'The Babe and Lou' photo (c) 2010, Mojumbo22 (Matt) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/ Every year Major League Baseball rewards players for their excellence, and two awards top the list -the MVP and Cy Young awards (for this year's voting see http://bbwaa.com). Everyone knows about the awards, and continually debates whether or not the appropriate players were chosen for the awards. However, I'd posit that the vast majority of people know little about the history of the awards. Today, I’ll help to rectify that oversite (the information is gathered from Total Baseball, 7th edition, pp.192-194 for the MVP portion of the paper, and pp.205-206 for the Cy Young segment).


Originally the MVP award was presented by Hugh Chalmers, president of the Chalmers Motor Company, to the player with the highest batting average in major league baseball (this occurred in 1910). However, after the Ty Cobb/Nap Lajoie fiasco of 1910 in which the St Louis Browns allowed Lajoie to go 8-for-8 in a double header with seven of the hits coming on bunts because they detested Cobb so much, it was determined that in 1911 the MVP award, and the car that went with it, would go to the one player in each league who was the “…most important and useful player to his club.” This was the way the award was presented until 1914 when World War I began (the war obviously caused people to turn their attention towards other avenues). In addition to the battle across the Atlantic, Chalmers had signed only a five year deal with baseball to present the award and the accompanying car which ran out after the 1914 season, so the award basically just disappeared.

In 1922, the American League established a new set of rules and procedures and decided to reinstate the award after neither league awarded a trophy from 1915 to 1921 (the National League eventually followed suit, though it waited until 1924 to reinstate its award). However, a few quirks in the rules of the time deserve mention.

First, the original rules prohibited teammates from both receiving votes in the same season. Second, players who also managed ball clubs were disqualified from being chosen. Third, in the most blatantly stupid idea of the history of the award, once a player won the award he was ruled ineligible forever meaning that players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were only eligible to win the award once (in Ruth's historic 1927 season when he hit his record 60 HR, as well as batting .356, with 160 RBI and 158 runs scored, he was ineligible because he had won the award in 1923). So disenchanted were those in the know with the whole process involved with the award, that on May 6, 1929, the AL award ceased to exist with the 1928 winner being the last given (the NL again followed suit, but only after awarding a winner for the 1929 season).

In 1930, The Sporting News - yes the same one you still read today - presented its own “unofficial” winners. Following this turn of events, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) determined at its meeting on Dec. 11, 1930, to appoint two separate committees, one for each league, to select the MVP winner each year. This meant that the modern day MVP award officially began in 1931, and though the awards voting process has changed through the years in subtle ways, (such as including more writers in the voting and changing the way the points awarded are tabulated) the award has basically been carried on since that point with little change.

Unanimous MVP Winners:

Ty Cobb (1911)

Babe Ruth (1923)

Hank Greenberg (1935)

Carl Hubbell (1936)

Al Rosen (1953)

Mickey Mantle (1956)

Frank Robinson (1966)

Orlando Cepeda (1967)

Denny McLain (1968)

Reggie Jackson (1973)

Mike Schmidt (1980)

Jose Canseco (1988)

Frank Thomas (1993)

Jeff Bagwell (1994)

Ken Caminiti (1996)

Ken Griffey Jr. (1997)

Barry Bonds (2002)

Albert Pujols (2009)

There have been 18 unanimous MVP award winners  in the history of the award.


In 1956 Ford Frick, the Commissioner of baseball, determined that pitchers were not receiving their due in MVP voting, so he proposed creating a new award that would be given solely to pitchers. Cy Young, the winningest pitcher of all-time, had died less than a year earlier so it only seemed natural to name the pitchers’ MVP award after him (the vote to place his name on the trophy only passed by a 14 to 12 margin though). Who voted? One writer from each city with a team was selected for the honor of casting a vote. More difficult was the decision pertaining to how many Cy Young Awards would be awarded yearly. Frick was greatly opposed to the idea of multiple winners so from 1956-1966 there was but one joint Cy Young award for both leagues. In 1967, after Frick died, William Eckert took over as the Commissioner and ceded to the wishes of the writers and fans an authorized the commission of two awards, one for each league. There have been minor changes to the voting process since the date of its inception (mainly adding more writers to the voting body), but it is in essence the same award that has been given since the split, to one per league, in 1967.

Unanimous Cy Young Winners:

Sandy Koufax (1963, 65-66)

Bob Gibson (1968)

Denny McLain (1968)***

Steve Carlton (1972)

Ron Guidry (1978)

Rick Sutcliffe (1984)

Dwight Gooden (1985)

Roger Clemens (1986, 98)

Orel Hershiser (1988)

Greg Maddux (1994-95)

Pedro Martinez (1999-2000)

Randy Johnson (2002)

Johan Santana (2004, 2006)

Jake Peavy (2007)

Roy Halladay (2010)

Justin Verlander (2011)

***McLain is the only player ever to unanimously win both the MVP and Cy Young awards.

There have been 22 unanimous Cy Young winners handed out over the years.

By Ray Flowers


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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