When the final All-Star Game voting is announced tonight, the closest competition could be between players in different leagues.
Only a few starting positions were in doubt going into the final week of fan balloting, which concluded over the weekend. But Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken and Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg were in a tight race for highest vote total.
The top vote-getters in each league will be recognized in ceremonies before the All-Star Game in San Diego on Tuesday. Ripken and Sandberg had comfortable leads in the American and National leagues, respectively, and were relatively close in overall totals.
Ripken held a 31,723-vote lead over Sandberg (1,380,395 to 1,348,672) going into the final week. Sandberg led the NL with 2,526,747 votes last year, and Ripken, who has never led the AL balloting, was runner-up to Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey.
The closest race for a starting position, the third spot in the AL outfield, fizzled last week when Jose Canseco went on the disabled list. The Oakland Athletics right fielder trailed the Toronto Blue Jays' DaveWinfield by 267 votes in what shaped up as the closest race in All-Star history.
The smallest margin in the fan balloting took place in 1982, when Manny Trillo won the NL second-base spot by 1,625 votes over Steve Sax. With Canseco out of the game, his final vote total will be academic, leaving the Blue Jays' Joe Carter, who trailed by 29,065 votes, as Winfield's closest pursuer.
All other AL positions, with the possible exception of catcher, appeared secure. The Cleveland Indians' Sandy Alomar had a substantial lead over the Texas Rangers' Ivan Rodriguez, but the relatively low vote count (453,013 to 324,884) leaves room for a change with more than a million votes expected from the final voting period.
Besides Ripken, who led Toronto's Manuel Lee by more than a million votes, first baseman Mark McGwire of Oakland, second baseman Roberto Alomar of Toronto, third baseman Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox and outfielders Griffey and Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins all held seemingly insurmountable leads.
The fan voting will be revealed today. Managers Tom Kelly of Minnesota and Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves will announce the rest of the squads tomorrow.