Prior to 1911 there was no award of any kind to recognize individual performance. During two separate time frames, starting in 1911, there were awards given that had similar intentions of today’s MVP award. The first was the Chalmers Award and the other was the League Award.
In an effort to drum up publicity for his company Hugh Chalmers of Chalmbers Automotive, in 1910, announced he would give a Model 30 to the player with the highest batting average. The race came down to the last day and involved a discrepancy and Chalmbers would end up giving a car to both Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoe. Instead of continuing to give away cars Chalmers created an award to be given to the “most important and useful player to the club and to the league” as determined by a committee of baseball writers. The award did not have the advertising effect he’d hope for so he discontinued the award after 1914.
Prior to the 1922 season the American League created an award for the league MVP simply called the League Award. This award had some restrictions. Only one player per team was listed on a ballot from which voters could select and each player was only allowed to win the award one time. The American League award lasted from 1922 until 1928. The National League followed suit two years later in 1924 but did not have the restrictions that the American League award did. The National League handed out its award from 1924-1929.
Baseball Writers Association of America’s Most Valuable Player Award
Better known simply as the MVP. Beginning in 1931 the BBWAA used the same format the National League used in awarding it’s League Award. According to BBWAA.com “Two writers from each MLB city are recommended by the local chapter chairman and approved by the national secretary-treasurer to vote for each award. Writers from NL cities vote for NL awards, and writers from AL cities vote for AL awards, making 30 voters for each award.”
Each ballot is submitted with 10 names ranked from 1-10. 14 points is awarded for each 1st place vote with 2nd-10th awarded 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The player with the most points after all ballots are tallied is named MVP.
Barry Bonds has won the most times (seven) and has won the most consecutively (four, 2001-2004). Nine players have won the award three times and 19 players have won it twice. Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez, and Robin Yount have won an MVP at multiple positions. Frank Robinson is the only player to win the award in both leagues (Cincinnati Reds, 1960 & Baltimore Orioles, 1966). There has been one tie. In 1979, Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell both received 216 points leading them to be the only Co-MVPs.