The World Series has a complicated history behind it — but why is it called that?
There’s nothing like a good history lesson to kick off the 2022 World Series. Airing its first game out of seven (if necessary) on Friday, Oct. 28, the World Series will put two teams against each other for the title of World Series Winner: the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros. Both teams have a spotty baseball history, in addition to the spotty history of the World Series itself.
In fact, we realize that it’s pretty strange that the championship is called the “World Series,” since only teams from the United States (and one from Canada) can qualify. If the Phillies win, it will only be their third World Series win and their first since 2008, but if the Astros win, it will only be their second win, after they last won in 2017 (with a cheating scandal).
But why is the World Series actually called that?
Why is it called the World Series? Here’s a quick history lesson.
As many baseball fans know, we now have two leagues that are part of the Major League Baseball Association: the National League and the American League. While the World Series is largely an amicable competition between the two teams who are each at the top of their league, it wasn’t always so friendly. In fact, its history is based on a rivalry that began long before the first World Series in 1903.
The National League was first founded as the National Association of Professional Baseball Players in 1871 and renamed in 1876. However, when the American Association was formed in 1882, a rivalry between the two leagues sprung up. Without a postseason, the team with the best record in each league would play each other in a final championship that varied in length from three games in 1884 to 15 games in 1887. Some series even ended in ties.
But before the 20th century, there were many names for this championship. Some referred to it as the Championship of the United States whereas others as the World’s Championship Series or World’s Series for short. In Simon Winchester’s book Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, he claims that the World Series was named for the New York World newspaper, which would report on the outcome. However, this has since been disputed.
Others had since referred to it as the Fall Classic because it’s played in the fall. Even still, there was no official championship until 1903, when the AL’s Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) beat the NL’s Pittsburgh Pirates in a major upset. This was proof that the new American League could match and beat the National League, which set a standard for the modern-day World Series as we know it.
In 1903, the Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss referred to the series as the World’s Championship Series when challenging the Boston Americans, so the name stuck and shortened over time to what we know it as today: the World Series. Even still, there is some confusion, as baseball is now played all over the world.
Japan, as well as many countries in Central America, are known for their incredible baseball players, so there is now a World Baseball Classic. The international tournament began in 2006 and is more similar to the format of soccer’s FIFA World Cup, by including national teams instead of regular-season teams. Over its five iterations, the Classic has been won by Japan twice, followed by the Dominican Republic and the United States.
Despite the new international tournament, many American baseball fans — possibly the largest baseball fanbase in the world — consider the World Series the only true test of baseball’s top players and teams.
Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. EST to see the Phillies match up against the Astros in a true test of skills.