As played in the United States of America, baseball is a 19th-century game, “invented” before the Civil War and popularized in the decades thereafter. But the various leagues that governed baseball did not get around to hosting a World Series until 1903, and even then the best-of-nine contest was a late-season business deal between the owners of the two league-leading teams, the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates, rather than an official championship between the victors of the American and National League pennants.

In that first series, Boston pitcher Cy Young threw the series’ first pitch to Pittsburgh center fielder Ginger Beaumont. Young and his Americans, who were renamed the Red Sox in 1908, lost that first game to a Pirates team led by the pitching of Deacon Phillippe and the hitting of Jimmy Sebring, who drove in four of his team’s seven runs on October 1, 1903. Phillippe would win two more games for his Pirates, but Young would bounce back to win two of his own, and the Americans eventually took the series five games to three.

The Red Sox would win four more World Series between 1903 and 1918, but in 1919 they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Thus began the almost century-long “Curse of the Bambino” (Ruth’s nickname), which seemingly kept the Sox out of the Series until 2004. In that year, the Red Sox were down three games to none against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and faced almost certain elimination. Miraculously, though, the Red Sox took the next four games from the Yankees to make it into the World Series, in which they swept the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League.

In fact, the Yankees and the Cardinals are the two winningest World Series teams in baseball, with the Cards followed closely by the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants, who, in recent years, appeared in three of five championships.


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