Precursors to the modern World Series (1857–1902)
The original World Series
Until the formation of the American Association in 1882 as a second major league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (1871–1875) and then the National League (founded 1876) represented the top level of organized baseball in the United States. All championships were awarded to the team with the best record at the end of the season, without a postseason series being played. From 1884 to 1890, the National League and the American Association faced each other in a series of games at the end of the season to determine an overall champion. These series were disorganized in comparison to the modern World Series, with the terms arranged through negotiation of the owners of the championship teams beforehand. The number of games played ranged from as few as three in 1884 (Providence defeated New York three games to zero), to a high of fifteen in 1887 (Detroit beat St. Louis ten games to five). Both the 1885 and 1890 Series ended in ties, each team having won three games with one tie game.
The series was promoted and referred to as "The Championship of the United States", "World's Championship Series", or "World's Series" for short.
In his book Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, Simon Winchester mentions in passing that the World Series was named for the New York World newspaper, but this view is disputed.
The 19th-century competitions are, however, not officially recognized as part of World Series history by Major League Baseball, as it considers 19th-century baseball to be a prologue to the modern baseball era. Until about 1960, some sources treated the 19th-century Series on an equal basis with the post-19th-century series. After about 1930, however, many authorities list the start of the World Series in 1903 and discuss the earlier contests separately.
(For example, the 1929 World Almanac and Book of Facts lists "Baseball World's Championships 1884–1928" in a single table, but the 1943 edition lists "Baseball World Championships 1903–1942".)
1892–1900: "The Monopoly Years"
Following the collapse of the American Association after the 1891 season, the National League was again the only major league. The league championship was awarded in 1892 by a playoff between half-season champions. This scheme was abandoned after one season. Beginning in 1893—and continuing until divisional play was introduced in 1969—the pennant was awarded to the first-place club in the standings at the end of the season. For four seasons, 1894–1897, the league champions played the runners-up in the post season championship series called the Temple Cup. A second attempt at this format was the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup series, which was played only once, in 1900.
In 1901, the American League was formed as a second major league. No championship series were played in 1901 or 1902 as the National and American Leagues fought each other for business supremacy (in 1902, the top teams instead opted to ).