November 13, 1940: Reds first baseman Frank McCormick (.309, 19 homers, 127 rbi) wins the Most Valuable Player award becoming the third consecutive Red to win the MVP. Catcher Ernie Lombardi (.342, 19 homers, 95 rbi) won in 1938 and starting pitcher Bucky Walters (27-11, 2.29 ERA) won in 1939.

McCormick won the 1940 award with 16 first place votes and 274 points in the voting totals. Runner-up Johnny Mize (.314, 43 homers, 137 rbi) received six first place votes and totaled 209 points. Reds starting pitcher Paul Derringer (20-12, 3.06 ERA) and Lombardi (.319, 14 homers, 74 rbi) also received one first place vote each.

Three of the top four receiving votes were Reds. McCormick won, Walters (22-10, 2.48) was third, and Derringer placed fourth. Catcher Lombardi was ninth and third baseman Billy Werber (.277, 12 homers, 12 steals) placed tenth. In 1939, three of the top four were also Reds with Walters winning, Derringer placing third, and McCormick fourth. McCormick had also placed fifth in the 1938 voting when Lombardi won. McCormick also finished in the top ten in MVP voting for the 1943 season.

McCormick, a slick fielding first baseman, did not play a full major league season until age 27. He led the league in hits in his first three seasons, finishing in top five in MVP voting in each of those three seasons. McCormick played 10 seasons for the Reds, batting .301 with 110 home runs and playing in seven all-star games. For his career, McCormick batted .299 with 128 home runs in 13 seasons.

November 13, 1968: On this date, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson wins the Most Valuable Player Award with Cincinnati Reds outfielder Pete Rose placing second. Gibson had 14 first place votes and 242 points and Rose had six first place votes and 205 points.

In the “Year of the Pitcher,” Gibson was 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, a league leading 268 strikeouts, and 13 shutouts. Gibson didn’t even lead the league in wins in this season of pitching dominance. The San Francisco Giants’ Juan Marichal was 26-9 with a 2.43 ERA. Marichal finished fifth in MVP voting. Gibson unanimously won the National League Cy Young Award in 1968. The Detroit Tigers’ Denny McLain (31-6, 1.96 ERA, 280 K’s, six shutouts) unanimously won for the American League. McLain was the last 30-game winner in the major leagues. Gibson had a 12.2 WAR (wins above replacement); McLain had an 11.9 WAR score.

Pete Rose had an outstanding year during this Year of the Pitcher. Rose won the MVP in 1973 when he batted .338 with a career high 230 hits (138 OPS+), but his best seasons were probably 1968 (.335, .391 OBP, 42 doubles, 152 OPS+)) and 1969 (.348, .428 OBP, 16 homers, .940 OPS, 158 OPS+). Rose’s best seasons came before the Big Red Machine offense became legendary. Rose won batting titles in both 1968 and 1969, edging out the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Matty Alou (.332) for the 1968 title. Rose went 5-for-5 against the Giants’ Gaylord Perry on the next to last day of the season to take the batting title lead and then went 1-3 on the final day.

In addition to his 1973 MVP win, Rose finished in the top five in MVP voting five times and finished in the top ten in MVP voting ten different times. Gibson was the last National League pitcher to win the MVP. Roger Clemens (1986) was the last American League starting pitcher to win the MVP and Vida Blue (1971) also won since Gibson won in the NL. Three closers have won the MVP in the American League, Rollie Fingers (1981), Willie Hernandez (1984), and Dennis Eckersley (1992).

November 13, 1995: The Reds Barry Larkin becomes the first Red in 18 years to win the Most Valuable Player Award for the National League. George Foster last won for the Reds in 1977 when he batted .320 with 52 home runs and 149 rbi.

Shortstop Larkin batted .319 with 15 home runs, a .394 OBP, an .886 OPS (133 OPS+), 51 steals, and won the Gold Glove in 1995. Larkin received 11 first place votes and totaled 281 points with runner-up Dante Bichette (.340, league leading 40 home runs and 128 rbi, .984 OPS) receiving six first place votes and 251 points. Pitcher Greg Maddux (19-2, 1.63 ERA) was third with seven first place votes and 249 points. Catcher Mike Piazza (.346 with 32 homers, 1.006 OPS) finished fourth with three first place votes and 214 points.

The Reds won the National League Central Division title in 1995 with an 85-59 record, their second consecutive first place finish. Larkin’s leadership and combination of defense and offense helped him win the MVP award in a season where there was no perceived clear cut winner.

As in the case with Rose above, Larkin’s best season probably came in a year where he did not win the MVP award. In the following year, 1996, became the first 30-30 shortstop when he batted .298 with 33 homers, 89 rbi, 36 steals, .410 OBP, and a .977 OPS (154 OPS+). In this 30-30 season, Larkin placed 12th in MVP voting with the San Diego Padres’ Ken Caminiti unanimously winning the MVP with a .326 batting average, 40 home runs, and 130 rbi. Oddly enough, Bichette, Larkin’s runner-up for 1995, also had a 30-30 season in 1996, batting .313 with 31 homers and 31 steals. Bichette placed 20th in MVP voting during his only 30-30 season.

Larkin finished in the top ten in MVP voting in only one other season, 1990, when the Reds won the World Championship. Larkin placed seventh that season, batting .301 with 30 steals. Larkin played 19 seasons, all with the Reds, batting .295 with 198 home runs and 379 steals. He won three Gold Gloves and was selected to twelve all-star teams.

3 Responses

  1. doctor

    good stuff, i was always amazed are Rose’s stats in late 60’s. also, I thought Larkin should have won MVP or at least gotten more attention/votes for his 96 season, being 1st 30-30 shortstop.

    Correction in your article, Roger Clemens was MVP in 1986 as a starting pitcher.

    good stuff again.

    Go 2011 Reds!