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The World Series is the championship series of Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada, the culmination of the sport's postseason each October. It is played between the pennant winner of the American League and the pennant winner of the National League. The Series winner is determined through a best-of-seven playoff (except in 1903, 1919, 1920 and 1921 when the winner was determined through a best-of-nine playoff) and is awarded the World Series Trophy, as well as World Series rings. Baseball has employed various championship formulas since the 1850s. The modern World Series has been an annual event since 1903, with the exceptions of 1904 and 1994.
The New York Yankees have the most World Series titles, with 26 championships through the 2005 season. Eight teams, all established since 1961, have never won a World Series title: the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of those eight teams, only three have appeared in the Series: Milwaukee, San Diego, and Houston. The Chicago Cubs have gone the longest between titles, having last won the World Series in 1908.
The first two games of the series are played in the home ballpark of the team awarded home-field advantage; the next three are in the other team's ballpark, and the final two, if necessary, are back in the first team's ballpark. That has been the pattern since 1924, with the exception of World War II, when travel restrictions were in place. Until 2003, the team given the home-field advantage was switched every year between the American League and the National League. Starting with the 2003 World Series, the league that wins the mid-season All-Star Game has been awarded home-field advantage.
Since 1986, the designated hitter rule has been applied based on the rules normally in effect at the home ballpark. In an American League ballpark, both teams use a designated hitter to hit for the pitcher. In a National League ballpark, both team's pitchers must hit. From 1975 through 1985, the designated hitter was used for all games in even-numbered years, and was not used in any games in odd-numbered years. The designated hitter was not used at all prior to the 1975 Series, although the DH rule had been adopted by the AL in 1973.
A portion of the gate receipts from the World Series — and, from 1969 onward, the other rounds of postseason play preceding it — is used to fund a Players' Pool, from which descending shares are distributed to the World Series winner, the World Series loser, all the other teams qualifying for the playoffs which did not reach the World Series, and certain other teams which did not qualify for the playoffs, the criteria for the latter changing at various times. Prior to 1969, teams finishing in the first division, or top half of the leagues' standings, received such shares; today, only the teams finishing in second place in their division but not earning a wild card receive them, because there are more divisions with each having fewer teams. The shares for the actual participants are limited to the gate receipts of the minimum number of games necessary to play the series. That rule has been in place from the beginning, to keep the games "honest".
The "World" appellation has stuck despite the fact that only teams in the two major leagues, which happen to cover only the United States and Canada, actually participate. At the time the term was first used, baseball at the major league level was only played in the United States. While some would contend that there is no reason to believe that the World Series winner is a significantly better team than any club team outside Major League Baseball, no challenges have been made by other leagues. Moreover, virtually all of the best international players — from the Pacific Rim, Latin America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere — play on Major League rosters, with the notable exception of Cuban nationals.
The World Series winners have occasionally played winter exhibition series against the best players of other leagues around the world, such as Japan. Sometimes the Japanese have gained the upper hand in those series; but since they are only exhibitions, their results cannot be regarded as conclusive. Attempts to pit the North American champions against champions in the Japanese or Latin American leagues in a truly meaningful way have, so far, not succeeded.
A persistent myth is that the "World" in "World Series" came about because the New York World newspaper sponsored it. Baseball researcher Doug Pappas refutes that claim, demonstrating a linear progression from the phrase "World's Championship Series" (used to describe the 1903 series as well as some of the 19th-century postseason series) to "World's Series" (a term first used in the 1880s and which persisted for decades) to "World Series". Furthermore, investigation of the New York World for the relevant years revealed no evidence of the supposed sponsorship. (For details, see Mr. Pappas' web page on the subject.)
In deference to any controversy, more and more the term "World Series Championship" is being used, the subtlety being that it is merely a title and not a political statement.
Baseball tournaments between international teams do occur, notably at the world championships and at the Olympic Games. The United States sends a team of minor league players to the Summer Olympics, as it takes place during the regular Major League season. At the 2004 Summer Olympics the United States was not represented at all, since its team of minor league players did not survive the qualifying rounds. The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) has lobbied MLB to suspend play during the Summer Olympics, so that MLB players could compete for their respective national teams, and has agreed to shorten the Olympic tournament if MLB agrees to freeing its players. According to the IBAF chairman, such a move would do more for popularizing baseball around the world than any amount of money spent by the MLB for its current worldwide marketing.
Recently, Major League Baseball conducted the inaugural World Baseball Classic. In light of the International Olympic Committee recently voting baseball out of the Summer Games as a medal sport, the results of this competition hope to prove to the IOC that baseball is truly an international game. 16 countries competed in the classic, including baseball hotbeds Japan, United States, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Korea, along with China, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Italy, Mexico, South Africa and Panama. In the Final, Japan defeated Cuba, 10-6. The United States, favored by most to at least make the last stages of the tournament, were eliminated in the second round. The WBC is planned to be held again in 2009, and every four years after.
The term World Series has since been appropriated by other championships, such as the College World Series, the Little League World Series, the World Series of Golf, the World Series of Poker, the World Series of Birding and the World Series of Martial Arts. World Series Cricket was a short-lived but influential cricket competition.
Precursors to the World Series (1857-1901)
The following are teams that played an earlier version of the "World's Championship Series" or otherwise claimed the national championship "Pennant".
National Association of Baseball Players (Amateur -> Professional)
- 1857 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1858 New York Mutuals
- 1859 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1861 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1862 Brooklyn Eckfords
- 1863 Brooklyn Eckfords
- 1864 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1866 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1867 Morrisania Unions
- 1868 New York Mutuals
- 1869 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1870 Chicago White Stockings
- 1871 Philadelphia Athletics
- 1872 Boston Red Stockings
- 1873 Boston Red Stockings
- 1874 Boston Red Stockings
- 1875 Boston Red Stockings
- 1876 Chicago White Stockings
- 1877 Boston Red Caps
- 1878 Boston Red Caps
- 1879 Providence Grays
- 1880 Chicago White Stockings
- 1881 Chicago White Stockings
National League vs. American Association
- 1882 Chicago White Stockings NL, Cincinnati Reds AA - 2 game Series, each club wins 1
- 1883 Boston Beaneaters NL, Philadelphia AA - Philadelphia cancels scheduled Series after losing "City Series" to Phillies.
- 1884 Providence Grays NL, Metropolitan [New York] AA - 3 game series, Providence wins all 3, 60-game winner Old Hoss Radbourn pitches every inning
- 1885 Chicago White Stockings NL, St. Louis Browns AA - 6 game Series, ends in dispute
- 1886 St. Louis Browns AA win 4, Chicago White Stockings NL win 2
- 1887 Detroit Wolverines NL win 10, St. Louis Browns AA win 5
- 1888 New York Giants NL win 6, St. Louis Browns AA win 2
- 1889 New York Giants NL win 6, Brooklyn Bridegrooms AA win 3
- 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms NL, Louisville Colonels AA - each win 3, no resolution
- 1891 Boston Beaneaters NL, Boston Reds AA - NL instructs Beaneaters not to play Series as leagues discuss restructuring
- 1892 Boston Beaneaters win 5, Cleveland Spiders win 0 - split-season championship
- 1893 Boston Beaneaters - no Series
- 1894 New York Giants win 4, Baltimore Orioles win 0 - Temple Cup Series
- 1895 Cleveland Spiders win 4, Baltimore Orioles win 1 - Temple Cup Series
- 1896 Baltimore Orioles win 4, Cleveland Spiders win 0 - Temple Cup Series
- 1897 Baltimore Orioles win 4, Boston Beaneaters win 1 - Temple Cup Series
- 1898 Boston Beaneaters - no Series
- 1899 Brooklyn Superbas - no Series
- 1900 Brooklyn Superbas win 4, Pittsburgh Pirates win 1 - Chronicle-Telegraph Cup Series
National League - American League
- 1901 Pittsburgh Pirates NL, Chicago White Sox AL - no Series
- 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates NL, Philadelphia Athletics AL - no Series
The modern World Series (1903-present)
The first attempt
After two years of bitter competition and player raiding, the National and American Leagues made peace and, as part of the accord, several pairs of teams squared off for interleague exhibition games after the 1903 regular season. These series were arranged by the individual teams, not by the leagues directly, the same as the 1880s World's Series matches had been. One of these series at the end of 1903 was a meeting between the two pennant winners and is known as the 1903 World Series. It had been arranged well in advance by the owners of the respective teams, as both were league leaders by large margins.
The boycott of 1904
The 1904 Series would have been between the AL's Boston Americans and the NL's New York Giants. The Giants' owner, John T. Brush, refused to allow his team to play, citing the "inferiority" of the upstart American League. At the time of the announcement, their new cross-town rivals, the Highlanders, were leading the AL. Boston won on the last day of the season, but Brush stuck to his original decision. Brush also cited the lack of rules under which the games would be played and how the money would be split. During the winter of 1904/05, however, feeling the sting of press criticism, Brush saw the light and proposed what came to be known as the "Brush Rules", under which the series would be played over subsequent years.
One rule was that player shares would come from gate receipts from the first four games only. This was to discourage teams from throwing early games in order to prolong the series and make more money. Receipts for later games were split among the two teams and the National Commission, the governing body for the sport, which was able to cover much of its annual operating expenses from World Series revenue.
Most importantly, the now-official (and compulsory) World's Series match was to be operated strictly by the National Commission itself, not on the whims of individual teams.
The list of post-season rules evolved over time. In 1925, Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets convinced owners to adopt the current 2-3-2 system of scheduling World Series games (one team would host the first two games, the other team would host the next three, and the first team would host the last two if necessary; the leagues alternated which representative would host the first games), already used in the 1924 Series, as a permanent rule. Prior to 1924, the pattern generally had been to alternate, or to make other arrangements convenient to both clubs.
Highlights and lowlights
- 1905 - New York Giants' Christy Mathewson became the first World Series hero after pitching three complete game shutouts.
- 1911 - Philadelphia Athletics' win behind heroics of "Home Run" Baker.
- 1919 - Cincinnati Reds' championship was tainted by the Black Sox scandal.
- 1920 - Cleveland Indians' victory was punctuated by Bill Wambsganss who turned the only postseason unassisted triple play.
- 1932 - New York Yankees dominated behind Babe Ruth's Called Shot.
- 1946 - St. Louis Cardinals won on Enos Slaughter's "mad dash" in Game 7.
- 1954 - New York Giants won championship after Willie Mays made The Catch.
- 1956 - New York Yankees' championship included Don Larsen pitching the only postseason perfect game.
- 1960 - Pittsburgh Pirates won on Bill Mazeroski's Game 7 walk-off home run (the only Game 7 walk-off home run).
- 1962 - New York Yankees won a Series decided by Willie McCovey's line drive.
- 1975 - Boston Red Sox' Carlton Fisk's riveting Game 6 walk-off home run was not enough to break their curse.
- 1976 - Cincinnati Reds "Big Red Machine" swept entire postseason.
- 1977 - New York Yankees won on Reggie Jackson's Game 6 heroics.
- 1980 - Philadelphia Phillies won their first championship after nearly a century in existence.
- 1985 - Kansas City Royals' elimination averted in Game 6 with the assistance of an umpire's blown call.
- 1986 - New York Mets' elimination averted in Game 6 with the assistance of Bill Buckner's infamous error.
- 1988 - Los Angeles Dodgers propelled to victory by Kirk Gibson's shocking Game 1 walk-off home run.
- 1989 - Series interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake.
- 1993 - Toronto Blue Jays won on a Game 6 walk-off home run by Joe Carter.
- 1994 - World Series cancelled due to strike.
- 1997 - Florida Marlins win their first World Series ring, on a walk-off hit by Craig Counsell
- 2001 - Arizona Diamondbacks defeat the New York Yankees in Game 7, after a game-winning single by Luis Gonzalez
- 2004 - Boston Red Sox broke their curse winning for the first time since 1918.
- 2005 - Chicago White Sox ended their drought winning for the first time since 1917.
List of modern World Series
◊ Denotes wild-card team (since 1995).
World Series Appearances
|39||New York Yankees||26||13||.666|
|18||Los Angeles Dodgers||6||12||.333||1-8 as Brooklyn Dodgers|
|17||San Francisco Giants||5||12||.294||5-9 as New York Giants|
|17||St. Louis Cardinals||10||7||.588|
|14||Oakland Athletics||9||5||.642||5-3 as Philadelphia Athletics|
|12||Atlanta Braves||3||9||.250||1-1 as Boston Braves; 1-1 as Milwaukee Braves|
|10||Boston Red Sox||6||4||.600||1-0 as Boston Americans|
|7||Baltimore Orioles||3||4||.428||0-1 as St. Louis Browns|
|6||Minnesota Twins||3||3||.500||1-2 as Washington Senators|
|5||Chicago White Sox||3||2||.600|
|4||New York Mets||2||2||.500|
|2||Toronto Blue Jays||2||0||1.000|
|2||Kansas City Royals||1||1||.500|
|2||San Diego Padres||0||2||.000|
|1||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||1||0||1.000||1-0 as Anaheim Angels|
|1||Tampa Bay Rays||0||1||.000|
Down to the wire
Teams that won by scoring in the last inning of a tied series:
Teams that came close to losing but recovered to win:
- 1912 Red Sox - two outs away from elimination.
- 1924 Senators - four outs.
- 1925 Pirates - four outs.
- 1960 Pirates - four outs.
- 1985 Royals - two outs.
- 1986 Mets - one strike.
- 1997 Marlins - two outs.
- 2001 Diamondbacks - two outs.
- 2002 Angels - six outs.
The only team to win after being one out away from elimination, the 1986 Mets, were actually twice down to their final strike in Game 6. In addition, they were five outs away from losing before scoring the tying run in the 8th inning.
50 teams have lost the first two games of a World Series (excluding ties). 11 have come back to win:
- 1921 Giants
- 1955 Dodgers
- 1956 Yankees
- 1958 Yankees
- 1965 Dodgers
- 1971 Pirates
- 1978 Yankees
- 1981 Dodgers
- 1985 Royals
- 1986 Mets
- 1996 Yankees
41 teams have fallen into a three-games-to-one deficit. Six have come back to win:
22 teams have lost the first three games of a World Series (excluding ties). All of them were swept except three which lost in five games:
Only the 1958 Yankees and the 1985 Royals have been behind two-games-to-none and three-games-to-one in the same World Series and come back to win. The 1985 Royals also overcame a three-games-to-one deficit in the American League Championship Series to defeat Toronto.
Only the 1985 Royals, the 1986 Mets, and the 1996 Yankees came back to win after losing the first two games at home.
- The New York Yankees have won two or more championships in seven different decades - 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1990s.
- The New York Giants' four consecutive World Series appearances from 1921 to 1924 are the most for any non-Yankees franchise.
- The Oakland Athletics' three consecutive World Series victories from 1972 to 1974 are the most for any non-Yankees franchise.
- The 1907-1908 Cubs, 1921-1922 Giants and 1975-1976 Reds are the only National League teams to win two straight World Series.
- From 1949 to 1956, every Series game was won by a team from New York City.
- From 1949 to 1966, every Series involved the Yankees, Dodgers and/or Giants.
- From 1978 to 1987, no franchise won the World Series twice, the longest such streak.
- At 85-77 (.525), the 1987 Minnesota Twins had the lowest winning percentage of any World Series champion.
- At 82-79 (.509), the 1973 New York Mets had the lowest winning percentage of any World Series team.
- The 1906 World Series featured two franchises that had never appeared in the World Series. Amazingly, that has not happened since.
- The 1908 World Series holds the record for poorest attendance including the record-low 6,210 in the finale.
- The 1949 World Series featured the first Series game finished under lights.
- The 1970 World Series featured the first Series game on artificial turf.
- The 1971 World Series featured the first Series game scheduled under lights.
- The 1976 World Series was the first Series to use the designated hitter rule.
- The 1987 World Series featured the first Series game played indoors.
- The 1991 World Series was the first Series to feature a team who had finished in last place the previous year. Oddly enough, this distinction applied to both Series participants that year, the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves.
- The 1987, 1991, and 2001 World Series are the only Series in which the home team won every game.
- Babe Ruth twice hit three home runs in one Series game (1926 and 1928). Reggie Jackson is the only other player to accomplish the feat (1977).
- Bobby Richardson is the only player from a losing team to win a Series MVP award (1960).
- Darold Knowles is the only pitcher to appear in every game of a seven-game World Series (1973).
- The New York Yankees have won 26 World Series, but none of them came from the '80s.