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The Cardinals' Stan Musial played in 24 All-Star games in his career, tied with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays for the most.

The Cardinals’ Stan Musial played in 24 All-Star games in his career, tied with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays for the most.

By Glen Sparks

The paper All-Star game ballot is the latest loser to the digital age. All-Star voting will be done exclusively online beginning this season, according to a memo issued by Major League Baseball.

The reason for the change? Saving trees and money. Bob Bowman, president of business and media for MLB, said on-line voting last year amounted to 80 percent of ballots cast and that 16 million paper ballots did not get used.

“We therefore have made the decision to go green, while also saving the cost of managing an online program,” Bowman wrote in a memo.

So, the tradition of getting your ballot and fiddling around for a pen or your keys to punch out a vote for your favorite players (er, the most qualified candidates) is over, at least for now. Apparently, none of the other leagues (NBA, NHL) offer paper ballots anymore, either. The upside: no more hanging chad jokes. Those got old fast.

(A little bit of history now. The All-Star game began in 1933, hosted by Comiskey Park in Chicago. Baseball put on two games from 1959 through 1963, one at the mid-way point of the season and another at the end. Fans have voted for the starting eight for every National League and American League squad since 1970. The N.L. has won 43 times, the A.L. 40 times. There was a 1-1 tie at Fenway Park in 1961 due to rain and a big ol’ embarrassing 7-7 tie at Miller Park in Milwaukee in 2002.)

This column offers the obligatory sentimental take on baseball’s decision to go paperless. This one thanks the game for understanding what century it is.

Really, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. You can call it a break with tradition, but so was artificial turf, the multi-purpose stadium, the DH, the sans-a-belt uniform, eliminating ladies’ day and dollar beer, playing Metallica between innings, having opening day in the Eastern hemisphere … the list goes on.

I am guessing that here in the early spring of 2015, just about everyone has computer access.  At least most baseball fans probably do. If you don’t own a computer, you can reserve some time at the local library for All-Star voting. (Of course, if you’re reading this, lack of computer access probably is not one of the problems you’re dealing with in this world.)

Two suggestions as long as we’re going this route:

No. 1: Some traditionalists might still like to fill out a paper ballot. As a way to remember what it was like when they were kids. Or, just to remember what it was like last season. Maybe MLB could allow some paper ballots to be placed at a few kiosks at the ballpark. That way, you wouldn’t have ushers counting out ballots for an entire row and passing them down. If the 16 million figure is accurate (It seems high, but I don’t want to do the math.), then that does seem like a waste. Especially if you consider that only four million total ballots were actually cast.

No. 2: As I recall (Hey, it’s been almost a whole year.), ushers began handing out ballots after the first month of the season. Some guy off to a hot first couple of weeks would be an early leader before hitting .243 from May 3 to the end of the season. Wouldn’t e-selections be tabulated instantly? If so, maybe the online voting could begin June 1 and conclude in early July. By early June, a third of the season is in the books. Voting later would give fans a better idea of who really deserves an All-Star nod.

Anyway, the real problem isn’t in the voting. Paper, online, it doesn’t matter to me. (The typical tree might enjoy giving up a branch in order to assist in honoring the National Pastime’s finest. Actually, isn’t this why we have tree farms?)

No, the real problem continues to be the game itself. Why does the outcome of baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic decide home-field advantage in the World Series? Begun in 2003, this is a 12-year-old tradition that we can certainly end.

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