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This Day in Yankees History: Change the MVP rules!

Mickey Cochrane somehow wins MVP, and the rules quickly change. Oh, and Aaron Boone

Babe Ruth Holding Baseball Bats

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. Even though the 2020 season is over for New York, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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92 Years Ago

It is very, very funny to me when people of a certain age complain about the “participation trophy” generation. One of the reasons is because participation and “showing up” is a virtue in and of itself that should be encouraged, but that’s a conversation for another time and another blog. Another reason is because of the history of the MLB MVP awards, which until 1928, were restricted to new winners only. If you had won before, you were ineligible to win again, in order to assure all of the other special baseball players that they would be recognized too.

This egalitarian approach runs into complications, however, when two of the ten or so best baseball players of all time are in their primes, head and shoulders above the rest of baseball, and yet ineligible for the top individual award in the game because they’ve already won. In 1928, this was exactly the case for Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig:

Babe, of course, won the award in 1923, despite continuing to be the best player in baseball for the next decade. Gehrig had taken home the honors the previous season, meaning the two clear choices weren’t even on the ballot. Now I know that WAR isn’t the be all and end all, and didn’t even exist in 1928, but the actual winner, Mickey Cochrane, wasn’t even close to being the best player in the league.

Depending on what stat you follow, Cochrane wasn’t even the best player on his own team, being outpaced by teammate Max Bishop in such robust metrics as runs scored, stolen bases, and batting average. Mickey wasn’t even an intimidating looking catcher!

Now the AP reports that the reason the MVP was discontinued after the 1928 season was because it fostered “ill-feeling among the players.” I tend to think this means Ruth and Gehrig were angry about not being recognized as the best players in the game, and took some nudge nudge wink wink kind of action. The BBWAA would re-invent the MVP award two seasons later, and the Iron Horse would get his second, also on October 14, 1936.

17 Years Ago

The Aaron Boone game. The story of the game is imprinted in the mind of every adult Yankee fan, and I’m sure more than a few children. There’s not much new to write about the day the current Yankee manager gained a new middle name, so I might as well just let you watch:

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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.