Appealing to the bases

"Few members of the Tea Party have endorsed Rand Paul's misgivings about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but a surprising number are calling for the repeal of … the 17th Amendment … that provides for the direct election of United States senators."

The New York Times, May 31, 2010

A group of baseball fans, calling themselves Two Baggers — in honor of the game's alleged founder, Abner Doubleday — are calling on Major League Baseball to repeal its policy of having the public elect players to the All-Star Game. Before fans were given the vote, the American and National leagues chose their own representatives.

Baseball historian and Two Bagger Bill James has long argued that the game's founders would have scoffed at choosing the all stars by popular vote.

"The founders considered the fans a rabble," Mr. James said, during a promotional tour for his book, "Taking Back America's Game." "Abner Doubleday despised them so much that he insisted on watching games from a luxury box, rather than sit among everyday spectators."

Former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner sees a power struggle behind the all star vote controversy. "The decision to take away the leagues' right to choose their all stars was a ploy by the commissioner's office to lessen the power of the individual teams," Mr. Turner said. "First the commissioner took control of the All-Star Game, then he eliminated the office of league president, next he'll try to get rid of the leagues altogether."

Sports-talk radio host Tony Kornheiser, an early supporter of the Two Baggers, has been relentless in attacking baseball commissioner Bud Selig over the voting issue.

"Selig wants to control everything that happens on and off the field," Mr. Kornheiser said during a recent broadcast. "He doesn't want the leagues involved in the All-Star Game or anything else."

Commissioner Selig has been dismissive of the Two Bagger movement. "The Two Baggers are as Astroturf as the field at the Houston Astrodome," he wrote in an e-mail. "It's all manufactured by sports-talk radio and advocacy groups funded by the players' union."

The players' union denies being behind the repeal movement, but some players, such as the Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera, are sympathetic to the Two Baggers' cause.

"I was having a great season last year and got overlooked, and the fans are snubbing me again," said Mr. Cabrera, who is a distant third in the American League's first baseman's race, despite leading the majors in several batting categories. "But what do you expect from a bunch of drunks who can't hold their beer after the seventh inning?"

Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre is similarly wary of the public's judgment. "When we gave the fans the vote, we traded all stars who wanted to win for their league for prima donnas who wanted to pad their statistics," Mr. Torre told reporters.

For some supporters of repeal, the issue is about more than league power or fairness to the players. At a Two Bagger rally held last week at Cooperstown's Doubleday Field, one participant, who was wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks jersey, held a sign reading "Build The Centerfield Fence — Stop The Flood Of Dominican All Stars."

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul also attended the rally. At a press conference, he outlined the changes he would like baseball to make.

"Restore the power reserved for the individual leagues and abolish the designated hitter," Mr. Paul said. "Oh, and bring back the Negro leagues."

Ben Krull is a writer living in New York. His e-mail is ben@krull.com.

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