T.R.’s Memoirs: Jeff Burroughs, the forgotten AL MVP in Texas Rangers’ first winning season
(Associated Press file photo)
Editor’s note: T.R .Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with Rangers Today. In the latest installment, Sullivan talks with Jeff Burroughs, the forgotten Ranger who won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1974.
The Rangers players were sitting at a bar — or maybe it was a restaurant — on the road at the end of the 1974 season.
Jeff Burroughs was there, veteran infielder Jim Fregosi and a few others. The beer was cold, they were talking baseball, and somebody wondered aloud who would be the American League Most Valuable Player.
“I don’t know,” Burroughs said. “Sal Bando is having a good year. Reggie [Jackson] is having a pretty good year.”
Fregosi cut him off.
“What about you?” Fregosi said. “You’re having a better year than both of them.”
“Really?” Burroughs said.
Burroughs checked the statistics in the newspapers and realized Fregosi might be right. But then the season ended and the Rangers went home for the winter, just happy they had finished in second place with a record of 84-76 after losing 105 games the year before.
Award talk faded. This was well before ESPN, MLB.com, the Internet, social media and every other platform that could have dissected the MVP race ad nauseum.
Burroughs did have a great season in his second full year in the big leagues. He hit .301 with 25 home runs and a league-leading 118 RBIs. His offensive WAR was tied for the third best in the league, but nobody knew that back then. Nobody had heard of WAR in 1974 or any of the other advanced statistics since invented that flood baseball analytics these days.
The voters mainly knew two things. Burroughs had led the league in RBIs and he had been the main offensive catalyst on a team that experienced a 27-win improvement over the previous season.
It didn’t matter that Jackson, Bando and Joe Rudi had led the Athletics to a third straight World Series title. Then, on Nov. 20, the phone rang in Burroughs’ Long Beach apartment.
On the line was Jack Lang of the Baseball Writers Association of America, informing Burroughs he was the AL MVP.
“I said, ‘That’s great. Who are you?”