Voting is both a right and a responsibility. And exercising our right to vote — in any capacity — is one of the joys and duties of being an American, even when it requires us to make difficult choices.
The year was 1993. I had just turned 18 a few months prior and felt the patriotic obligation to cast my vote for a critical upcoming election — the starters for the 1993 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
In those days, if you attended a game leading up to the halfway point of the season, you were empowered with an official paper ballot of American League and National League representatives. You had the freedom to pick from any candidates on the ballot. However, there was an expectation that you were a well-educated fan of great virtue.
As a young, patriotic American, I saw this as an opportunity to make a real-world impact on society. My vote had the chance to determine which players were going to participate in baseball’s Midsummer Classic. An All-Star selection was a serious honor, only intended for the best of the best. It was a distinction that would forever be recorded on a player’s resume and a roster that would forever be etched in the history of Major League Baseball.
The All-Star ballot consisted of a handful of players at each position, somewhat scientifically determined. The American League shortstop list was composed of players predicted to lead their respective teams at the time of ballot printing. My team was, and still is, the Minnesota Twins. The Twins’ candidate, Shorty McStopperface, was their starting shortstop in 1992. (I don’t want to use his real name as I’m sure he is a big fan of this column, and I don’t want to offend him.) Shorty’s 1993 season was quickly derailed due to injuries.
At the time of voting, Shorty McStopperface had exactly two more hits in the Major League Baseball season than I had. These were obviously not All-Star-worthy credentials. But the ballots had already been printed, and therefore, Shorty was an official nominee to be chosen “best shortstop” for the American League.
There were several more qualified candidates that year than Mr. McStopperface. The obvious and most accomplished candidate was Cal Ripken Jr., a 10-time prior All-Star and future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Ripken had many, many more hits than I had in 1993. By any reasonable measure, he was indisputably the most skilled and most adept candidate to represent the American League at the most demanding and most important position in baseball.
Although I was a die-hard fan of the Twins, I knew it was my responsibility as a well-educated voting adult to pick the most qualified player. It was painful, but I honorably punched “C. Ripken'' out of my ballot. A feeling of calm came over me as I knew I had made the principled choice. I did what was right and what was best for the integrity of the game. I voted with my head. My heart would have to wait for the next election.
(Footnote: Kirby Puckett, centerfielder for my Minnesota Twins, was voted in as an All-Star and earned the 1993 All-Star game MVP award. Take that, Cal Ripken Jr.!)