Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dutch Clark's Missing 1937 MVP Award

by John Turney

Dutch Clark, colorization by John Turney
On December 27, 1937 the following story ran across the Associated Press wire:

It reports that Dutch Clark was voted the first annual Gruen Award, which was for the outstanding player who also displayed sportsmanship. So, it seems that it was an award with more than one component. In 1938 Mel Hein won the Gruen award, but no article yet found explains if there was a sportsmanship component to Hein's award as was the case with the prior year's award. What is certain is that it was not yet named the Joe F. Carr Trophy at that time. 

Columnist Frank Moran wrote, on June 24, 1939, "a resolution introduced by George Halas of the Chicago Bears, calling for (the) designation of the league's most valuable player award as the Joe F. Carr Memorial Trophy, will be adopted at the summer meeting of the National Professional Football League moguls!" So from that point through 1946 the award, voted on the Pro Football Writer's Association of America was known as the Joe F. Carr Most Valuable Player, still, to this day, the only MVP Award the NFL has officially sanctioned.

According to author and historian and Pro Football Journal contributor/writer and Pro Football Researchers Association Executive Director Chris Willis, Hein's 1938 Award was an official award, appearing in the minutes of the NFL meetings. Clark's 1937 Gruen Award was not.

What appears to have happened is that Hein's Gruen Award was re-designated a Joe F. Carr Trophy but Clark's was not. The Gruen Watch Company was the sponsor of both the 1937 and 1938 Award, but no mention of it appears after Hein's 1938 award.

Based on the facts gathered it seems reasonable to believe that the 1937 Gruen Award and the 1938 Gruen Award were similar enough to be considered the same award and as such it seems reasonable to retroactively crown Dutch Clark as the 1937 NFL Outstanding Player.