Settle down, boys. The Cubs won a series but it wasn’t really a “World Series”

Settle down, boys. The Cubs won a series but it wasn’t really a “World Series”

I marvel at America’s fascination with baseball. Every year, from May through October, there’s little escape from it: newspaper headlines, bets, fantasy teams, daily conversations, social media shout-outs, pre- and post-game analysis, arguments, foam fingers, team jerseys and flat brim caps! When they say it’s the country’s favorite pastime, they’re serious. I’m born and raised in England so this was all new to me. After moving to the U.S., I did my best to get up to speed on the ins and outs of the game just to try to really fit in.

One thing that always struck me as odd is why the name of the season’s championship game barely raises an eyebrow. I mean World Series? How can you have a World Series when only two countries are represented (and only from the North America part of the world, no less); one of which makes up 29 of the 30 teams? As a Marketer, this gross mischaracterization likely gnaws at me more than most because I take brand promises seriously. When you make a claim, you absolutely must deliver. And the only way “World Series” delivers is if it’s inclusive of the actual world.

So how did Major League Baseball (MLB) get the name of its biggest annual event so wrong?

I put on my investigative journalist hat and headed to Google (the search engine, not the Googleplex). Here’s what I learned.

For many years, popular opinion suggested the name began because the original series had been sponsored by the New York World Telegram newspaper, thus becoming known as the “World’s Series.” As it turns out, that’s an urban legend. (I admit my mistakes, Dave Vellequette!) While the newspaper did report the game results, it left the naming of the competition to baseball officials (in hindsight, probably not the best decision).

The driver behind the name was Barney Dreyfuss, the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1903, Dreyfuss wrote to the Boston Red Sox owner challenging the team to a “World’s Championship Series.” At the time, the Pirates were the best team in the National League and the Red Sox were the best in the American League (for those who aren’t baseball enthusiasts, MLB is split into these two divisions). The name stuck.

And there you have it. But with sincere apologies to Mr. Dreyfuss, he was a little off his game. And MLB even further off their game for never acknowledging the error.

Last night, the Chicago Cubs won a series. We can call it the North America Series, or go with the very vanilla “Championship Series.” But one thing it technically never was and never will be until a lot more countries are invited to play is today’s celebrated “World Series.”

All in good fun, baseball fans!