The U.S. baseball World Series has come to California. The San Francisco Giants are playing the Texas Rangers in the championship series of United States professional baseball. Normally I don’t follow baseball but my hometown Giants have captured the imagination of fans all over Northern California, and I have found myself caught up in the fever.
So why do they call it a “world” series, anyway? Sure, almost 28% of the players are foreign-born Hispanics (the majority coming from the Dominican Republic) and one of the thirty major league teams is based in Toronto, Canada, but it’s not nearly as popular around the world as it is in the U.S. So why do they call it a world series? The answer is that no one really knows. One unconfirmed story is that “The New York World” newspaper, baseball sponsor from the late 19th century, lent their name to the first “World Series” in 1903 that pitted the winners of the National and American leagues.
Another story claims that in that same year, Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburg Pirates sent a letter to the owner of the Boston Americans challenging the team to “a World’s Championship Series.” However the name started, it is clearly a misnomer, but just as clearly, for over a hundred years the name “World Series” has stuck.
Baseball is related to the English game of rounders and became popular in the United States in the mid 19th century. Professional leagues sprouted up in the late 1900’s with the National and American leagues usually playing each other for the ultimate title since the turn of the 20th century.
There are plenty of colorful characters on my hometown team, the Giants, but one of the more interesting is Brian Wilson. Wilson, in baseball parlance, is a closer, the pitcher who comes in and protects a lead late in the game. In addition to his pitching brilliance, Wilson is known for his beard, which is dyed black which contrasts his naturally brown hair. This past week, many Giants fans wore fake black beards in the stands to honor the quirky pitcher. This past weekend was also the American holiday of Halloween, a time when kids and adults wear costumes every October 31st. One of the more popular costumes was a Giant’s baseball uniform and a big fake black beard.
We are more than halfway through this year’s World Series and the outcome will be known within the next several days. We’ll know who the champion is, but we won’t know why we Americans keep calling it a World Series.
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