Tags : :
Welcome to this special edition of "Number One Says," where for the next four weeks, I will detail the history of MLB's postseason format, which was divided into four eras. This week details the Classic World Series Era that lasted for 66 seasons.
Not many know this, but World Series play actually existed late in the 19th century. Back then, the championship series (which was not known as the World Series at the time) was played between the winners of the National League and the American Association, and this was a perennial tradition beginning in 1882 and ending in 1890, the last year of the AA's existence. Eleven years later in 1901, the American League was established, and two years after that, MLB's first official World Series was played. In that series, the Boston Red Sox defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three, the first of four Fall Classics to be played under a best-of-nine format. The infamous 1919 Series was the second, followed by the 1920 and 1921 Fall Classics.
For sixty seasons between 1901-1960, the American and National Leagues each had eight teams. Back then, the leagues were direct counterparts of each other for the most part, as each league had teams in the following areas:
New York (Yankees & Giants/Dodgers)
Boston (Red Sox & Braves)
Philadelphia (Athletics & Phillies)
Chicago (White Sox & Cubs)
Ohio (Indians & Reds)
St. Louis (Browns & Cardinals)
That's 13 teams right there. The other three teams: the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the original Washington Senators.
During the entire 66 year period, the Leagues were bunched up. No divisions. A team won the pennant simply by finishing in first place, so to say races were tight would be an understatement. In the event of a tie at season's end, a tiebreaker would be played between the two teams. The AL and NL had different rules regarding tiebreakers. The National League tiebreakers were played in a best-of-three format. The American League tiebreakers were single game.
There was no World Series played in 1904. Why? Because Giants manager John McGraw refused to accept the American League as being equal to the National League, despite the junior circuit winning the Series a year prior. The Giants would win the World Series in 1905, defeating the Philadelphia A's. The Chicago Cubs made history as the first team to play in three straight World Series from 1906-08. 1906 saw the Cubs lose to the crosstown White Sox in what remains (to this day) the only Windy City World Series in baseball history. The Cubs won in 1907 and 1908; becoming the first back-to-back champions. However, 108 years have passed, and the Cubs are still looking for their third championship.
The Boston Red Sox were basically baseball's first dynasty. The team won five of the first 15 World Series playe between 1903 and 1918. And then they decided to sell a player named George Herman Ruth to the New York Yankees. After that, the Red Sox wouldn't celebrate a World Championship until 2004. The Yankees were the complete opposite before this deal, as the team never even won a pennant. In 1921, a year after acquiring Babe, the Yankees won the pennant for the first time, but lost to the Giants in the final best-of-nine World Series. Two years later in 1923, the Yankees defeated the Giants in the World Series, winning the Fall Classic for the very first time.
The Yankees began winning championships left and right, including the famous "Murderers' Row" team in 1927. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Cubs had a number of opportunities to win their 3rd World Series, only to fall flat. One instance in 1929 saw the Cubs down 2-1 in the Series, but up 8-0 late in Game Four against Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. In a shocker, the A's racked up 10 runs in the seventh inning! An occurrence like that was so rare that the scoreboard operator was not prepared for it. There were no boards with double-digit numbers, so the scorekeeper had to paint the number "10" on a piece of wood. The A's won Game Four, 10-8, and then took Game Five to win the whole thing.
In 1945, the Cubs faced off against the Tigers, the team they defeated in 1908. The Cubs led 2-1 in the Series, winning two of the three played in Detroit. The final four games were played at Wrigley Field, and the Tigers won three of the four games played to take the Series. As many know, a Cubs fan with a billy goat was ejected in one of the games, saying in so many words that Wrigley Field would never host a WS game again. Game Seven was played on October 10, 1945. No World Series games have been played there since.
I mentioned tiebreakers earlier. The following year, 1946, featured the first tiebreaker situation, as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers in two games to win the pennant. The Cards went on to defeat the Red Sox in the World Series. In the Classic World Series Era, five tiebreakers were needed, with 1948 being the only time a tiebreaker was needed in the American League. The Indians defeated the Red Sox, 8-3, to win the pennant, which they turned into a World Championship. The most famous situation was the 1951 tiebreaker between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. All three games were needed, with the deciding third game ending on Bobby Thomson's ever famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World."
Speaking of the Brooklyn Dodgers, they were MLB's "close but no cigar" team for many years. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Dodgers were among the top powerhouses in the National League, along with the Cardinals and Giants. However, the Dodgers couldn't win the big one, and when they did get there, they ran into a roadblock known as the Yankees on a near yearly basis. Because of this, fans in Brooklyn referred to their team as "the Bums," and often said "Wait til next year." "Next year" finally came in 1955, when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in seven games to win their first World Series. It still stands as Brooklyn's only sports championship.
Despite the American and National Leagues being direct counterparts of each other, crosstown World Series matches hardly happened, other than Series between the Yankees and either the Giants or Dodgers. Other than 1906's Windy City Series, 1944 would see the only all-St. Louis World Series between the Browns and Cardinals, which the latter won, but that was all. Regarding the four best-of-nine World Series played (1903, 1919-21), none of them reached a deciding Game Nine.
The tail end of the first era would see the start of relocation and eventually expansion. The Braves moved out of Boston in 1953 and headed to Milwaukee, and moved to their current location--Atlanta--in 1966. The A's went from Philadelphia to Kansas City before moving to their current location, Oakland, in 1968. The most notable moves came in 1958, when the Dodgers and Giants left New York for sunny California, marking the first MLB franchises for the Golden State. The Dodgers moved to LA while the Giants headed to the Bay Area--San Francisco to be exact. The Dodgers won the World Series over the White Sox in 1959, their second season in LA.
After 60 seasons, the original Washington Senators franchise moved to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. As part of a deal made with Our Nation's Capital, a second Washington Senators team was placed in the American League. That same year would see the establishment of the Los Angeles Angels, who began play in LA before moving to Anaheim a year later in 1962. After the Dodgers and Giants moved, the Yankees stood as MLB's only NY franchise, until the New York Mets were added in 1962, serving as the NL counterpart to the Yankees since then. That year would also see MLB introduced to Texas, with the addition of the Houston Colt .45s (later Astros). The aforementioned St. Louis Browns headed east to Baltimore in 1954, becoming the Orioles. By 1968, the last year of the era, MLB had 20 teams--10 in each League.
And that was the history of the Classic World Series Era, the first format of MLB's modern era. Which begs the question: What was the most memorable moment of the Classic World Series Era?