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Baseball history unpacked, April 4

Rhodes scholars, the MVP Awards, Aaron 714, Sosa 500, and other bullets

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Tuffy Rhodes Cubs

Fields in the stream. Last time around we unpacked the real history of baseball and other bullets. Today we turn our Cubbie Blue glasses on to Rhodes scholars, the MVP Awards, Aaron 714, Sosa 500, and other bullets.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1911 - The Most Valuable Player award is introduced and sponsored by Hugh Chalmers, an auto manufacturer. The first winners of the MVP, selected by a vote of one baseball writer representing each franchise in the league, will be Tigers’ outfielder Ty Cobb and Frank Schulte of the Cubs. (1)

There have been three different “official” most valuable player awards in Major League Baseball since 1911; the Chalmers Award (1911-1914), the League Award (1922-1929), and this is the third, and currently awarded, version simply referred to as the Most Valuable Player Award. — Baseball Almanac

In 1910, Hugh Chalmers wanted to give a car to hometown favorite Ty Cobb. Nap LaJoie was his chief competition (Tris Speaker being a third competitor), and the race went down to the wire, with controversial calls thrown into the mix. People objected to Lajoie’s repeated bunts for hits and accused St. Louis Browns manager Jack O’Connor of cheating to help his player.

“The offer of an automobile is awakening a lot more enthusiasm among both players and fans than any trophy which could be offered,” Cobb said.

“These reports [out of St. Louis] may not be altogether true, but I intend to find out, and have started an investigation of them to learn the facts regarding those hits credited to Lajoie,” League President Ban Johnson said in a statement, according to Rick Huhn’s book (The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title That Became a National Obsession.) “Until I have learned the truth, I will not decide what course to pursue.”

Chalmers offered to give a car to each. Cobb ended up winning, and a change was made the following year, to allow the player to win who had “done the most to help his team in its League pennant race.” 1911 therefore became the first official year of the award, which only lasted a few years. It was phased out after 1914. (4)

In 1922 the American League instituted a new award to honor “the baseball player who is of the greatest all-around service to his club”. Winners “received a bronze medal and a cash prize” and the rules stipulated that player-coaches and prior award winners were ineligible. Voters were required to vote for one player from each team. The National League enacted the same program in 1924. The AL award ceased 1n 1928, the NL in 1929.

The (current) Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Most Valuable Player began in 1931 and continues to this day. (5)

  • 1974 - In front of a crowd of 52,000 at Riverfront Stadium on Opening Day in Cincinnati, Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714 by hitting a first-inning two-run homer off Jack Billingham. (1)
  • 1994 - Cubs outfielder Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, who hit three home runs in all of 1993, wallops three home runs off Mets starter Dwight Gooden on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. New York holds on for the 12-8 win, however. (2)
  • 2001 - Throwing the earliest no-hitter in major league history, Hideo Nomo blanks the Orioles, 3-0 at Camden Yards in his first start in a Red Sox uniform. (1) It was Nomo’s second no-hitter. He had thrown one previously as a member of the Dodgers.
  • 2003 - At Cincinnati’s new Great American Ball Park, Sammy Sosa becomes the first Latin American player and 18th overall to hit 500 career home runs. (1)
  • 2007 - Tuffy Rhodes becomes the first non-Japanese player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to drive in a thousand runs. (1)

Good piece on Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes.

Thanks for reading. Where to get my books.