Born from Scandal: The History of the Most Valuable Player Award
Hugh Chalmers (b. 1873) was that most authentic American construct: The brazen, huckster industrialist. Part Henry Ford, part P.T. Barnum, the self-made Chalmers began his career at the age of 14 as an office boy at the National Cash Register Company; by the time he was 35, he owned an eponymous automobile manufacturer, the Chalmers Motor Company, renowned for building “medium-priced” cars aimed at a burgeoning and aspirant middle class.
The charismatic Chalmers was a born salesman who saturated newspapers with ads for his cars (“Not How Large but How Good” was a tagline). He sponsored road races and exhibitions to showcase his merchandise, and became something of an authority on marketing and promotion. He was a popular speaker on the Chamber of Commerce circuit, giving countless talks on the art of selling, which he described as “simply influencing the human mind.” His speeches were reprinted in newspapers, advertising books, and educational pamphlets.
Which is to say, Chalmers gave a lot of thought – a lot of thought – to how he might sell his cars to people who might not have known they wanted one.
The automobile man was also a baseball fan, and keenly aware of the sport’s immense and growing popularity in the early years of the 20th century (he was fond of peppering his speeches with baseball metaphors and imagery). In 1910, he hatched a marketing campaign that would dominate the summer headlines and become the progenitor of the modern MVP award:
“Fans all over the country are turning their attention to the battle which is being waged between the leading batters of the big leagues for a motor car, which has been offered for the batting championship this season.”–Milwaukee Journal, August 25, 1910
The motor car on offer was a Chalmers-Detroit Model 30. The man doing the offering was Hugh Chalmers.
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