From the rafters to the bleachers to the club and dugout level seats, fans in attendance at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park last Sunday made a raucous appeal for baseball writers and aficionados to name second-year slugger Ryan Howard this season's National League Most Valuable Player. The roaring chants of "MVP! MVP!" that rang out through the ballpark following the last of Howard's three home runs that afternoon were less of a plea and more of a response to the record-setting power display the first baseman put on that afternoon. It is because of those homers -- as well as a week where he batted .571 (16-for-28), had 12 RBIs, a 1.286 slugging percentage, and a .684 on-base percentage -- that he was named the Bank of America Presents National League Player of the Week, for the week ending Sept. 3.
While the NL MVP race is still wide open with another month of baseball left, Howard's actions last week, in addition to his now league-leading 53 home runs and 134 RBIs, are a strong indication that he may be included on the list of players deserving to be crowned as one of his league's best players. "He can hit them out anywhere, right, center, left, it doesn't matter," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said after witnessing Howard's blasts. "He's super strong and stays on the ball so good." Howard's first home run that afternoon came off Braves starter Tim Hudson, and it allowed the hitter to take a dip -- albeit a brief dip -- in the history books. With the shot clearing the right-center field fence, Howard delivered home run No. 50 of the season, making him the first second-year player to hit 50 homers since 1947, when Pittsburgh's Ralph Kiner hit 51. That home run came just four days after Howard hit his 49th of the season, eclipsing the Philadelphia franchise record of 48 home runs that was set by Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in 1980. Both of those visits to the history books didn't last long, because Howard went on to drop No. 51 in the Braves' bullpen in game one of Sunday's doubleheader, and later in the contest, No. 52 fell in the left field bleachers, passing Kiner on the second-year-player home run list. He smacked his 53rd homer Monday. When asked where the thought this game ranked among his lifetime highlights, Howard said that it would definitely make it near the top of the list. "It's up there," he said. "It's something I've never done before. I'll put it up there in the upper echelon. "I'm sure a day like today is going to be one of those days where I wake up and am like, 'Did that really happen?'" When Howard wakes up and reflects on the three homers, his thoughts may also conjure up a memorable moment in his eighth-inning at-bat, when a fan performed a thoughtful -- although costly and ill-advised -- tribute to the first baseman. The man rushed down from the seats, ran up to within 10 feet of home plate, fell to his knees, and repeatedly bowed to Howard. Of course, security quickly apprehended the man, who was arrested and led away without incident. "I thought it was hilarious," Howard said. "I was digging in and had my head down, when I heard [Braves catcher Todd Pratt] say, 'Heads up.' I looked up and the guy was already on the ground. I thought the whole thing was kind of funny." Other nominees included Howard's Philadelphia teammate Jimmy Rollins (.371, 3 2B, 6 RBIs), New York's David Wright (.522, 2 HR, 15 RBIs) and Florida's Scott Olsen (2-0, 0.60 ERA, 11 strikeouts).
Coley Harvey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.