NEW YORK — George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays, the league's RBI leader and runner-up in home runs, Tuesday was named the American League's Most Valuable Player in one of the closest votes in the 54-year history of the award.
Bell, the first member of a Canadian team and the first Dominican to be named MVP, beat Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell by 21 points, getting 332 points to Trammell's 311 in voting by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America.
For winning, Bell, 28, will receive a $50,000 bonus from the Blue Jays. The outfielder's base salary for 1987 was $1,285,000.
Two association members in each of the 14 American League cities were eligible to vote. Bell received 16 first-place votes and Trammell 12.
Minnesota outfielder Kirby Puckett was third in the voting with 201 points, followed by the Boston Red Sox's Dwight Evans and the Milwaukee Brewers' Paul Moiltor.
"I'm very happy," Bell said by telephone from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "Because when you win the MVP, everything shows that you've worked hard. That you're a winner. It's one of the greatest things that's happened to me in the last three years."
Bell's year was somewhat tarnished by a 2-for-26 finish as the Tigers swept the Blue Jays in the final three games to win the AL East.
"You had to look at the whole season," Bell said of the MVP voting. "I played well until the last week. If we do that (judge on one week), it doesn't make any sense."
Bell, who is usually not cooperative with the media, hit .308 with 47 home runs, a league-leading 134 RBIs and 111 runs scored, the latter three setting club records. He also had a .605 slugging percentage and 16 game-winning RBIs.
He staged a season-long battle with Oakland Athletics rookie Mark McGwire for the AL home run title before McGwire finished with 49.
"He's got a bad shoulder from carrying the rest of the ballclub all summer," Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson said of Bell after the Tigers beat the Blue Jays, 1-0, on the final day of the season.
Trammell moved to the No. 4 spot in the lineup during spring training, after the defection of free agent Lance Parrish. Trammell responded by hitting career-high .343 with 28 home runs, 105 RBIs and 205 hits.
He was the first Tiger since Al Kaline in 1955 to have 200 hits and 100 RBIs in the same season.
"It's the greatest individual award in the league," Trammell said via telephone from his San Diego home. "I'm a sports nut. It would have meant a heckuva lot to me to win it.
"I'm somewhat disappointed, of course. George Bell is very deserving. He had an outstanding year. Coming in second place is pretty darn good.
"That is not to say I wouldn't have liked to have won it. And the fact I didn't does not take anything away from our season.
"I thought he (Bell) did a better job of carrying the Blue Jays. I look at myself as a contributor. I'm not exceptional in any one area but I do everything well. I'm a well-rounded player. I think that's why I'm a good ballplayer."
Since becoming a full-time player with Toronto in 1984, Bell has averaged .296 with 33 homers and 106 RBIs.
He was drafted by Toronto in 1980 from the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
"For the people of the Dominican it means a lot," Bell said. "These people have been asking me when the MVP would be announced. They thought it would be three or four days after the World Series. The local newspapers couldn't wait to find out."