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The 1927 American League MVP designation has been debated frequently among die-hards. Many argue that Ruth would have won it instead of Gehrig had he been eligible. Time and time again the main point used in this argument is that Ruth hit his legendary 60 home runs in 1927. Opponents, such as me, say home runs can't buy MVP love.

The MVP Award as we know today emerged in rudimentary form in 1910, under the name Chalmers Award. The prize was an automobile from Detroit-based automaker Chalmers Automobile Company. The first year the recipient was chosen by having the highest batting average in his league. In 1911 Chalmers decided to broaden the criteria and take into account how valuable a player's performance was to his team. The award lasted until 1914 before fizzling out. In 1922 it was replaced by the League Award, based on the same concept of recognizing the player whose performance was most beneficial to his team. But there a couple of catches. Only one player from each team could be nominated, and a player could only receive a League Award once in his career.

Babe Ruth won the League Award in 1923. By 1927 the rule of one-per-person still applied, therefore Ruth was not even on the ballot for the '27 award. Lou Gehrig was. And Lou Gehrig won on October 11, 1927. Did Gehrig deserve the award or was he the next-best choice since Ruth was ineligible?

Baseball is a game driven by numbers, so a review of each man's numbers is in order.

As mentioned, Ruth hit 60 homeruns in 1927. Gehrig had the second-highest season home run total with 47. No one had ever hit close to 60 home runs before. At the same time, no one had ever hit close to 47. Even with his 60 home runs, Ruth still lagged well behind Gehrig in RBIs. In fact, Gehrig set a new mark of 175 RBIs in a season, an even more amazing feat when considering that he came to bat 60 times after the bases had been cleared by the batter ahead of him (the Babe). Ruth earned 164 RBIs. Gehrig's average soared above Ruth's, .373 vs. .356. Gehrig had significantly more at-bats than Ruth but fewer strikeouts. Over half of his 218 hits (26 hits more than Ruth) got him past first base.

Meanwhile on the defense, Gehrig earned a stellar .992 fielding percentage compared to Ruth's .963, and being earned at busy first base Gehrig's fielding percentage carries weight. Out of 1,765 chances, Gehrig flubbed only 15 times. Ruth in outfield, conversely, had 355 chances and erred 13 times.

And of course there's Gehrig's consecutive game streak to consider. He played all of the 155 regular season games in addition to the 4 games it took to win the World Series.

That's not all the League Award voters took into account. Taken out of context, Gehrig's numbers are impressive enough. Sure, Ruth beat the daylights out of him in the home run department, but Ruth himself publicly admitted that he would not have driven himself to 60 had it not been for Gehrig riding his heels all season. For much of the season the two men were so close in home run totals that on July 5 the New York Telegram hailed that odds favored Gehrig over Ruth. However, Gehrig's dingers tapered off in the late months while Ruth's multiplied. After his sixtieth, Ruth played off press questions about who will ever break his record by pointing at Gehrig and saying, "Wait till that bozo over there wades into them again and they may forget a guy named Ruth ever lived."

The most amazing factor in choosing Gehrig as the '27 MVP - he was a 24-year-old kid. How many 24-year-olds could not only stand the pressure of being a pinnacle of Murderers' Row, playing a highly depended-upon role on arguably the greatest team ever, and batting with little respect after Babe Ruth but also excel at it? As a 24-year-old myself, I'm saying it would be shocking to find one of us who could keep the pace that Gehrig did. The boy was simply astoundingly talented. Irregardless if he was still a little rough around the edges in 1927. Do I need to go over his numbers again? He was astounding.

Gehrig would have been MVP even if Ruth was eligible. Ruth hit 60 home runs, but what else did he do? Gehrig's performance was all-around great. Ruth may have been the most memorable player of the year, but Gehrig was the most valuable player.

Written by S. Kaden, 2003