Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Dec 2 19:16:42 UTC 2004

OED3 gives 1954 [!?] as the first cite for "most valuable player".  There
have been MVP awards in baseball since 1911 (when it was awarded by the
Chalmers Automobile Company).

   (Syracuse, NY) Post Standard, Feb 18, 1911, p. 12
   Following this announcement Connie Mack, manager of the world's
   champion Athletics, wired Mr. Chalmers as follows: Congratulations
   on your liberality and enterprise in offering automobile to the
   most valuable ball player in each league.

   Syracuse (NY) Herald, Sep 25, 1911, p. 15
   Members of tho Philadelphia Athletics are of the opinion that the
   hall of fame committee which awards two autos this fall to the
   two most valuable players in the two big leagues should ascertain
   just which players already own autos and then make their awards
   to men who are autoless at present.

   Mansfield (Ohio) News, Oct 4, 1911, p. 7
   Chicago fans are confident that Frank Schulte, of the Cubs,
   will be first choice of the baseball-writers who decide the
   winners of the automobile for the most valuable player in
   the National League.

(The collocation "most valuable player" goes back much earlier than this,
at least to 1891 on Newspaperarchive.)

As for the abbreviation "MVP", OED3 has a first cite of 1951.  Here's one
from 1942, and there are no doubt earlier cites to be found:

   (Pittsfield, Mass.) Berkshire Evening Eagle, Nov 5, 1942, p. 16
   A year ago we felt that Williams had been robbed of the MVP award.

--Ben Zimmer

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