By now, even younger fans know that Mickey Mantle's 1957 season was underrated until modern statistics revealed that it really was one of his greatest years.
Mantle batted .365/.512/.665 and was voted the American League's MVP.
But 38-year-old Ted Williams dwarfed Mantle's accomplishments.
Williams won the batting title with a .388 average. He led the league in slugging with a .731 mark, topped Mantle in home runs (38 to 34) and had a higher on-base percentage (.526 to .512).
It is fascinating that so little has been made of one of the greatest seasons that one of baseball's greatest hitters ever produced. Could the reason be that Williams, unlike Mantle, had many other seasons that were comparable?
Ted Williams was clearly the best player in the American League in 1957, but Mickey Mantle was more valuable. The New York Yankees won their third consecutive pennant that year, while the Boston Red Sox finished a dismal third, 16 games behind the Yankees.
Mantle thought that Williams would win the MVP Award. When he learned that he was the winner, he was astonished.
"I thought Williams would get it for sure. I didn't think I'd get it," Mantle told some writers.
When informed that Mantle won, Williams told reporters that he had no comment.
The Yankees slugger beat Williams by 24 points, but one writer gave Williams only a ninth place vote, and another gave him a 10th place vote.
Since a first place vote was worth 14 points and a 10th place vote was worth only one point, Mantle finished ahead of Williams.
Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was disturbed.
"I don't want to take anything away from Mantle, whom I admire as a wonderful ballplayer," said Yawkey. "But I do not think that anyone who lets personalities interfere with his judgment is qualified or competent to vote."
Williams became infamous in early August of 1956 when he spit at Red Sox fans who booed him. He was fined $5,000, which was the heaviest fine in baseball history at the time, but he was unrepentant.
"I'd spit again at the same people who booed me today," he told the writers.
Despite all the intrigue in the voting, Mantle deserved the MVP award.
The Chicago White Sox challenged the Yankees most of the season before fading in September. The Yankees suffered injuries to the pitching staff, forcing the offense to carry much of the load. Mantle had a major impact on the pennant race.
In 2011, a similar but slightly different situation exists.
Jose Bautista is clearly the American League's best player, but the Toronto Blue Jays will finish fourth. The Detroit Tigers would not have run away with the Central Division crown without Justin Verlander.
In 1957, Williams was the league's best player, but Mantle was the most valuable to his team.
Williams, well preserved at 39, american league's top slugger. (1957, Dec 21). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 33. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114276687?accountid=46260
Mantle named american league's most valuable player second year in row. (1957, Nov 23). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 28. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114148760?accountid=46260