Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Vote early and often
Unless you're a die-hard hockey fan, you probably hadn't heard of Rory Fitzpatrick until recently -- and maybe not until now.
Fitzpatrick, a fourth-line, blue-collar defenseman who hasn't scored a point this season for the Vancouver Canucks, is the focus of a growing write-in campaign to get him a starting spot in the NHL All-Star Game. He ranks sixth in votes among Western Conference defensemen -- comfortably ahead of names such as Mathieu Schneider, Rob Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky. The top two defensemen in each conference earn the starting nod.
For those about to vote, we salute you Rory Fitzpatrick.
The craze, spawned by a fan Web site, has since gained momentum on television, radio and the Internet. With the Fitzpatrick campaign chugging full steam ahead, Page 2 decided to revisit some infamous sports voting irregularities.
We didn't tackle incidents involving questionable MVP selections this time around that's a can of worms to open another day.
Kobe Bryant voted NBA All-Star starter in 1998
Bryant was riding a surge of publicity in his second pro season, and fans voted him into the starting lineup for the Western Conference. One problem: Bryant didn't even start for the Lakers yet, eventually finishing second for Sixth Man of the Year honors that season. Bryant rewarded the fans who voted for him with a memorable duel in New York with Michael Jordan -- even waving off a pick from Karl Malone at one point. Jordan, however, won the game's MVP award by outscoring Bryant 23-18.
Grant Hill voted NBA All-Star starter in 2001
We're pretty sure even Hill would admit he didn't deserve to be voted an All-Star starter in 2000-01. He played in just four games that season because of a foot injury, but his popularity still earned him the second-most votes among Eastern Conference forwards. The story has a happy ending though, as all-around good guy Latrell Sprewell got the starting nod in Hill's place, scoring seven points as the East won by a point.
Yao Ming eclipses Shaq for All-Star start in 2003
Despite less impressive credentials, Yao Ming was voted by NBA fans to start at center for the Western Conference over Shaquille O'Neal in 2003. It didn't hurt that the league printed ballots in Mandarin for the first time that season, as Yao became the first rookie selected to start in the All-Star Game since Grant Hill in 1995. O'Neal would outscore Yao 19-2 in that game. But Yao shot 100 percent from the field (1-for-1), while O'Neal was a pedestrian 57 percent (8-for-14) by comparison.
1957: Democracy runs amok in Cincinnati
This would prove to be the worst election in Cincy until Jerry Springer was elected mayor. When the Cincinnati Enquirer printed pre-marked All-Star ballots for fans to send in, it turned into a Reds landslide: seven Reds were named starters. After an investigation, commissioner Ford Frick replaced Gus Bell and Wally Post in the starting lineup with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and fans were stripped of their voting privileges until 1970. Of course, such a ruse could never occur in the Internet age. Never.
Frankie Frisch turns the Hall of Fame into his own personal BBQ
Frisch was a legitimate Hall of Fame second baseman with the Giants and Cardinals in the '20s and '30s, playing in eight World Series. When he later became chairman of the Hall of Fame veterans committee, a series of former players were voted in during the late '60s and early '70s with shaky qualifications most notably a number of his former Giants and Cardinals teammates (Fred Lindstrom, George Kelly, Chick Hafey, Ross Youngs, Dave Bancroft and Jesse Haines). It would kind of be like if Derek Jeter became chairman and ramrodded Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch, Paul O'Neill and Ruben Rivera into Cooperstown.
Rafael Palmeiro was so incredibly good at first base in 1999 that he won a Gold Glove despite playing just 28 games in the field.
Rafael Palmeiro voted Gold Glove winner
While it's odd for a quiet pro like Raffy to get tangled up in controversy, this wasn't of his own doing: In 1999, AL managers voted him the Gold Glove even though he played only 28 games at first base (and 135 as a DH). While it's understandable managers didn't want to give the trophy to the likes of Jason Giambi, Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado, Tony Clark or Fred McGriff, Tino Martinez at least played 158 games there. But Tino will at least get his reward when he's voted into the Hall of Fame someday.
Gino Torretta over Marshall Faulk for the Heisman
Torretta rode Miami's reputation and Lee Corso's hype to the 1992 Heisman Trophy, as the more deserving Faulk was passed over. Faulk led the nation with 1,630 rushing yards for San Diego State, despite being slowed by an injury at the end of the season. Torretta, surrounded by far more talent, threw for 3,060 yards, reaching the apex of his stardom on Dec. 12, 1992 when he received the bronze statue. From there it was a 34-13 defeat against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a late seventh-round draft selection and a brief career carrying a clipboard and pouring Gatorade for the Vikings and Seahawks. Faulk, meantime, went on to become a serviceable NFL back. Page 2 was unable to confirm reports that Corso was dressed as Sebastian the Ibis outside the Downtown Athletic Club on Torretta's big night.
Michigan, Nebraska share 1997 national championship
Michigan earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first No. 1 team to win its bowl game and lose its standing in one of the polls. The Wolverines entered the bowl season ranked atop both the AP and coaches polls, but their 21-16 win in the Rose Bowl over Washington State wasn't enough for some voters in the coaches poll, who shifted their favor to Nebraska after the Cornhuskers' convincing 42-17 win over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Coincidentally, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne had announced his impending retirement after the regular season. Osborne's peers gave him a nice going-away present, narrowly voting Nebraska champion: 1,520 points to 1,516 (32 first-place votes to 30). The Associated Press gave the title to Michigan: 1,731½ points to 1,698½ (51½ first-place votes to 18½).
Late '80s weirdness in MLB All-Star voting
In 1988, Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach was hitting .219 with five home runs at the break and was platooning with Ron Hassey. A's fans voted him into the starting lineup and Steinbach struck a blow to the critics when he homered off Dwight Gooden and was named the game's MVP. But the next year was even stranger: Jose Canseco was voted a starter even though he hadn't played all year due to a wrist injury. And in the National League, Mike Schmidt was voted the starting third baseman; he had retired in May. The situations were rectified by naming Luis Polonia and Rick Schu as their replacements.
Fraud on Page 2!
Back in October 2003, Page 2 ran a bracket and let users vote for the best uniform in sports. The final pitted the Denver Broncos against the Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines were cruising to victory until the Broncos received 20,000 consecutive votes and 42,500 of the final 50,000 e-ballots cast. An investigation revealed that our electronic ballot box had been stuffed. We had no choice but to declare Michigan the champ. Although the Florida Gators whined that they deserved the final matchup.
Sound off to Page 2 here.