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Why is the World Series called the World Series when only American teams participate?

The World Series was originally the Championship of the United States but the name, like the make-up of MLB, has evolved since baseball's genesis.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) talks with media during  workouts before Game 1 of the World Series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Troy TaorminaUSA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves have secured their place in this year’s World Series following both sides’ 4-2 wins in the League Championship Series over the Boston Red Sox and reigning champions the LA Dodgers respectively. The championship series is scheduled to begin on 26 October with the winner being decided by a best-of-seven series played in the traditional 2-3-2 format.

Why the World Series?

It’s a question many people ask around this time of year: why is the MLB Fall Classic known as the World Series? As with many professional sports championships, the name has evolved over the course of many years, in the case of MLB well over a century.

The first World Series - or the first considered to be an official World Series and often known as the first modern World Series - was contested in 1903 when the Boston Americans came out on top of a nine-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Before the first World Series to be officially recognized by the history books there were several different guises of the end-of-season championship game, which was originally referred to as the Championship of the United States. This later became the World's Championship Series, which was later shortened to the World’s Series, and has been known simply as the World Series since 1905, the logic being that the series was held to determine a world champion.

What about Japan and Cuba?

Baseball expanded beyond US borders quiet swiftly after gaining popularity in its homeland. Baseball was first played in Japan as early as 1872 and professional league established there in the 1920s. The Philippines first swung a bat shortly after the US assumed control of the archipelago in 1898 and American missionaries introduced South Korea to the Church of Baseball in the late 19th century.

While Europe was slower to catch on and the European Baseball Confederation wasn’t established until 1953, the sport was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s and swiftly spread to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In Canada the first recorded baseball game was played in 1838.

However, the MLB World Series has never been opened to sides that do not compete in the league, as such there has never been a representative that can be described in the strictest sense as a world team.

A world league, so why not a World Series?

However, many people point to the Toronto Blue Jays to back the world aspect of the series. The Canada-based side became the first non-US team to contest the World Series in 1992, beating the Braves 4-2. The Blue Jays defended their title the following year in a 4-2 victory over the Phillies.

Broadly speaking though, aside from the evolution of the World Series name over the years, one of the most compelling arguments for the name in the 21st century is the number of nationalities that now play in MLB. All of the aforementioned baseball-playing nations are represented and the demographics are ever-evolving. A study by shows that of the 780 players listed on the Opening Day active rosters just over 70% are US-born, with the Dominican Republic second (10.26%) followed by Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico, who account for a further 12.8 percent.

Overall, there are 21 nationalities in the 2021 MLB, with players from countries including South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, Nicaragua, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru and Taiwan.


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