Confusion has reigned ever since the BWAA introduced its MVP awards in 1931. In 1941, for example, Ted Williams was the American League's "best" player, batting .406, 49 points better than Joe DiMaggio. But DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games, his Yankees won the pennant, and he was named the MVP, apparently on the theory that the star of a pennant winner is more "valuable" than the star of an also-ran. By contrast, two years ago Rod Carew was the American League's "best" player with a .388 average, but his Minnesota Twins had only the seventh-best record in the league. He won the MVP award anyway. On other occasions, vague where-would-the-team-have-been-without-him considerations have swayed voters. Thus the Chicago Cubs' Hank Sauer was the MVP in 1952, though he was neither the National League's "best" player nor on a pennant winner; rather, he led a team that would have finished in the cellar without him to a fifth-place finish.
This year Hernandez was the National League's "best" player, with a .344 average and 116 runs scored, both tops in the league, and 105 runs batted in for the third-place Cardinals. Stargell hit only .281 with 60 runs and 82 RBIs. But he also hit 32 homers and led the Pirates to the East Division title. So which player deserved to win in the balloting, which took place before Stargell's playoff and World Series heroics? Jack Lang, the BWAA's secretary-treasurer, admits that it depends on your idea of what MVP means. "We have no definition," Lang says. "You give me a good definition in four sentences and I'll use it."
A tourist from Jacksonville, Robert McDowell, was traveling in Northern Ireland recently when he noticed a sign at a motel entrance reading NO FOOTBALL COACHES. McDowell naturally wondered what local Hayesian or Kushian outrages could possibly have resulted in such a sweeping prohibition. It took a moment for him to realize that the sign referred to buses carrying soccer fans.