Lefty Grove/Google Images

Baseball History: The BBWAA MVP Becomes Official in 1931

The 10th annual Greatness in Baseball Yearly awards (GIBBYs) will be handed out Friday night, exactly 80 years after baseball history was made when the Baseball Writers Association of America handed out its first American and National League Most Valuable Player Awards.


The year was 1931. Before then there had been MVP awards handed out, but this was the first season in which the BBWAA voted on the official winner. From 1911 to 1914 the Chalmer’s Award, named after a Detroit based automobile company, was given to baseball’s MVP. Under their rules a player could only win the award once.

Baseball history shows no MVP award or GIBBYs given to anyone from 1915 to 1921. Then the League Award was introduced in 1922. It was strictly for the American League MVP. Like the Chalmer’s it could only be won once. Not only that, but player-managers were exempt from winning it. This version of the MVP lasted until 1929.

In 1931 it was agreed upon that the BBWAA would vote for the ‘official’ MVP of the American and National League. There would be no rules against winning it more than once. And all players and pitchers were eligible to win it.

Baseball history’s first winners of the BBWAA MVP were Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Robert Moses ‘Lefty’ Grove in the American League and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Frankie Frisch in the National. Grove’s winning of the award is interesting, because there has always been a debate over whether the award should be given to pitchers or every day players. Since there was no Cy Young Award for the most valuable pitcher until 1956 the only thing that pitchers could win at that time was MVP.

Grove beat out New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig for MVP. Baseball history has many accounts of famous events in which Gehrig played second fiddle and the MVP is one of them. Grove beat him out by pitching the A’s to the AL pennant with a 31-4 record, 2.06 earned run average, 27 complete games and 175 strikeouts. It was the best season in Grove’s 17 year career.

Frisch beat out Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Chuck Klein. Though his statistics did not compare to Klein’s, Frischs’ overall play helped the Cardinals win the NL pennant while the Phillies finished sixth. Even then winning gave a player an edge in the voting.

Since then, baseball history has recorded its official MVP’s as those voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.


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