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World Series 2020

By Trevor McKey –

Major League Baseball’s 2020 season made it! There will be a World Series to crown a baseball champion. From the delayed Opening Day due to COVID-19, very few people thought it was possible or even likely that the MLB would have this opportunity. 

This year’s World Series will mark the 116th in its history and while the number is not special, this year’s World Series is definitely different in the eyes of many. With a shortened season, no fans, and expanded playoffs, the World Series comes at the perfect time within the social and political backdrop in order to provide a sense of normalcy. With the 2020 World Series about to begin, it is important to note the historical legacy of the National Pastime’s Fall Classic.

History of the World Series

The very first World Series was in 1903 between the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates where the Red Sox won five games to three in a best-of-nine games series. Historically, the World Series is a best-of-seven game playoff between a team from the National League and American League but in 1919, 1920, and 1921 the World Series also saw a best-of-nine games series. 

Before the playoffs, the World Series played host to whichever team of the National and American League had the best record during the regular season. Rooted in tradition, this would be the format until the introduction to the League Championship Series in 1969 due to the expansion of the number of teams in the MLB. The MLB would again expand the playoffs after league realignment in 1994 by adding a third round with a wild card team. This was created in order to avoid a playoff system with an odd number of divisional winners and prevent a situation where a team could have the second best record in either the National or American League but miss the playoffs since they did not win their division. In 2012, the MLB again expanded the playoffs by adding another wild card team in order to have a one-game, winner-take-all between both wildcard teams, with the winner of the one-game playoff advancing into the divisional round. And most recently due to the extraordinary circumstances with the shortened season, MLB expanded the 2020 playoffs to include the second place team from each division and two wildcard teams, making a total of 16 teams to start the playoffs and a best-of-three games first round series.

Over the course of the World Series’ history, there have only been two seasons when the World Series has not taken place. The first happened in 1904 when the NL’s New York Giants declined to play the AL’s Boston Americans. The second instance was in 1994 when the World Series was canceled due to the players’ strike. Think about this for a moment, neither World War 1, World War 2, and now COVID-19 have not prevented the World Series from taking place. Since the inaugural World Series, we have seen the Commissioner’s Trophy go to the AL 66 times compared to 49 times for the NL. With 40 appearances and 27 Championships, the New York Yankees have the most appearances and championships by any one team of the four major North American professional sports franchises.
The World Series Playoffs take place primarily during the Fall Season giving it the name Fall Classic with games happening as late as November. The World Series name itself is also an interesting fun fact. According to author Joseph A. Reaves and NPR, the name “World Series” can be traced to the Gilded Age and how the United States saw itself as a dominant military, economic, and political world power incapable of losing at its own game and thus, claiming the championship a “World Series.” Others have claimed that the name “World Series” was really a marketing strategy to bring more people into the ballpark.

World Series Greatest Moments

Yogi Berra’s most famous baseballism, “It ain’t over until it’s over” rings particularly true in baseball since there is always an opportunity to comeback and win as long as you have outs to give in order to keep playing. Besides, a lot can happen with one out left and superstitiously, no one should ever count outs. As pressure mounts and focus comes at an all-time high, the World Series has lived up to expectations providing dramatic, great, and memorable moments along the way. Here are just a few in no particular order:

  • Babe Ruth’s called shot against the Chicago Cubs in game 3 of the 1932 World Series 
  • Pittsburgh Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski delivers the only walk-off home run in a game 7 of the World Series in 1960
  • New York Yankees’ Don Larson pitches the only perfect game in World Series history in game 5 of the 1956 World Series
  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson with two hurt knees and noticeably hurting after every foul ball, hits a pinch hit two-run walk-off home run with two outs against one of the best closers ever, Dennis Eckersley, in game 1 of the 1988 World Series
  • Boston Red Sox’ Carlton Fisk inspires generations of young baseball players by waving the walk-off home run fair in game 6 of the 1975 World Series

World Series in an Election Year

The 2020 World Series will be the 29th year the World Series falls on an election year. In a 1972 article, the editor of The Baseball Research Journal made an observation covering the golden era of baseball (1952 to 1968) claiming that if the AL team wins the World Series, the GOP candidate wins the White House, while if the NL team wins the World Series, a Democrat wins the presidency. As noted in Forbes, statisticians took this to task covering 1908 through 2012 and found this claim to be 59% accurate by picking the presidential winner 16 times. Most recently in the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Chicago Cubs not only broke the longest World Series Championship drought by winning after 108 years, but they also broke from the coin flip as Donald Trump won the presidency.

2020 World Series

The 2020 World Series will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays representing the AL for only the second time in franchise history. Tampa Bay has yet to win the Commissioner’s Trophy but with the help of rookie Randy Arozarena’s ALCS MVP bid, they are poised to make a good run for the championship. For the Rays opponent, this is the Dodgers’ third World Series appearance in the last four years while coming off the best record in baseball for the shortened season. The Los Angeles Dodgers have won 6 World Series Championships in 20 total appearances, but they have not won since 1988. Could the 2020 World Series end a painful drought for the Dodgers or usher in a first ever franchise championship for the Rays?  See the link for the World Series schedule.

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