Should former MLS reserve player Chris Wondolowski claim the MVP award in 2010, it would make for one of the greatest Cinderella stories in all of professional sports, especially when it comes to recent MVP sports lore in the United States.
Wondolowski is a local boy who emerged from a college program that is not exactly known for its soccer at Chico State. He made the Earthquakes reserve team in 2005 after attending a local tryout and was only considered a real option to start in the latter part of last season.
The other American professional sports have had few comparable seasons by someone who was a role player just the year before. Here’s the closest any of the other Big 5 comes:
MLB: Justin Morneau’s 2006 MVP comes closest to a Wondo-like season, with three average seasons from 2003 through 2005. Others that may come to mind don’t count: Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was the Rookie of the Year a year before being voted AL MVP in 2008 and Milwaukee’s Robin Yount was a 1980 All-Star before winning his 1982 MVP.
NBA: Basketball has nothing like Wondolowski in its recent history. The MVP award in the NBA has been superstar territory. Even Dave Cowens, who won it back in 1972-73, had already earned co-NBA Rookie of the Year status.
NFL: Kurt Warner in 1999 was Chris Wondolowski in the NFL. Known for packing groceries in supermarkets and playing in the indoor league and NFL Europe, Warner emerged as MVP only after St. Louis Rams starting QB Trent Green went down to injury.
Washington Redskins placekicker Mark Moseley won the MVP award in a strike-shortened season in 1982 after 11 seasons in the league. Quarterbacks Brian Sipe (1980) and Ken Anderson (1981) also won their awards after establishing themselves over several seasons.
NHL: Amid the names Gretzky, Messier, Lemieux, Hull and Hasek, goaltender José Théodore was not a real star until he captured his Hart Trophy in the 2001-02 season with Montreal. Martin St. Louis, not exactly a household name, won the honor with Tampa Bay in 2003-04 but scored just five fewer goals a season before.