 .579 2 Charlie Neal 5.35 .356 .411 3 Dick Groat 5.19 .350 .437 4 Roy McMillan 4.83 .371 .357 5 Al Dark 4.42 .326 .381 6 Johnny Logan 4.35 .319 .401 7 Daryl Spencer 3.97 .313 .376 8 Chico Fernandez 3.19 .302 .336 Roy McMillan - 6/23 - .241/.341/.297 1957 3B RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Eddie Mathews 8.05 .387 .540 2 Don Hoak 6.11 .381 .482 3 Eddie Kasko 3.87 .319 .334 4 Puddin' Head Jones 3.37 .310 .332 Don Hoak 6/23 - .278/.375/.518 1957 C RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Ed Bailey 6.26 .377 .463 2 Hank Foiles 5.23 .352 .431 3 Stan Lopata 4.74 .331 .433 4 Roy Campanella 3.96 .316 .388 5 Del Crandall 3.87 .308 .410 6 Cal Neeman 3.79 .298 .376 7 Hal Smith 3.71 .314 .351 Ed Bailey - 6-21 - .294/.423/.502 1957 LF RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Frank Robinson 7.44 .376 .529 2 Bob Skinner 6.68 .370 .468 3 Wally Moon 6.42 .367 .508 4 Wes Covington 6.40 .339 .537 5 Hank Sauer 6.17 .343 .508 6 Harry Anderson 5.21 .333 .453 7 Del Ennis 5.06 .332 .494 8 Gino Cimoli 4.96 .343 .410 9 Chuck Tanner 4.67 .329 .408 10 Bobby Thomson 4.14 .295 .410 Frank Robinson - 6/23 - .339/.386/.553 1957 CF RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Willie Mays 9.13 .407 .626 2 Duke Snider 7.09 .368 .587 3 Richie Ashburn 5.46 .390 .364 4 Bill Bruton 5.10 .317 .438 5 Gus Bell 4.85 .332 .420 6 Ken Boyer 4.35 .318 .414 7 Bob Speake 4.12 .299 .404 8 Bill Virdon 3.73 .291 .383 Gus Bell 6/23 - .287/.327/.420 Willie Mays 6/23 - .315/.414/.574 NATIONAL LEAGUE SEASON 1957 RF RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG 1 Hank Aaron 8.40 .378 .600 2 Carl Furillo 5.58 .358 .461 3 Walt Moryn 5.53 .348 .447 4 Rip Repulski 4.31 .290 .436 5 Wally Post 4.04 .291 .437 6 Roberto Clemente 3.12 .288 .348 7 Don Mueller 3.07 .280 .318 Wally Post - 6/23 - .243/.291/.439 Hank Aaron - 5/23 .327/.368/.603