Sunday, June 28, 2015

Awesome night card, pt. 238: the history of the All-Star Game trophy

Wow. Now that's a trophy! Talk about face percentage! This might be a contender for trophy percentage.

This trophy grabbed my attention right away and although it might be difficult to find space in the home for something that size, I prefer that to the MVP trophies the All-Star Game is giving out these days.

If you are like me, you were unaware that the look of the MVP trophy has changed over time. It didn't even dawn on me until I saw this card and I automatically recognized that All-Star MVPs of recent years weren't hauling around things like this immediately after the game.

No, the All-Star MVP trophy now looks like this:

It's a glass baseball bat. Sturdy, appropriate and easy to store, but not what I think of when I think of a trophy.

The baseball bat MVP trophy has been around at least since 2009. Here Carl Crawford displays his All-Star award. It's a bit odd that he's showing a bat when he received the award for a leaping catch that kept the Rockies' Brad Hawpe from a home run and saved the game for the American League.

But the bat award looked the strangest a couple of years ago, when a relief pitcher won MVP honors.

Mariano Rivera barely knows what to do with that thing.

I can see why the trophy is a bat though, since the award is called the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award, after one of the best hitters of all-time.

It's more appropriate than what used to be the MVP award that carried his name.

I don't know what that is -- a bunch of triangles glued together, I suppose -- but that's what All-Star Game MVPs were holding up during most of the 2000s. J.D. Drew won the award in 2008, which was the last year for this particular look.

Pedro Martinez kicked off the Award of the Many Triangles in 1999, when he won MVP honors at Fenway Park that year (it's possible the trophy that Martinez holds and the one Drew holds are different, but it's basically the same theme).

The trophy displayed on Sandy Alomar's card lasted just two years -- 1997 and 1998. That means two brothers were the only ones to get that most excellent giant-ass trophy.

Sandy Alomar in 1997 ...

... and Roberto Alomar in 1998.

Prior to that, the All-Star Game trophy looked like this:

That's MVP Mike Piazza displaying the 1996 All-Star Game trophy.

It didn't look that way for long. Jeff Conine in 1995, Fred McGriff in 1994, Kirby Puckett in 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. in 1992, even Julio Franco in 1990, were displaying All-Star Game MVP trophies with a much glassier look:

Here's a little bit better view:

Prior to 1990, the MVP trophy wasn't something you could see through, as evidenced by this Classic card of 1989 MVP Bo Jackson:

The trophy looked like that for just one year, though, because here is 1988 MVP Terry Steinbach with a different trophy:

And in 1986, the trophy had yet another look, as shown in this photo of All-Star Game MVP Roger Clemens:

And in 1985, the trophy looked another way:

This marked a turning point in the All-Star Game Trophy. The trophy was re-named the Arch Ward Trophy in 1985 (LaMarr Hoyt won this particular trophy). Arch Ward was a longtime sportswriter and editor who helped create the All-Star Game, and the trophy for the All-Star MVP was actually named the "Arch Ward Memorial Trophy" from 1962 until 1970 when it was renamed the Commissioner's Trophy.

The reason MLB returned to the Arch Ward Trophy name was because it had renamed the World Series Trophy the Commissioner's Trophy in '85 and there couldn't be two Commissioner's trophies.

But Commissioner's Trophy was the name that I knew for the All-Star trophy when I first started following baseball. And I have fond memories for the trophy that was awarded then (as I have fond memories of everything '70s).

Here is Dave Parker receiving the award as the 1979 All-Star Game MVP. I can tell you, even though the photo is black-and-white, that the background behind the baseball on the trophy is red and blue. I know that award so well (it's so very '70s).

Why here is a color photo to illustrate it:

That is Bill Madlock and Jon Matlack co-accepting the MVP award in 1975 as they shared the All-Star Game honor that year. Of course you need the Commissioner to present the Commissioner's award.

Some of you political historians may be wondering why Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is also in the photo. Well, he threw out the first ball for that All-Star Game.

The odd thing about this whole Commissioner's business is there is a 1972 Topps card of this very same award:

But the back of the card doesn't mention anything about it being affiliated with the All-Star Game:

This particular award seems to be for a particularly outstanding player based on the entire year. Yet the look of the award and the name is almost identical to the All-Star Game trophy they were handing out in the 1970s. Strange.

Before the Commissioner got his paws on the MVP award, it was simply the Arch Ward Memorial Trophy. Here's a look at that trophy:

Isn't that an impressive hunk of wood and metal? There's even a goddess at the top of the trophy!

I think that would even give the Sandy Alomar card a run for most impressive All-Star Game trophy.

Still much more impressive than a see-through bat.


Night Card Binder candidate: Sandy Alomar Jr., 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated, #34
Does it make the binder?: Yes it does.


  1. Great post. I had no idea it changed that many times. The Carl Crawford card is funny because it looks like the crowd has left, the groundscrew is doing some post game maintenance and they had to get him to come back out to get a pic of the trophy. Funny.

  2. I'm not digging that glass/lucite bat thing. That isn't a trophy it's a chachki-nicknack thing. As Brian (PATP) said "no idea it changed that many times".

  3. I just read a book about the first All-Star game. It was written by Lew Freedman, who has penned a number of other baseball books. Arch Ward is probably named more than any other person in the book for his role in founding what has become a National tradition. A good read, and interesting that you mentioned him in your post the day after I finished the book :)