Why is America’s Baseball Championship called “The World Series”?

Why is America’s Baseball Matches Called The World Series?

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Baseball is known as “America’s Past Time”.  If that is the case, then why is Baseball’s Championship known as the “World Series”?  Doesn’t this seem a bit contradictory?  Keep reading to find out the answer to this perplexing question and to learn more about the “World Series”.

Most people believe that the World Series was initially named by a newspaper called the New York World Telegram. This belief was initially perpetuated by an author named Simon Winchester in one of his books.  Even though that theory is believed to be true by a great deal of baseball historians, it simply is NOT true.  The naming of the World Series happened because of former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss.  Mr. Dreyfuss wrote a letter to Henry Killilea, the owner of the Boston Americans (now Red Sox), challenging his team to a “World Championship Series”.  This was changed to “World Series” sometime thereafter.

Who won the first World Series?

  • The Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st ever World Series in the year of 1903 by winning 5 out of the 8 games played.  Although both teams won 91 games during their respective regular seasons, many fans considered this a surprising upset because the Pittsburgh Pirates were looked at by many as the more dominant team.
  • Boston got on a hot streak and won the final 4 games of the series to clinch the title.
  • The most famous players in the first World Series included pitcher Cy Young (winner of 28 ball games that year) of the Boston Americans and shortstop Honus Wagner (the 1903 batting title winner for highest batting average) of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
  • Side notes: The top pitcher in each league is given the “Cy Young Award” each year.  Honus Wagner’s T206 baseball card is still considered the most valuable of all-time.

World Series History:  What happened Before 1903?

Major League Baseball does NOT officially recognize any championship series as the “World Series” that occurred before 1903.  This is because the games were often extremely disorganized, with the owners having arguably too much power in deciding each separate season’s terms.  For example, the games played in each “series” ranged from only 3 games in 1884 to as much as 15 games in 1887.

Sadly enough, Major League Baseball has always had its share of in-fighting.  Even back in 1904 certain teams and certain owners could NOT seem to get along.  The New York Giants owner, John Brush, decided to boycott the World Series which further fueled the rivalry of the National League vs. the American League.  This was the only World Series ever to NOT be played, other than the tragic strike shortened season of 1994.

More World Series Historical Facts and Figures

  • The New York Yankees have been the most dominant team in World Series history by a wide margin.  The Yanks have won the World Series an astounding 27 times.  The next closest team is the Saint Louis Cardinals with 9 World Series titles.
  • The Yankees have also played in more World Series than any other team.  They have made it to the World Series a record 40 different occasions.  The team with the 2nd most World Series appearances is the Los Angeles Dodgers with 21.
  • The World Series has a long, rich history.  It has been played 116 times.
  • The World Series’ has also been nicknamed the “Fall Classic” by many fans and sportswriters because it is always played in the late fall (autumn) of each year.
  • The most controversial World Series would have to be the 1919 “Black Sox Scandal” featuring the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds.  Eight White Sox players were furious at the cheap ways of owner Charlie Comiskey and vowed to get even with him since he often shorted players on their salaries and bonuses. 
    These players agreed to lose the World Series on purpose in order to collect money from professional gamblers and to spite their often too frugal owner.  This was a huge black eye for the sport of baseball and was a big turn off to many die-hard baseball purists.  All eight players ended up being banned from the game for life.

Is it really a “World” Championship if all the teams are from The United States (and 1 from Canada)?

This question is difficult and not easy at all to answer.  Most Americans assume that the best players in the world are all playing in Major League Baseball.  Since the best players in the world are predominantly playing in the Major Leagues, people gather that the winner of the final series should be considered the “World” Champion.

A Word about the World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic is an international tournament that began play in the year 2006.  Though it has only been played four times in its history, it has risen greatly in popularity.  Many folks now consider the winner of the World Baseball Classic to be the true “World” Champion. 

It is interesting that out of the four times that the World Baseball Classic has been played, only once has it been won by the United States.  Let us take a brief look at the respective winners below:

  • 2006 – Japan
  • 2009 – Japan
  • 2013 – Dominican Republic
  • 2017 – United States
  • Interesting Side Note:  Japan has the most Gold Medals (2) and the most medals overall (4) in the World Baseball Classic’s history.

Final Thoughts

Football has the “Super Bowl”.  Basketball has the “NBA Finals”.  Hockey has the “Stanley Cup Finals”. Auto Racing has the “Daytona 500”.  Only Baseball has the “World Series”. 

It is interesting that only baseball uses the term “World” in naming its champions.  Now the next time someone asks you at your local sports bar why America’s baseball championship is called the World Series, you can kindly inform them.

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