In major league baseball, the favourite sport of the worldÕs richest nation, there is an annual tradition of honouring the player in the league who has contributed most to the success of their team. It is known as the Most Valuable Player Award or the M.V.P.
Presented since 1931 by the Baseball Writers Association of
America Ð San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds won it for
an unprecedented seventh time in 2004 Ð the award dates back to
There have been three different Òmost valuable playerÓ awards in
baseball. Before the M.V.P. there was The League Award (1922-1929)
and before The League Award there was the Chalmers Award.
It was in 1910 that Hugh Chalmers, president of the Chalmers Motor
Company of Detroit, announced that he would present a Chalmers 30
roadster to the player who had the highest batting average in the
major leagues that season. Amidst controversy bordering on scandal,
the great Tyrus Raymond ÒTyÓ Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and his
rival Napoleon Lajoie of the Cleveland Indians ended the season
with identical averages.
Chalmers awarded a car to each man but proposed a different
contest for 1911, with an award to be presented to the player in
each of AmericaÕs two baseball leagues who was selected by a panel
of sportswriters as Òthe most important and useful player to his
By a unanimous vote American Leaguer Ty Cobb Ð known as The
Georgia Peach Ð was the first recipient of the trophy along with
Chicago Cubs slugger Frank Schulte, of the National League. They
were followed in 1912 by Tris Speaker (Boston Red Sox) and Larry
Doyle (New York Giants), in 1913 by Walter Johnson (Washington
nationals) and Jake Daubert (Brooklyn Dodgers) and in 1914 by Eddie
Collins (Philadelphia Phillies) and Johnny Evers (Boston).
But by 1915, amidst rumours of cheating and frustration at a
stipulation that the same player could not win twice, the public
had lost interest. The Chalmers Award was not brought back in 1915
and this important relic of baseball history fell into obscurity.
Now, what appears to be a contemporary replica of the Chalmers
Award made its way to Surrey for auction on July 26.
Via an American vendor who owns a cache of art and antiques that
formerly belonged to Charles Wakefield (1859-1941), founder of
Castrol lubricants, the staff at John Nicholson of Fernhurst found
themselves typing the words Chalmers Award into Google. Theirs was
not, evidently, the award that had been owned by some of the finest
players of the so-called Dead Ball Era but a replica made in 1915
for presentation. Measuring 2ft 6in (75cm) across, the ebonised
wood and two-tone metal award was finely worked with six baseball
bat motifs surrounded by the names of both Westside Brewery Co. and
Chalmers Motor Co. The centre of the plaque depicted the messenger
Mercury bearing the Chalmers emblem and holding a laurel wreath and
baseball. The surrounding eight rose petals are engraved with the
contenders of the award from 1911-1914. An additional inscription
suggests that it was given in 1915 to Abel Linares, a well-known
baseball promoter and team-owner in Cuba, for his contribution to
Estimated at £5000-6000, bidding from a handful of American
collectors who had picked up on the sale saw the hammer fall at
£13,500 (plus 17.5 per cent buyerÕs premium). ItÕs a substantial
sum, but in the context of baseball collecting, where six-figure
prices are commonplace, it does not seem a lot of money.
Incidentally the transatlantic theme continues at Nicholsons.
Their September 27 sale includes more Charles Wakefield lots,
including a Philadelphian mahogany commode.
By Roland Arkell
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