Baseball-Almanac.com's World Series section
Each year, the primary focus in any professional sport is the race for a championship. Every sport has their pinnacle trophy, but none is as coveted as baseball’s World Series; a best of 7 contest that celebrates our national pastime. An event as important as any holiday on the calendar, it is as traditional as Thanksgiving, as patriotic as the Fourth of July and as anticipated as Christmas morning. Over the last century, the World Series has been woven into the fabric of America’s culture evolving far beyond a mere baseball tournament. It has become the game of all games and has continued to provide us with an endless highlight reel of magical moments evoking childhood memories of agony and ecstasy.
How would one define the World Series? It’s Willie Mays catching what can't be caught and Don Larsen being perfect where perfection is simply not possible. It's Babe Ruth telling the fans and media where he is going to deposit the next pitch and a heavily outscored team of Pirates beating the unbeatable Yankees off a ninth inning Bill Mazeroski blast. The World Series is the crushing blow of Fred Snodgrass dropping a routine fly ball and Willie McCovey hitting the final out straight to Bobby Richardson. It's the Curse of the Bambino, when loyal Red Sox fans live their entire lives without witnessing a championship and when Yankees fans witness 4 in 5 years…
Although the "Fall Classic" as we know it didn't begin until 1903, major-league baseball had several versions of a post-season championship series before that. In 1884, the Providence Grays of the National League outplayed the New York Metropolitan Club of the American Association in a 3 game series for what was originally called "The Championship of the United States." Several newspapers penned the Grays as "World Champions" and the new title stuck. Over the next 6 years, different variations took place between the NL and AA pennant-winners, ranging in length from six to fifteen games. The American Association folded unexpectedly after the 1891 season forcing a suspension of the series. The following year, the National League absorbed 4 of the AA's former franchises and expanded to 12 teams in an effort to promote the growth of baseball and maintain the public’s interest. They played a split season in which the first-half winner played the second-half winner for the league championship. Many fans did not support the new system and the split season was promptly dropped in 1893.
In 1894, Pittsburgh’s owner William C. Temple offered a championship trophy to the winner of a best-of-seven-game series between the NL's first and second-place teams. In addition, he stated that the winning franchise would receive 65% of all ticket sales and the losing team would pocket 35%. Boston accepted his offer and went on to beat Pittsburgh 5 games to 3. Temple’s novel idea would last for the next 3 years and helped to build the foundation for baseball’s post-season popularity. More changes were on the horizon and in 1901, the American League was established much to the dismay of the Nationals. Suddenly, baseball found itself engaged in a "civil war" as both rival leagues competed separately for the fan’s loyalty and attention. 2 years later a truce, previously known as the "National Agreement", was redefined outlining baseball’s employment, salary and travel requirements. The 1903 compromise produced the business blueprint for major-league baseball and resulted in a merger that has lasted to this day. Once again the Boston Pilgrims and Pittsburgh Pirates, the top AL and NL teams, found themselves competing against one another in the first official "World Series".
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