Major League Baseball’s regular season is great and all but perhaps the most important, intense, and exciting time in all sports is the World Series. Not all teams are suited to become World Series champions.
There have been 114 editions of the World Series thus far. However, perhaps none of them have been as iconic as the very first edition, the 1903 World Series between the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Most young baseball fans may not be aware of the history that preceded this historical edition but the game as we know it today would have never been possible if it wasn’t for that matchup in 1903.
That’s why today, we’re going to walk you through everything that happened before, during, and after the 1903 World Series, one of the most important moments in the history of major sports.
Pre World Series era
Long before the American League existed, the American Association (AA) and the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) were the two major organizations for professional baseball in the United States.
The NAPBBP ceased to exist in 1875 and the National League (NL) was born the next season. But before the was a World Series to determine the champion of professional baseball, the teams with the best regular-season record on each league were awarded the title without any kind of postseason.
Original World Series
Then, from 1884 to 1890, the ‘winning’ team of the National League faced the winners of the American Association to determine the champion of baseball. Teams and owners agreed on several terms like the length of the series (from 3 to 15 games), locations, and other minor rule changes for every edition.
Two of those editions (1885 and 1890) even ended up with a tie, and both associations couldn’t even agree on a name for this series. It was called the World Series Championship, World Series, and The Championship of the United States.
National League Monopoly and the Temple Cup
The American Association ceased to exist after the 1891 season as it just couldn’t compete with the National League. Plenty of its teams defected to join the NL right away, thus making it the only professional baseball league in the country.
The 1892 champion was settled after a series between two half-season champions, but that scheme only lasted for one season. Then, in 1893, the team with the best record was crowned at the end of the season.
The NL then tried a different format where the team with the best record faced the runner-up in a postseason series called the Temple Cup. This went from 1894 to 1897 but shortly after the American League was born in 1891.
And with the American League and National League fighting for the supremacy of the market, there wasn’t even a champion in 1901 and 1902, leaving the door wide open for the creation of the modern World Series.
1903 World Series: First AL Champion
Both leagues agreed to stop fighting and most of their teams played some interleague exhibition games in 1903. However, there wasn’t a better way to prove that they could coexist than having their best two teams going toe-to-toe.
Thus, the leagues agreed on terms for the very first World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates had been – by far – the best team in the NL, while the Boston Americans (Red Sox) have done the same in the Junior Circuit.
Pirates and Americans faced off on a better-to-nine series, with Boston upsetting the Pirates thanks to CY Young’s historically dominant pitching. Also, Pittsburgh was riddled by injuries and lost the final three games in a row.
This World Series title was the ultimate statement. It proved that the American League could keep up with the National League and that there was plenty of room and market for both of them. The rest, as you know, it’s history.