11/14/2005 2:00 PM ET
The Most Valuable Player Award can be traced back to 1911, when an automobile manufacturer named Hugh Chalmers decided to give away a car to a player in each league in hopes of selling a lot more vehicles.
His original plan for the Chalmers Award had been to recognize the best batting average in each league, but he changed the rules and asked a committee of baseball writers to help determine the "most important and useful player to his club and to the league." Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and Frank Schulte of the Chicago Cubs were the first recipients.
There were several iterations of the award along the way until 1931, when the Baseball Writers Association of America began polling a writer in each league city. Over the years it has always sparked annual debate -- Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams? -- and today it remains Major League Baseball's most prominent individual postseason award.
Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees on Monday became the 28th multiple winner of some kind of MVP Award since that first Chalmers Award was handed out -- the 24th since BBWAA voting began. On Tuesday, the National League recipient will be announced.
Rodriguez joined a small group in Major League history by becoming the sixth player to win one of these awards with more than one team -- and the first person since the 1930s to do it with two different American League clubs.
Rodriguez won his first MVP Award in 2003 with the Texas Rangers. He was a shortstop with the Rangers and a third baseman with the Yankees, so A-Rod became the first player ever to win this award with two different clubs while switching positions.
The last player to win an MVP with two different AL clubs was first baseman Jimmie Foxx, with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932-33 and the Boston Red Sox in 1938. Catcher Mickey Cochrane was the only other person to win MVP with two different AL clubs -- the A's in 1928 and the Tigers in 1934.
Barry Bonds won his first two of a record seven MVP Awards as an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990 and '92. He then won it with the San Francisco Giants in 1993, as well as his 2001-04 run that will end this week when the National League recipient is announced.
Frank Robinson remains the only player to win an MVP in two different leagues, as an outfielder for the 1961 Cincinnati Reds and the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.
Rogers Hornsby was MVP for two different NL clubs, as the second baseman for the 1925 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1929 Chicago Cubs.
Neither Cochrane nor Hornsby are recognized by the BBWAA for that distinction because both of Hornsby's awards and Cochrane's first one were bestowed before the 1931 selection process began. And on the all-time list of multiple MVP winners, Monday's announcement did not include the names of Walter Johnson or Lou Gehrig, because they each won at least one of their two awards pre-1931.
According to The Sporting News, there were various incarnations of an "MVP" recognition dating back to that first one in 1911. Chalmers discontinued his own award after 1914 because it did not become the marketing bonanza that he had expected.
In 1922, the AL created an award to honor "the baseball player who is of greatest all-around service to his club." But the criteria included several rules that mystified baseball people, including disqualification of player-managers and the fact that no one could repeat as MVP. That was dropped in 1929.
The NL had instituted its own contest in 1924 without such controversial restrictions, and then followed the AL's lead and eliminated the award in 1930.
The modern MVP award process began in 1931 when one writer in each league city filled out a 10-place ballot. In 1938, the BBWAA began polling three writers per league city, and the only key change since then was the reduction of writers to two per league city in 1961.
One of the more notable facts about the long history of the MVP selection process is this: Babe Ruth won only one. That was in 1923 -- the year after the AL began that controversial process of this recognition. There was no AL award given in 1929. But looking back, one MVP for the Bambino is kind of interesting.
Mark Newman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.