For over a century and a half, baseball has been America’s national past time, but it wasn’t until 1903 that the first World Series was played. Throughout its 11-decade history, spectators have seen bitter upsets and great triumphs of the human spirit. It has survived scandals and strikes, and it continues to inspire generation after generation of Americans. With such a long history, there are bound to be hundreds of facts that the average baseball fan is unaware of. Here are eight facts we think everyone should know.
Fact #1: Despite the fact that it’s a world championship, only one team from outside the USA has won.
The title of “World Series” may have seemed like a misnomer to many when the championship was first played as none of the teams came from outside the United States. This changed in 1969 when the Montreal Expos was established. They were joined by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, which went on to become the first team from outside the USA to win the Series in 1992. The Blue Jays followed this victory with another win in 1993.
Fact #2: The World Series has only been canceled twice in 110 years.
The games continued to be played during both world wars, but they were not played in 1904 and 1994. In 1904, fans should have been watching the second ever Series, but because of lingering rivalries within the MLB, the New York Giants refused to accept the major league status of the Boston Pilgrims, the American League champion. Thankfully, feelings had changed by 1905 when the Giants were National League champions once again and faced off against the Philadelphia Athletics, winning four games to one.
Fact #3: There has only been one no-hitter in World Series history.
Only Don Larsen can claim to have thrown a perfect game in the Fall Classic. It happened during Game 5 of the 1956 Series when Larsen and the Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to three. Larsen was later awarded the Series MVP for his effort.
Fact #4: The highest number of home runs hit by a single player in a Series is five.
That record is held by two men, Reggie Jackson and Chase Utley. Jackson’s set the record during the 1977 Series when, playing for the New York Yankees, he hit five home runs in the six-game Series. The record was tied during the 2009 Series when Philadelphia’s Utley hit five home runs in a six-game Series against Jackson’s old team. Reggie Jackson is also tied with Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval for hitting the most home runs (3) in a single game of the Series.
Fact #5: The World Series was not the first baseball championship.
A loosely organized series of games were played between 1884 and 1890 called the Championship of the United States. Years before the American League was established, these games pitted the National League against the now defunct American Association. These were primarily exhibition games. The rules varied from year to year with some series having as many as 15 games and other having only three.
Fact #6: The Boston Red Sox are the only team in World Series history to win after being down three games to zero.
What most fans in Bean Town remember about the 2004 Series is that it broke the “Curse of the Bambino,” the supposed result of Sox owner Harry Frazee’s sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1918. For less supernatural reasons, the game was historic because it was the first and only time that a team lost the first three games, and then won the last four games. There may be something to the curse, if only psychologically, because after it was broken in 2004, Boston went on to win again in 2007 and 2013.
Fact #7: The Yankees and the Dodgers have faced off against each more often than any other pair of teams.
The New York Yankees and the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have played one another 11 times, with the Yankees winning eight games and the Dodgers winning only three. Their first match-up was in 1941, but they haven’t played each other since 1981, mostly because the Dodgers appeared only one more time in 1988.
Fact #8: The same team has the gone the longest without a win and without an appearance.
Does it surprise anyone that we’re talking about the Cubs? The Cubs defeated the Tigers in 1907 and again in 1908, their final victory. Their last appearance was in 1945. Some place the blame for their poor performance in the following decades on a curse. Local legend says that a local tavern owner was ejected from the stadium during Game 4 because he had brought his pet goat (though he had paid for an extra seat). The story goes that on his way out, the man cursed the Cubs, saying that they would never play in a Series again. Whether the story is true or not, that’s exactly what happened. In fairness to the Cubs, the Seattle Mariners and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals have never made an appearance.
The World Series is one of America’s oldest traditions. Though the MLB as seen competition from other sports in recent decades, baseball remains one of our most watched sports. The only thing that’s important to most fans is to see their team presented with the Commissioner’s Cup, but it’s good to know a little about the history of the game. Dig into the history of your own team and see what interesting facts you can dig up.