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Giambi and 'stache in Final Vote race

Giambi and 'stache in Final Vote race

NEW YORK -- It turns out that rounding up 20,000 mustaches with just a few days' notice isn't as difficult as you might think. In fact, the Yankees practically located a stash of 'stashes in their own backyard, having imported them from a warehouse in Long Island.

The mustachioed Jason Giambi continued to contend in the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote on Wednesday, and though the latest voting totals still have him running third behind Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox, a quick scan of the Yankee Stadium grandstands revealed overwhelming support.

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The earliest-arriving fans at Yankee Stadium -- men, women and children alike -- all donned fake facial hair to cheer on Giambi's cause, in what was not surprisingly believed to be the first such giveaway in the ballpark's history.

"I didn't really think I was ever going to turn into a fashion icon for a mustache, to be honest with you," Giambi said. "It started out as fun. Johnny Damon and I would do things like this in Oakland, and we were both struggling and we talked about it. We just kind of ran with it.

"We can't grow anything below the bottom lip, so the next closest thing to do would be to grow a mustache. It's been humbling that the Yankees organization has jumped on it."

The Yankees have spread their rallying cry of "Support the 'Stache" throughout the Bronx, backed by an official endorsement from the St. Louis-based American Mustache Institute. Giambi said his mustache is a throwback to the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s -- he mentioned Goose Gossage, Keith Hernandez, and of course, former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

"I always used to tease Donnie because I grew up idolizing Donnie with his mustache, and when he was over here as a coach, he shaved it off," Giambi said. "I never looked at him the same."

With more than 33 million votes cast in the first three days of voting, both Giambi and Dye have amassed more than 3.75 million of their own, closing in on chasing down the AL leader, Longoria. The Royals' Jose Guillen and the Orioles' Brian Roberts are also vying to make the AL roster.

"I love it," Giambi said. "It's really a humbling experience, to think of everything that I've gone through and the things that I've battled back from, to have that closeness again with the fans. It's special. Being in this situation and this last vote makes it more special than actually being picked by the manager, because it's kind of fun."

Now in its seventh year, the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevy and continues until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

If Giambi does come from behind to win, it would give him a potential opportunity to participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby.

That raises the question of who might pitch -- when Giambi won the Derby in 2002, he relied on then-Yankees coach Willie Randolph to fire in batting-practice fastballs. Current Yankees batting practice pitcher Mitch Seone would be Giambi's first choice, but Giambi also said he would consider using Randolph -- recently dismissed as the Mets' manager -- again.

Giambi entered Wednesday's play batting .256 with 18 home runs for the Yankees, while Longoria was hitting .280 with 16 home runs for the Rays. Giambi said he is a big fan of Longoria, like him a fellow California product, and sounded like he'd be OK with Longoria punching a ticket to the All-Star Game if Giambi is not able to make up the ground.

"That's a kid who I stand up for in the things that he's accomplished," Giambi said. "I understand the small market mentality, being sent down for a while when I was in Oakland to get called back up.

"I remember talking to him in Spring Training and telling him, 'Don't let them get you down. You're a phenomenal player -- he's from Long Beach -- and you're going to be here. Don't give them any reason to not bring you back up. He definitely handled that situation like a man."

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555. Standard text messaging rates apply -- please check with your mobile carrier for details.

The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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