Podsednik, Oswalt win Final Vote
Oswalt first hurler voted into All-Star Game since '34
Scott Podsednik and Roy Oswalt owe it all to the power of the people.
After three days of tight races in the Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote, White Sox outfielder Podsednik won a stirring seesaw battle with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to garner the 32nd spot on the American League All-Star team, his first All-Star nod.
And Oswalt took down Padres closer Trevor Hoffman in the National League voting to ensure that the 76th All-Star Game -- which will be played on Tuesday at Detroit's Comerica Park -- will be the first Midsummer Classic for the Houston Astros right-hander. This year's National League Final Vote marked the first time since 1934 that fans had the opportunity to elect a pitcher to the All-Star Game.
"I think it's better for some of the fans to participate in picking some of the pitchers," Oswalt said. "Not just the managers and guys arounds the league. It's good to let some of the fans pick both sides."
That was generally the spirit Wednesday, when almost 15 million votes were cast in this year's Final Vote on MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, and its 30 official club sites, as well as ESPN.com. Podsednik received 3,965,473 votes, while Oswalt recieved 2,652,549.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford finished third, fourth and fifth in the AL voting, respectively. Sinkerballer Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Billy Wagner and Brett Myers rounded out the voting in the NL.
Both players were informed of their victories during the third inning of their games Wednesday night, and both were in their home stadiums, which made the announcements more special.
Podsednik was running out to take left field when the news was posted on the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard. The crowd erupted, prompting Podsednik to pump his fist a number of times and tip his cap to various seating sections in the ballpark.
"I really don't have the vocabulary to describe what these last three days have been like for me," Podsednik said. "With the success we are having as a team and to now have the chance to play in an All-Star Game with three of my teammates, it's going to be a special couple of days."
The last three days Podsednik referred to could be known as the Podsednik Plan, a grassroots effort by the White Sox to get their leadoff man -- who leads the Majors in stolen bases -- into the game.
The plan was put in motion Monday night, while Podsednik signed autographs during a two-hour rain delay. First, one of manager Ozzie Guillen's kids held up a "Vote for Scott" sign in the background. Then All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle spoke to the crowd before the postgame fireworks, encouraging them to get online and send Podsednik to Detroit.
"We need everyone to vote for Scott, because he needs to be on this All-Star team," Buehrle said.
Even Podsednik got into the act.
"I have voted for myself a couple of times," the outfielder said with a smile. "I've thrown a couple in there."
So did Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who claimed he punched in votes "all day while I was on the phone."
On Wednesday night, with the campaign effort a rousing success, Guillen said he was proud of Podsednik and the people who got him to Detroit.
"I think what happened today at the ballpark was great," Guillen said. "A lot of people were excited about this kid making it. It shows me what kind of players we have, and what kind of fans we have. He was competing against pretty good players. He deserved to be there and I hope he enjoys it. The first one is always exciting."
Just like Wednesday was exciting for Podsednik.
"I got jittery," Podsednik added. "To hear the ovation from the crowd. I understand that the support I got from the fans of Chicago and this organization and my teammates, my friends and family, this is what made it possible. I have a lot of thanks and a lot of thank yous to extend."
And so did Oswalt, who has an 11-7 record and 2.44 ERA and captured the attention of fans nationwide as one of the most deserving players to not make the roster through players' and managers' votes, which were submitted more than a week and a half ago.
Oswalt found out about his selection during the third inning, when public-address announcer Bob Ford revealed the results. The right-hander received a standing ovation from most of the 29,774 fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park, and he humbly tipped his cap as his teammates mobbed him in the dugout.
Oswalt said both sides of his family are going to the All-Star Game, including his wife, Nicole, his daughter, Arlee, his brother and sister, his parents and Nicole's parents.
"Hopefully, I can get enough (tickets), or they can watch from the hotel," Oswalt joked.
Like Podsednik, Oswalt benefited from serious help from his own inner circle.
Several teammates logged on to MLB.com to vote for the right-hander, and general manager Tim Purpura voted several times while doing his weekly radio show on the Astros' flagship station following the team's game on July 4.
Oswalt and Podsednik also benefited from the wonders of technology in the form of a second method of voting that debuted this year.
For the first time since the 2002 inception of the Final Vote, cell phone owners who sent a text message containing the word "VOTE" to 69652 (MYMLB) were instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 99 cents per ballot, they could vote wherever they were.
On Tuesday, Oswalt said his friends back home in Weir, Miss., promised to vote via cell phone.
"And they also told me they're going to send me the phone bill," he added.
Prior to Monday night's game in Chicago, the White Sox held a "Pause for Pods" during which announcers encouraged fans to vote for Podsednik with their cell phones. The club also made several PA announcements and message board messages during the game encouraging fans to vote online and via cell phone.
Podsednik and Oswalt's victories have put them in some heady company.
In 2002, Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon beat out fellow AL candidates Jim Thome, Eric Chavez, Magglio Ordonez and Darin Erstad, and current Major League home run leader Andruw Jones beat out Brian Giles, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and Ryan Klesko for the NL nod.
In 2003, Boston catcher Jason Varitek won his first trip to the All-Star Game, beating out Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, Eric Byrnes and Bengie Molina for the AL berth, while Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins topped Benito Santiago, Kenny Lofton, Orlando Cabrera and Luis Castillo in the NL.
Outfielders Matsui and Bobby Abreu of the Phillies won't forget their Final Vote victories last year, when Matsui bested Lew Ford, Travis Hafner, Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas and Abreu triumphed over Steve Finley, Jason Kendall, Juan Pierre and Aramis Ramirez.
But as in every Final Vote, the real winner was the baseball fan.
The record vote totals continue a tradition of growth that previously hit its high point in 2004, when the Final Vote saw more than 10 million votes cast. Last week, MLB.com announced that it had established a new record with 11.5 million online ballots cast in the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game Online Ballot, which concluded June 30 with more than 155 million total votes cast in the online program, also a record.
And fans' fun won't end with the Final Vote.
Fans, having already decided the starting members and final member of each team, will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 76th All-Star Game via the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
It's all about the power of the people. Just ask Podsednik and Oswalt.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Club reporters Scott Merkin and Alyson Footer contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.