Baseball in competition
The two major leagues, the American League and the National League, have been rivals since their foundation. In 1903, a ceasefire took place when the World Series was introduced. However, just a year later, the New York Giants, who were the current NL champions, refused to play in the World Series, as the manager refused to recognise the AL’s major league status. The next year he relented and, since then, teams from both the NL and the AL participate in the World Series, although there is still a great amount of competition and unrest between players of teams in both leagues.
In the 1960s and 1970s, pitchers dominated baseball. As a result, in the 1970s, the ‘Designated Hitter (DH) rule’ was proposed. According to the rule, the batting team could designate another player to bat in place of the pitcher. Interestingly, the AL adopted this rule in 1973, but NL teams continue to ignore the designated hitter and it remains the main difference between the leagues today. The rule is sometimes adopted when the two leagues play in competitions against each other, for example in the World Series, but only if the game is played in the stadium of an American League team. If the game is played in the stadium of a National League team, the rule is not used.
The MLB (Major League Baseball) organisation follows all games in the two major leagues. Their website includes results, statistics, video and audio clips, interviews with players and information about upcoming events. Major League Baseball is responsible for the day-to-day running of the sport, as well as hiring and training all umpires, negotiating all marketing for the sport, and organising television contracts for each game and competition.
The World Series
The World Series is one of the most important events on the American sporting calendar, and an integral part of American culture. Although it is called the World Series, it actually only includes teams from within Major American and Canadian Leagues. This baseball tournament takes place every autumn, hence the ‘fall classic’ nickname, after the baseball season has ended. It officially began in 1903, but there were various other post-season championship series in existence before then, for example the “Championship of the United States”.
The championship is contested by the winners of the American League and the National League and, from its inception to 2007, American League teams have won sixty series with National League teams lagging behind with just 42. There have also been three tie games.
The series winner is determined by a playoff of the best of seven. This has a 2-3-2 format, which means that the first and last games are played in the stadium of the club which has a home-field advantage, and the other three games are played in the home stadium of the other team. The DH rule is applied for games in American League parks just like the regular season but the games in National League parks will see the pitcher spot on the line-up instead of the DH.
The World Baseball Classic
As the popularity of baseball has grown, many players from countries outside of the American and Canadian league teams have complained that there was not a world tournament. In 2006, the MLB established the World Baseball Classic (WBC). This is a true world’s championship and in the first and only tournament that has been held, teams from sixteen countries played. Japan won the 2006 WBC, and the next one is scheduled for 2009.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is also known as the ‘summer classic’. This game is a competition between the best players, or that all-stars, of the National League against the all-stars of the American League. These players join together into two teams, and play an exhibition game to show off their best talents and reward them for their successes throughout the season. Starting positions are voted in by the public and other players are decided by coaches and fellow players. The use of pitchers is often limited by the team they play for as they do not want to risk injury or take them out of their routine. Since 2003, the summer classic has become grown slightly more important, as the league which wins it gets to have home-field advantage in the World Series.
Baseball in the Olympics
In 1992, baseball was instituted as a medal sport in the Summer Olympic Games. However, at the 117th meeting of the Internation Olympic Games Committee in 2005, a vote was taken and passed for baseball to be excluded from the 2012 Olympic Games. It will be included in the 2008 summer Olympics but a vote will have to be taken after 2012 to assess baseball’s credentials for all subsequent Games.
This decision was greatly based on the fact that baseball does not have international status and that it is still not played in much of the world. However, matters weren’t helped by the MJB’s unwillingness to break the baseball season when the Olympic Games were on so that players would be able to take part.