In the summer of 1951 baseball team owner Bill Veeck knew he had to do something to get more fans to come to games for his St. Louis Browns. His most famous stunt was sending a midget up to bat (he walked), but just a few nights later he had "Fans Manager Night." He got fans of the Browns to pick the team's starting lineup using ballots in a local newspaper. Then, he gave all the fans in one section voting placards. At various junctures, Browns coaches would hold questions to that section of the crowd ("should we warm up a pitcher?") and the fans would vote. The manager would then follow the crowd's wishes. Of course, as is typical of the baseball establishment, he was widely criticized for hurting "the integrity" of the game. Veeck had come up with a bunch of his stunts years earlier as a minor league team owner -- and it's still the minor leagues where some of the more interesting publicity stunts are pulled. Last summer we wrote about a minor league team that was going to let two local fans play a video game version of that night's game for the first two innings, and then let the actual players complete the game. After a variety of complaints, this promotion was canceled. This year, an independent minor league team seems to have updated Veeck's "Fan Manager Night" with an internet twist. Digg points us to an article about the Schaumburg Flyers who are letting fans choose the lineup every night online. The fans don't always agree with the manager (or the players), and some team members are grumbling about "integrity of the game," but as Veeck noted, how much integrity is there to worry about when no one wants to come out to see your games? Given the popularity of things like "fantasy sports," it seems only natural to play around with a model like this.
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