BASEBALL TAKES its All-Star game very seriously. Being elected to the starting lineup or chosen as a reserve is considered a high honor, and the game itself is played with something approaching the intensity of a real one. They call it the Midsummer Classic. Some people even stay awake through the whole thing.
The starters for the American and National leagues are chosen by the fans in elections that are, to be honest about it, not exactly models of democracy. Ballots are handed out indiscriminately at ball games, and they often accumulate in the hands of 12-year-old zealots with an agenda. In Cleveland, where this phenomenon is pronounced and extends into the more advanced age groups, they tried to elect the whole Indians' outfield to the American League's starting lineup this year, and almost succeeded; two Indians will be there. Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers, the league's most valuable player two of the past three years, finished fifth in the voting for outfielders and was so miffed that he asked the American League manager, Joe Torre, not to choose him for the reserves.
But this sort of old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing may be as nothing compared with what will happen now that baseball has started letting fans vote via the Internet. In Massachusetts, a 25-year-old hacker named Chris Nandor attempted to cast some 25,000 votes for Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra late last month. Unwisely, he used the same phone number and Zip code on all his ballots, then set his computer to send them in indefinitely while he went off to a barbecue. As a result, all his ballots were detected and thrown out. (Mr. Garciaparra won anyway.)
"Nothing is foolproof," acknowledged one of the vote-counting officials. "But if you're talking about the average high-end hacker, we think we can catch them." Maybe, but our guess is that somewhere out there is the person -- younger, more diligent, less likely to be diverted by the smell of roasting meat than this year's perpetrator -- who will prove otherwise, and be known in the sports pages of America ever after as The Geek Who Did a Full Cleveland on the Midsummer Classic.