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28 Weird Things You Probably Didn't Know About MLB Postseason History

From Babe Ruth to Bill Buckner, the first World Series to last year's Fall Classic.

1. The World Series began as an olive branch between two separate leagues that hated each other: the National and American Leagues. Although professional baseball had been around for decades, the first World Series wasn’t played until after the turn of the century, marking the supposed end of a long-standing rivalry between the leagues.

 

2. But New York Giants’ manager John McGraw still hated the American League so much that his team refused to play in the 1904 World Series The team said “no” to competing against the Boston Americans, largely as a result of continued tension between the AL and NL.

 
3. The first World Series actually went on for not seven, but eight games -- and the best-of-nine series format was used sporadically through 1921. Boston won that 1903 Fall Classic, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-3.

On Oct. 1, 1903, the crowd poured onto the field at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston following the opening game of the 190
On Oct. 1, 1903, the crowd poured onto the field at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston following the opening game of the 1903 World Series.

4. The Ottoman Empire you learned about in your high school history class was still standing the last time the Cubs won it all. The empire didn’t come to an end until 1922, 14 years after Chicago clinched its last World Series W. 

 

5. The Great Bambino was both an offensive and defensive hero in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series. Babe Ruth threw a 14-inning complete gametallied the RBI that evened the score and sent the contest into extra innings.

 

6. Babe Ruth’s World Series ERA is pretty impressive by the way: 0.87. Not bad. The Great Bambino’s overall career ERA isn’t too shabby either, at 2.28.

7. Cy Young himself pitched in Game 1 of the first World Series -- and lost. He took on -- and was defeated by -- the Pirates’ Deacon Phillippe.

 

8. Two of the biggest rivals in baseball -- the Giants and the Dodgers -- haven’t faced each other in the postseason since 1889. While the teams played tiebreaker series in 1951 and 1962, the ball clubs haven’t gone head-to-head in the playoffs since Benjamin Harrison was president. This was partly due to the fact that the wild card slot wasn’t formalized until the mid-1990s.

 

9. The first home run in World Series history was hit by someone who died just six years later. Jimmy Sebring nabbed that honor in Game 1 of the 1903 Fall Classic while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died at age 27 in December 1909

Circa 1904: Jimmy Sebring, an outfielder for the Pirates, stands on the field at West Side Park in Chicago, Illinois.
Circa 1904: Jimmy Sebring, an outfielder for the Pirates, stands on the field at West Side Park in Chicago, Illinois.

10. Deion Sanders is the only person ever to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. Sanders won NFL championship rings in Super Bowls XXIX and XXX as a cornerback with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively. He competed for the MLB title in 1992 as an outfielder with the Braves.

 

11. One player, Tim Hudson, has competed in the two longest playoff games in MLB history. These 18-inning affairs took place in 2005, when the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves faced off, and 2014, when the San Francisco Giants squeaked by the Washington Nationals. 

 

12. Reggie Jackson once hit three home runs on three consecutive pitches in a World Series game. He hit each of them on the first pitch of their respective at-bats.

Reggie Jackson after winning the 1977 World Series.
Reggie Jackson after winning the 1977 World Series.

13. Exactly twice in history have two players with the same last name hit consecutive home runs in the postseason. Frank and Brooks Robinson had accomplished the feat in 1966 as members of the Baltimore Orioles. Then J.D. and Victor Martinez did so again in 2014 for the Detroit Tigers.

 

14. Certain photos sure make it look like Bill Buckner was wearing a Cubs glove when he missed the most famous ground ball in baseball history. What’s that on Buckner’s right hand? Apparently Chicago’s Curse of the Billy Goat is contagious. 

15. And Buckner apparently predicted that he’d commit that fielding error 19 days before he actually did. According to ESPN’s documentary Catching Hell and The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, Buckner was interviewed on Oct. 6, 1986, about the “pressures of postseason play.” Buckner gave quite the prescient response:

The dreams are that you're gonna have a great series and win. The nightmares are that you're gonna let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs. Those things happen, you know. I think a lot of it is just fate."

 

16. The actor who played Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy" had a clause in his contract excusing him from work if the New York Yankees were in the World Series. As the Yankees proved dominant in those years, William Frawley’s character had to be written out of a pair of episodes. No word on whether he brought Lucy and Ricky along to the diamond. 

  

17. The Yankees played the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series a combined 13 times before the two NL teams packed up their bags and headed west. That's a lot of Subway Series. 

18. The movie "Fever Pitch" had to be rewritten after the Boston Red Sox made history in 2004. The writers had initially crafted the film’s ending around the assumption that the Red Sox would lose at some point in the playoffs -- an assumption that was held by most of the world when Boston was down three games to the Yanks.

 

19. Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it took place on Yom Kippur. He pitched masterfully later in the series, however, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to beat the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

20. There are still two teams that have never reached the World Series. Sorry to the Seattle Mariners and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.

 

21. The Florida Marlins have managed to win the World Series twice without ever winning their own division. They only made the playoffs via the wild card slot in both of those years (1997 and 2003).

 

22. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw gave up almost as many runs in one game last October as he did in the entirety of that June and July. Los Angeles’ ace gave up eight earned runs in just the first game of the NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He had given up nine earned runs in all of June and July.

Kershaw after a disappointing seventh inning in Game One of the 2014 NLDS.
Kershaw after a disappointing seventh inning in Game One of the 2014 NLDS.

23. In the first years of the MLB, teams tended to commemorate championships with celebratory medallions or pocket watches, rather than the now-typical rings. The Giants kicked off the ring tradition in 1922.  

 
24. In 1914, the Boston Braves made history by zooming from last place in the National League to World Series champs in just a couple of months. They were at the bottom of the barrel, 11 games back of New York, on July 18. Skip ahead a few pages in the calendar, and they were sweeping the Philadelphia Athletics in the Fall Classic. 

Eddie Plank, starting pitcher for Philadelphia, warms up in Shibe Park before Game Two of the 1914 World Series.
Eddie Plank, starting pitcher for Philadelphia, warms up in Shibe Park before Game Two of the 1914 World Series.

25. The Braves are the only ball club to have won it all for three different cities. As the Braves of Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta, in 1914, 1957 and 1995, respectively.

 

26. Potentially the only complete recording of the 1960 World Series’ Game 7 was stashed away in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar for half a century. No one knew that a copy of the tape had survived until December 2009 -- nearly 50 years after the game’s final pitch was thrown.

 

27. The Yankees were better than the Pirates in almost every conceivable category during the 1960 World Series and still lost. While the Yankees fell to the Pirates in seven games, New York scored more runs, tallied more hits, totaled a better batting percentage and notched more home runs than the victorious Pittsburgh ball club. Yankees ace Whitey Ford also threw two complete-game shutouts over the course of the series.  

28. And most importantly, more people have set foot on the moon than have scored on Yankee legend Mariano Rivera in the playoffs. Per USA Today, 12 people have walked on the moon -- only 11 scored against the pinstriped pitcher throughout his storied postseason career.


Now you're ready for the playoffs to begin. Welcome to October baseball.


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