It is often questioned why Johnny Evers won the 1914 Most Valuable Player Award after hitting only .279 and driving in forty runs. The answer is that he was seen as the team’s most valuable asset and the man who prodded the team to victory. He was the sparkplug of a team known as a long-time loser and, from the expert’s standpoint, made them into a winner. From May 21 to August 6, Evers batted .315 as the Braves surged from their miserable 4-18 start into contention. It was at this point that Evers’ two-year-old daughter died of scarlet fever, and he returned home for a week.
His batting average dropped twenty points after his return–he had been hitting .300 for most of the season in a year that saw only eight men end the season at .300 or better. He ended up leading the team in runs scored and walks, and had been among the league leaders in several categories at the time he lost his daughter. He positioned the defense–one of the most important roles in the Deadball Era and served as George Stallings’ manager on the field.
He then hit .438 in the World Series, which the Braves won in four games. But it was the intagibles–shaming Hank Gowdy out of his lazy attitude, badgering Rabbit Maranville into working at becoming a great shortstop, and leading a team that had not had a winning record since the turn of the century and showing them to win that made him seem especially valuable to the experts on the Chalmers Commission. Right or wrong, the view was that the Braves might not have won without Bill James’ spectacular season on the mound, but they almost certainly would not have won without Johnny Evers, whose reputation was that he made everyone around him better. During 1914, John McGraw allowed he feared Johnny Evers as a force that could beat him more than anyone else.
During the four years of the Chalmers Commission (1911-1914), Evers received the fifth-most total votes of any National League player, despite missing nearly the entire 1911 season due to a nervous breakdown. And in 1915, he nearly helped the Braves to a repeat of their Miracle Season when he returned early from a broken ankle and played nearly the entire season on one leg (which is why he had only six extra-base hits), as Boston again was in last place in mid-July and surged, ending the 1915 season in second place.