The Peculiar Side of Sports: Should the World Series Really be the “North American Series”?
Winning the World Series is one of the monumental feats in professional sports. After all, the winner of the seven-game series is crowned champion of the world, right? Is the team not considered the best team on the planet, hence “World” Series? Not so fast…
I won’t argue that in all likelihood the winner of the baseball championships is most likely (but not definitely) the best team on Earth – if I had you would likely no longer be reading my little diatribe as I would have lost any credibility I have mustered over the past year plus writing for this little website. But the fact that the San Francisco Giants will not be taking their roster to do battle with the champions from Cuba, Dominican Republic, China, Japan, etc, gave me the idea to look into why the champion was considered world champions in the first place.
The reality is that until the Montreal Expos joined major league baseball in 1969 only American teams could win the trophy. And until the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series, it had been an all-American affair for both the winners and runners up. So where did the name “World” Series come from?
The short answer we often hear is that the “World” part of the name has nothing to do with designating the team as the best team on the planet. Rather, it was first coined based on a now defunct newspaper out of the Big Apple called, “New York World” – hence, “World” Series. So had the championships been sponsored by the New York Times, we’d be talking about the Times Series, or maybe the “Journal Series” after the Wall Street Journal.
Does that clear it all up? Okay, that theory is debated, and is not the only one.
The New York World (okay, now I’m off-topic a wee bit, forgive me) was published from the mid-19th century through 1931. It was a leading voice of the Democrats in the US, and was published by Joseph Pulitzer – yeah, that same guy. In fact, I believe it to be the first newspaper to hit the one-million circulation mark. The problem is that there is no evidence that has come forward gives any actual connection between the newspaper and the naming of the championships. Even Cooperstown has not found any evidence in an official statement:
“There is no evidence suggesting it (the World Series) was ever sponsored by the New York World newspapers”.
Where the “New York World” myth started, we don’t know. But a look at the newspaper accounts from both the New York World and other contemporary papers of the time makes no mention of their sponsorship, not during the precursors to the World Series tht took place in the 1880s and certainly not in 1903 when the Pittsburgh Pirates faced Boston in the first official series as recognized by Major League baseball.
Going over the history we find that the first series of this kind were played in the in the 1880′s, and called the World Championship Series (among other names). They were played between the National League and the now defunct American Association, the two rival baseball leagues of the time. This series determined baseball’s champion between 1884-1890 and are considered by Major League Baseball to not be true World Series. The American Association folded in 1891 leaving a decade where the National League Champions were undisputed champions of baseball. The first official World Series took place in 1903, after the American League’s founding in 1901.
As stated the 1880s era series were called “the World Championship Series”. So logic says that the name was shortened to exclude “championships”, so we were left with “World Series”. See, at that time as best as I can determine, baseball was NOT yet a world game. Therefore, the team who won the United States Championship really was an undisputed World champion.
So unfortunately we don’t really know the true answer to this question, but the speculation seems to make sense that it was the only championship competed for in 1903. The one thing I do know is that millions tune in to watch two phenomenal teams battle it out in October for some trophy with many flags on it, that looks like I would want it on my own mantle, yet only dozens have that privilege – for which I am not, and never will be, one.
*side note: In 1903 the team was simply known as Boston, as they had no official team name until they were named the Red Sox in 1908. They were commonly called by names such as Boston Americans, Boston American Leaguers, Boston Pilgrims, and Boston Red Stockings in the newspapers at the time.
Hopefully I haven’t made it more confusing for you, and at the very least opened discussion so that some day there can be further research into the name and no more discrepancies. Ahhh, to be idealistic.
If you’ve missed other installments of “The Peculiar Side of Sports“, feel free to click the name and see what else you might not know. And remember, if you have any sports related nagging questions, send ‘em my way and I’ll do my best to get you answers. Send email to: LastWordArmy@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport.