“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

ballot

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.”
Ford Frick

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”
Birdie Tebbets

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

9 Responses

  1. preach

    “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.”

    Not considering this half season, this sure sounds a lot like history repeating itself over, and over, and over……

  2. Steve Mancuso

    Really enjoyed reading this. I wonder if there will be any official steps taken this year in response to the surge of votes for the SF Giants this year. I don’t mean take away Giants starters this year, I mean changing the voting regime next year.

    • Bill Lack

      Really enjoyed reading this. I wonder if there will be any official steps taken this year in response to the surge of votes for the SF Giants this year. I don’t mean take away Giants starters this year, I mean changing the voting regime next year.

      Wouldn’t surprise me, since one of the leading whiners was the Mets manager and since its NY, it must be important.

  3. Richard Fitch

    Yeah, this was a terrific read, Brian. Thanks for the work.

  4. pinson343

    Great stuff. I remember this well because the first All Star game I watched on tv was in 1958. I was a diehard Reds fan living near New York. There were no NL teams in NY that year, so I never got to watch the Reds on tv at all. I was thrilled at the thought of watching Bob Purkey, my favorite pitcher, and George Crowe, the Reds all stars. (Frank Robinson had an off year in ’58.) So I watch and Purkey and Crowe don’t even get into the game.
    I was disappointed nearly to tears (7 years old), then just started laughing at how crazy it was.

    Anyway my older brother explained to me that there were no Reds playing this time because the previous season there were way too many Reds.

    It was ironic that Crowe was on the AS team after being removed by Frick the previous season.

  5. pinson343

    The numbers suggest that Frank Robinson and Ed Bailey were deserving all stars in ’57. Johnny Temple also was, at least of a spot as a reserve. He was an outstanding 2nd baseman who got on base a lot. I’m biased, he was my original favorite player.

    Roy McMillan was not deserving, but was a great defensive SS. He won the Gold Glove in 1957, ’58. and ’59. And in ’57 there was only a single Gold Glove awarded for the entire major leagues.

  6. OhioJim

    I have two recollections of this situation. One is that Ruth Lyons (WLWT and WLW radio) was a major factor in getting the city whipped up to get out the all reds vote.

    The other is that I got out my school notebook paper left over from the previous school year and began writing the the names of the 8 Reds starters on every sheet of paper.

    I forget what stamps cost back then but still probably a nickel or less for a first class stamp. I mailed votes until my mother cut me off.

  7. pinson343

    @OhioJim: 4 cents a stamp. And no way my mother would have let me mail a single one.