The First MVP Awards

The modern version of the MVP Award began in the 1930s and has run since. It isn’t, however, the first MVP Award series in baseball. Way back in the 19-teens there was the Chalmers Award.

Hugh Chalmers owned Chalmers Automobiles in Detroit. He was a baseball fan and in April 1911 proposed the idea of giving one of his cars (the Model 30) to the “most valuable player” in both leagues.   A committee of  baseball writers would be set up to determine the winners. The league offiicals didn’t have objections, but a suggestion was made that once a player won the award, he couldn’t win it again. The idea had some merit from Chalmers’ point of view. It was good advertising, it promoted automobiles, it promoted baseball during the “off season.”  The idea of  granting a player only one award also made sense. It meant that Chalmers Autos would be seen in more places, there were more players available to pose for pictures with the car and give testimonials as to the quality of the automobile, and, from baseball’s point of view, it meant that you weren’t going to have to give a new car to Ty Cobb every year.

The previous year, 1910, there was a huge debate about the batting title in the American League. Cobb and Nap LaJoie both had claim to it (long story and not for this post). Chalmers decided to give a car to both (heck, it was good advertising). It also lead  to the idea of the Chalmers Award.

The next year  the award itself went to Cobb. Over the next four years the Chalmers Award, and the car, were given out. By 1915 the award had lost its luster. It was getting expensive for Chalmers, whose business was beginning to get into trouble, the obvious American League winner, Cobb, couldn’t win another, fans weren’t impressed or enthused, so the award was dropped.

And, Chalmers? His company lasted into the 1920’s when it was folded into first Maxwell, then eventually into Chrysler. Chalmers lost his job.

One of the best things the Chalmers Award does is indicate the superiority of the American League in the period. All four AL winners went on to Hall of Fame careers, while only one National Leaguer, Johnny Evers, did the same. In the period the AL won three of the four World Series’, losing only in 1914, the year Evers won the award. Below is a list of the winners with the following stats beside the name: batting average/RBI’s/slugging percentage or Wins/ERA/strikeouts in the case of pitcher Walter Johnson.

AL 1911-Ty Cobb 420/127/621

1912-Tris Speaker 383/90/567

1913-Walter Johnson 36/1.14/243

1914-Eddie Collins 344/85/452

NL 1911-Wildfire Schulte 300/107/534

1912-Larry Doyle 330/90/471

1913-Jake Daubert 350/52/423 

1914-Johnny Evers  279/40/338

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