World Series

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World Series

Type of Holiday: Sporting
Date of Observation: Annually in October
Where Celebrated: Location varies
Symbols and Customs: Commissioner's Trophy, Parades, World Series Rings


The World Series is a men's professional baseball championship played between the two leagues in Major League Baseball, the National League and American League. The winning teams from each of these two leagues meet for a series of seven games, with the World Series championship going to the team that is the first to win four games. Despite its name, the World Series is not an international sporting event. Participation is limited to the teams that are part of Major League Baseball, which includes twenty-nine U.S. teams and one team in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The World Series was named in the early 1900s when the American game of baseball was not yet being played outside the U.S., and the world of baseball was small.

The early years of professional baseball in the U.S. were fraught with scandal and controversy. The game had been played across the country in various forms throughout the 1800s, with the first professional teams being formed around 1867. Baseball games during this time were played in a somewhat disorganized fashion, as teams operated without a league structure and often did not even agree on the standard rules of play. These disagreements sometimes resulted in teams refusing to play each other at all. The National Association of Professional Baseball Players represented the first attempt to organize teams. The group was formed in 1871 but disbanded soon after due to gambling and bribery scandals.

The National League was formed in 1876, and a precursor to the American League existed by 1884. The first intra-league professional baseball championship was played in 1884, consisting of a three-game series featuring the Providence Grays of the National League against the New York Metropolitans of the American League. In what is regarded by many as baseball's first big upset, the Grays defeated the highly regarded Metropolitans.

By 1890, a third independent professional organization called the Players League had formed. With three leagues in competition for players and fans, the Players League and the American League both eventually folded. The American League was attempting to reorganize by 1899, but ongoing conflicts with the National League prevented intra-league games from being played. The two leagues ultimately reached an agreement in the early 1900s, and the return of a two-league professional baseball system stabilized the sport and revived public interest in the game.

The first World Series, called the World's Championship Series, was held in 1903 and is generally regarded as the precursor to the modern World Series. This ninegame series featured the National League Pittsburgh Pirates against the American League Boston Pilgrims. The Pirates were popularly favored to win but were unexpectedly defeated by the Pilgrims. The next year, the World Series was cancelled when the National League champion New York Giants refused to play against Boston. The World Series resumed in 1905 with the Giants against Philadelphia in a seven-game series. The seven-game format used today was adopted in 1905 as the World Series standard of play, with the exception of the series played from 1919 to 1921, which included nine games.

Public interest and excitement around the World Series spread as the number of baseball fans grew throughout the U.S. Before the advent of radio broadcasts, huge public message boards enabled fans to follow the developing game action. These boards were often attached to the exterior walls of buildings, usually those that housed newspaper offices. Play-by-play reports and updated scores were received by telegraph and manually posted on the boards, which usually included a drawing of the baseball field with players' figures that were moved from base to base by telegraph operators. The first radio studio broadcast of a World Series was in 1921, and the first live radio broadcast from a baseball stadium occurred in 1923.

One event that generated a lot of public interest in baseball was the 1919 World Series and its aftermath. In that series, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox in eight games. The next year, after an investigation into baseball gambling, authorities charged that the series had been "fixed" by gamblers-meaning that they had made arrangements in advance to ensure a certain outcome. Authorities accused seven players from the White Sox of accepting bribes from gamblers to lose the series intentionally. An eighth player didn't accept a bribe but was said to have known about the fix and failed to stop it. Those eight players were banned from baseball for life. The event became known as the Chicago Black Sox Scandal, and it tarnished the image of baseball as America's pastime.

During this time, African Americans were not allowed to play for teams in the National League or American League. African Americans created a separate professional baseball organization in the 1920s, consisting of the Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League. The first Negro League World Series was played in 1924 and then held annually until 1927, when the Eastern Colored League disbanded. The Negro League World Series was restarted in 1942 and held each year until 1948. Major League Baseball became integrated in 1947 when Jackie Robinson-the first African-American player in the modern major leagues-was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Once the practice of barring African Americans from Major League Baseball teams ended, so did the Negro League World Series.

Another World Series of baseball also began in the early 1940s. During World War II, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed because many players in the professional men's leagues had been drafted into military service. The women's professional league played from 1943 to 1954 and held the Women's World Series every year during that time.

The first World Series television broadcast occurred in 1948 to a limited audience of fans in Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and St. Louis, Missouri. The first national television broadcast of the World Series occurred in 1951.

Two series that were particularly gratifying to baseball fans occurred in recent years. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series-after not winning for eighty-six years. The Red Sox had faced a particularly difficult American League Championship Series against their rival, the New York Yankees, falling behind 3-0 before winning four straight games. Then the following year, 2005, the Chicago White Sox won after an even longer wait-they hadn't won a World Series in eighty-eight years, since 1919.

Since its inception more than 100 years ago, professional baseball has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Baseball is now played in more than 100 countries and enjoyed by millions of fans. The World Series continues to be one of the most highly anticipated sporting events in the U.S. In recognition of the globalization of the game, the World Baseball Classic-a true international championship-was held for the first time in 2006. Created by the Major League Baseball organization and the Major League Baseball Players Association, the World Baseball Classic is intended to be held every four years beginning in 2009.


Commissioner's Trophy

Commonly known as the World Series Trophy, the Commissioner's Trophy was first awarded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967. Unlike other championship trophies in sports such as ice hockey and soccer, the Commissioner's Trophy is not passed from one winning team to the next each year. Instead, a new trophy is created for each winning team to own permanently.

The current design of the Commissioner's Trophy was created by renowned jewelers Tiffany & Co. in 2000. The handcrafted trophy, standing twenty-four inches high and weighing thirty pounds, features thirty gold flags-one for each of the Major League Baseball teams-arranged in a circle and rising above latitude and longitude lines representing the earth. The base is engraved with the words "Presented by the Commissioner of Baseball" and also includes the engraved signature of the Baseball Commissioner.


Playing in the World Series-and better yet, winning it-is a source of tremendous excitement, elation, and pride for hometown fans. After the series, the winning city often hosts a parade to honor the team's achievement. Players, coaches, owners, and other staffers ride in open vehicles through city streets. The route would be thronged with fans cheering for their team and their favorite players. A rally is usually held at the end of the route, giving team members and city officials a chance to speak and to display the World Series Trophy. For all-players, officials, and fans-it's a chance to celebrate.

World Series Rings

In a special ceremony that takes place at the beginning of each baseball season, elaborate rings are awarded to the winners of the previous season's World Series. Rings are usually given to players, coaches, staff, and others associated with the team. The design of the rings differs each year; a typical World Series ring can include more than twenty diamonds and thirty-five grams of solid gold.


Enders, Eric. 1903-2004: 100 Years of the World Series. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2003. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Leventhal, Josh. The World Series: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Fall Classic. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2001. Schoor, Gene. The History of the World Series: The Complete Chronology of America's Greatest Sports Tradition. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990.


Major League Baseball
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

World Series

Also known as the Fall Classic, this best-of-seven-games play-off is between the championship baseball teams of the American and National Leagues. Games are played in the home parks of the participating teams, but the Series is truly a national event. For many it marks the spiritual end of summer and is a uniquely American occasion—like the Fourth of July.
The first World Series was played in 1903 between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. There was a lapse in 1904, but the Series resumed in 1905 and has been played annually ever since. The seven-game format was adopted in 1922.
Highlights of the Series mirror the symbolism of life that some see in the game itself; they include moments of athletic perfection and of human error, of drama and of scandal.
The scandal came when eight team members of the Chicago White Sox (ever afterwards to be known as the Black Sox) were accused of conspiring with gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series. Star left fielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson admitted his part in the scandal, and on leaving court one day, heard the plea of a tearful young fan, "Say it ain't so, Joe."
Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Mickey Owen brought groans from fans with an error that has resounded in Series history. He let a ball get away from him—in 1941, in the ninth inning, on the third strike, with the Dodgers ahead of the New York Yankees by one run. The Yankee team revived and went on to win. Fifteen years later, in 1956, Yankee pitcher Don Larsen gave fans a rare thrill when he pitched a perfect game (no hits, no walks, no runners allowed on base) against the Dodgers, beating them 2-0. It remains the only perfect game pitched in a Series. Both these World Series were called Subway Series, because New York City fans could commute by subway from the Dodgers' Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Another dramatic moment came in the 1989 Series. On Oct. 17, at 5:04 p.m., while 60,000 fans were waiting for the introduction of the players at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, an earthquake struck and the ballpark swayed. Players and fans were safely evacuated (although 67 people in other parts of the city died in the quake), and 10 days later the Series resumed in the same park. The Oakland Athletics mowed down the San Francisco Giants in four straight games.
Office of the Baseball Commissioner
245 Park Ave., 31st Fl.
New York, NY 10167
800-975-3277 or 212-931-7800; fax: 212-949-8636
BkHolWrld-1986, Oct 17
HolSymbols-2009, p. 1064
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.