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"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."—Terrence Mann, Field of Dreams
Often called "America's National Pastime," the Game of Nerds, and -- in Japan -- Yakyu (lit. "field ball"), baseball is a sport that is (despite what the International Olympic Committee thinks) played throughout the world, although it only has a large spectator base in the Americas and eastern Asia. For basic rules and such see The Other Wiki.
Baseball's origins are something of a Multiple Choice Past. The traditional story (sponsored by Albert Spalding at the turn of the 20th century) is that it was created in 1839 by a young Abner Doubleday in his hometown of Cooperstown, New York. Since Doubleday would grow up to be a general during the American Civil War, this played well with the Patriotic Fervor of the day. However, it was also based upon Blatant Lies told by an old man and doesn't really hold up. At all.
Respected sports journalist Henry Chadwick offered his counter belief that baseball had simply evolved from the earlier bat-and-ball games in the English tradition, such as rounders or possibly cricket. The earliest known written rules that resemble modern baseball can be traced to New York man Alexander Cartwright, who wrote the "Knickerbocker rules" in 1845. Of course, there are even older claims, as a document found from 1791 was found in the New England Town of Pittsfield that mentions the game (specifically in the context of it being banned anywhere in the vicinity of the town hall's expensive glass windows). The general consensus is that the game wasn't born anywhere or at any single time, it probably slowly developed over centuries until it finally started resembling the modern game some time in the 1800s.
Baseball in America
Baseball was first dubbed America's "national pastime" or "national game" sometime in the 1850s. And while it has not been the most popular team sport in surveys since The Sixties or The Seventies (fallen behind American Football), it is still consistently near the top (almost always no. 2, at worst no. 3, usually behind basketball) in those surveys. It is also telling that the yearly attendance for Major League Baseball is more than every other Major North American Sports League combined (although this is partially because baseball has a longer schedule -- starting from late March/early April and usually ending at the end of September for the regular season and the end of October for the World Series). It has also left a imprint on America's culture that has manifested itself in America's language, entertainment and, perhaps most tellingly, sexual activities. Important historic players such as Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson are often used as metaphor when describing players in sports or countries that Americans are not as familiar with ("The Babe Ruth of soccer" or the "Jackie Robinson of Japan").
Major League Baseball
The near-undisputed top professional league in the world is the USA's Major League Baseball. With 30 teams (29 in the United States, one in Canada) and players that come from (as of the opening day of the 2009 season) about 16 different countries or territories (sometimes more, sometimes less). Unless you live in Asia or Cuba, this is the level of competition that the average ballplayer is striving for, and it is also known as MLB, the Major Leagues, the Big Leagues, the Majors, the Bigs, the Show, and sometimes just "Baseball".
Notable facts about MLB
- It is made up of two conferences that, for whatever reason, call themselves "leagues" (although they used to be independent legal and economic entities once): the National League (sometimes called the "Senior Circuit", since it is the older of the two) and the American League (the "Junior Circuit"). Since 2013, both leagues have 15 teams, each in an "east", "central", or "west" division. Also, since 1973, the AL has used designated hitters who stand in for the pitcher, but the NL still insists on having its pitchers bat. This has led to something of a Broken Base (no pun intended) as to which league is better or whether the DH is good or bad for the game.
- The regular season consists of 162 games for each team (although sometimes it's less if a rain-out isn't made up, and every once in a while it is more if a divisional or wild-card tie has occurred at the end of the season).
- The mid-point of the season is usually the All-Star Game, in which the top players of the two leagues face each other in a game. The All-Star Game controversially decides who has the home-field advantage in the World Series. This practice began in 2003, after the previous year's game ended in a tie after both managers, trying to make sure everybody got to play, ran out of pitchers; the rule was implemented to try to get managers and players to treat the All-Star Game as a serious game rather than just a meaningless exhibition. Another tidbit: The day after the MLB All-Star Game is usually the lightest sporting day of the year, and the only day that none of America's four major sports leagues have a game. ESPN capitalized on this, and now tapes its annual ESPY awards the day after the All-Star game, which, up until 2010, it aired the following Sunday (in 2010, it aired the show live).
- The postseason involves eight teams, four from each league: the three division champions and a wild card team, the team with the best record of all those who didn't win their division. The three rounds of the playoffs are the Division Series, League Championship Series and the World Series. The Division Series is best of 5, the LCS and WS are best of 7. Many favor expanding the Division Series to a best of 7, but Major League Baseball has resisted the idea due to not wanting to push the season too late into the year (by late October, many top baseball cities are already quite cold weather-wise).
- There is the rarely seen "playoff," singular emphasized. This is the 163rd game of a 162-game season (although early on, the NL did a best-of-3 series), and is only played when two teams are tied at the end of the season and a postseason berth is on the line. It is considered a regular season game, and all statistics accumulated during play count in the regular season numbers.
- Starting in the 2012 season, there will be two wild card teams in each league. These teams will meet in a "play in" (one game playoff) to decide who advances to the LDS. This would be in addition to the above possible 163rd game (although officially part of the postseason, not the regular season).
- Aforementioned Cooperstown, New York is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, established in 1939 to enshrine the history of the game and the men who played it. Each year a handful of retired players are selected by committee for induction into the Hall, and thereafter known as "Hall of Famers". Players must have been retired for at least five years before gaining eligibility to join the Hall, though this requirement can be waived in the rare case of a player who dies while still active - Roberto Clemente, who died in a 1972 plane crash, was inducted the next year.
- Various team executives, managers, coaches, and umpires have also been enshrined in the Hall, and there are annual awards for the game's journalists and broadcasters (who are not technically Hall members, but are often regarded by the public as such).
After the season, a number of different awards are given out to those who excelled in some aspect of the game. The specific awards, which are voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, are as follows.
- The Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) is given to the player in each league who is considered to have been most valuable to his team. There are no restrictions on who can be named Most Valuable Player, but it almost always goes to a player from a team who made the playoffs or came very close. Pitchers are eligible for the award, but seldom win it; many baseball writers believe pitchers shouldn't win it because they have their own award, while others simply don't feel that a single pitcher can ever be as valuable as someone who plays every day. Justin Verlander's MVP win in 2011 was the first time a pitcher won that award since Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the first win by a starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986.
- The Cy Young Award is given to each league's best pitcher. Despite all pitchers being eligible, the award almost always goes to a starter. The last reliever to win the Cy Young is Eric Gagne of the Dodgers in 2003; the last AL reliever to win is Dennis Eckersley of the A's in 1992. Yes, it was the same year he won the MVP. Yes, he was that good.
- The Rookie of the Year Award is given to the rookie in each league who is considered to have had the best season. Though a rookie is generally defined as a first-year player, he doesn't necessarily have to be. As long as the player enters the current season without having exceeded 130 Major League at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days spent on a Major League team's roster, he is considered to be in his rookie season. Experience in leagues besides the MLB is not counted against a player, which has caused some controversy since beginning with Hideo Nomo in 1995, several Japanese-born players won the award despite having prior professional experience in Japanese baseball. It was renamed the Jackie Robinson Award in The Eighties to commemorate one of its most famous winners. Robinson was also the first recipient of the award. The official name is rarely used, however.
- The Manager of the Year Award is awarded to one manager in each league. There are no specific guidelines for who can win, but the award typically goes to the manager of a team who achieved surprising success, usually a team that was expected to finish low in the standings but ended up competing for a title.
- The Gold Glove Award goes to the top defensive players in the game. Unlike the above awards, they are voted on by the managers and coaches in each league as opposed to the baseball writers. Each league awards nine Gold Gloves, one at each fielding position. Since fielding excellence tends to be measured by a lot of intangibles rather than pure statistics, the Gold Gloves frequently spark debate; the most common criticism of the award process is that they are often awarded based on reputation, without regard as to whether the player truly had a better year in the field than his peers.
- The Silver Slugger Award goes to the top offensive player at each position. Like the Gold Gloves, they are voted on by each league's managers and coaches rather than the baseball writers. Silver Slugger awards are slightly different from Gold Glove awards; due to the American League's use of the designated hitter, the award for AL pitchers (who do not hit) is replaced with one for designated hitters.
Historical people to know in MLB
- Babe Ruth was, for many years, recognized as the greatest player ever, and probably the most influential player ever. If you've only heard of one ballplayer, it's probably him. He was originally a pitcher, and awesome, but changed position when management determined he was even more awesome as an everyday position player. He hit lots of home runs at a time when everybody else hit hardly any, which prompted baseball leaders to change the ball and thus lower the Difficulty Levels of hitting, leading largely to today's game. His trade to the Yankees from the Red Sox, and their subsequent "Curse of the Bambino", is pretty much what's sparked their rivalry. His records have since mostly been broken. Subject of numerous tall tales about his sex and alcohol-related experiences. Was rumored to be partially black, which back in his day was a pretty big deal. He was once given a rather enormous contract which let him earn more than the President, in an era when people didn't think that was a good thing. His response: "I had a better year than he did." 
- Jackie Robinson was an African-American who played in 1947 for the Dodgers after African-Americans had been informally banned from the major leagues for 60 years. After this, the other major league teams slowly integrated. So naturally, he's a pretty big deal, especially since he was an excellent player throughout his long career. His number is retired across Major League Baseball, although players who were wearing #42 at the time got to keep wearing the number due to grandfathering. The last player to wear #42 was Mariano Rivera, a Yankee who retired in 2013.
- "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a really good player for the White Sox until he got accused of helping out some gamblers during the 1919 World Series (the infamous "Black Sox" scandal). He was not one of the major figures in the scandal, but he was still banned for knowing about the incident and not reporting it, and was easily the most popular player to be banned. The phrase "Say it ain't so, Joe" is a reference to this incident, and occasionally comes up in Vice-Presidential debates every now and then.
- Hank Aaron ("Hammerin' Hank") broke Babe Ruth's career home run record. Being African-American, he quite naturally had to deal with a little bit of intolerance as he approached the record (it didn't help that the team he played for moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta during his career). However, Aaron holds many records such as total bases earned, a record he is particularly proud of since he considers it more indicative of how much he contributed for his team. He also holds the career RBI record with 2,297, and had 3,771 total hits. (Anyone who gets close to 3,000 is considered a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame.) Aaron was a model of consistency; he never hit 50 homers in a season, but he hit 40 or more eight times, 30 or more 15 times, and had a streak of 19 straight years in which he hit at least 24 homers. He is one of the leading candidates for the title of best baseball player ever.
- Willie Mays ("The Say Hey Kid"), another name frequently cited as the best baseball player ever, was a center fielder who spent the majority of his career with the New York/San Francisco Giants. Mays excelled in all aspects of the game, including hitting for both power and average, and possessing great running speed and incredible defensive skills. He had 660 career home runs, fourth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. Coincidentally, Mays is also Barry Bonds's godfather. Mays's most famous moment on the diamond was probably the incredible over-the-shoulder running catch he made in the 1954 World Series, a moment often cited as the single greatest defensive play in baseball history.
- Mickey Mantle The other name along with Willie Mays that most often comes up in greatest ever debates. An incredible power-hitter with lumberjack-like arms, Mantle was also once considered the fastest man in the sport, and one of its greatest fielders. He hit the longest documented home run in baseball history, which became the first homer to be known as a "tape-measure" home run due to a team official (allegedly) using a tape measure to record its distance. Baseball historians agree that he almost certainly would have broken the career home run record had injuries not hampered him for a large part of his career. It should be noted that with all of his achievements, the first line on his Monument Park plaque reads "A great teammate," which Mantle was far more proud of than any other accomplishments. He was one of the most beloved of all Yankee greats, and one of the few Yankees to be well-liked by fans of other teams.
- Ty Cobb was a very, very good player in the early part of the 20th century. He held the all-time record for most career base hits until it was broken by Pete Rose, held the record for career stolen bases until it was broken by Lou Brock (and subsequently again by Rickey Henderson), and had a career batting average of .367, a record that still stands today. He was also a massive Jerkass. It was said he sharpened his spikes to injure opposing fielders. He once jumped into the stands to beat up a heckler who had no hands. Upon being told that the man had no hands, Cobb is reported to have said "I don't care if he has no feet!" And, most regrettably, he was a raging racist, even by the standards of the time. Despite this, had his own brand of Crazy Awesome.
- Honus Wagner, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates around the turn of the 20th century, is widely considered the greatest shortshop ever. He even got to nail Ty Cobb in the mouth but good when that racist bully called him a "Krauthead" and threatened to spike him at his base. In the 1990s, a baseball card of his (originally packaged with loose tobacco) became a little bit of a Zillion-Dollar Bill, which led to a sudden interest in collecting and trading baseball cards (which collapsed when most of the participants realized the You Fail Economics Forever nature of their hobby).
- Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, having recorded at least one hit in 56 consecutive games (bearing in mind that hitters who succeed 33% of the time are phenomenal). No one has come close to his record in 60 years; when a hitter reaches about 30 consecutive games he begins to get serious media attention. Also extremely famous for marrying Marilyn Monroe and having a nation turn its lonely eyes to him in a Simon and Garfunkel song.
- Cal Ripken Jr. is famous for "The Streak": he never missed a game for over 17 years (a whopping 2,632 games in a row), and he started every single game during the streak, hardly ever left a game early, and for over five years, he played every single inning. He also played his entire career with one team (Baltimore Orioles), which is seen as somewhat rare. A lot of people tend to forget that he had Hall-of-Fame numbers even without the consecutive game streak. Some naysayers think that him keeping his streak alive when he was past his prime was to the detriment of his team.
- Lou Gehrig - The "Iron Horse" played for the Yankees at around the same time as Babe Ruth, and was really good. Was the consecutive-game record holder before Ripken. It was thought that his streak ended because of a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is now also known as, wait for it, Lou Gehrig's Disease. It's now thought that he instead died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease whose symptoms mimic ALS. How would he get a disease like that, which generally happens to people who get multiple concussions? He played concussion-heavy football before he played baseball. Before his retirement he gave a famous speech at Yankee Stadium which is generally considered a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming/Tear Jerker for baseball.
- Nolan Ryan was a pitcher who played for four different teams. One of the first pitchers to be documented throwing at 100 miles an hour, he first became famous for putting up ridiculous strikeout numbers and later became famous for having been around forever, as he played for a record 27 seasons. He holds numerous pitching records (most famously, strikeouts in a career, strikeouts in a season, no-hit games in a career) that are widely considered to be in "will never be broken" territory, as well as others (bases on balls, hit batters, wild pitches) that he probably wishes would be broken. Needless to say, had some control problems, and is often regarded by detractors as a flashy .500 pitcher. He is also famous for beating up Robin Ventura, when the latter charged the mound. (Ryan was age 46 at the time.) He became president of the Texas Rangers in 2008 and part-owner in 2010; he has committed himself to making the team a contender, and so far seems to be succeeding.
- Cy Young was a pitcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who was so awesome, baseball eventually named their top award for pitchers after him. Holds the record for career wins, which is literally in "will never be broken" territory due to differences in the way baseball is played today (Young pitched every third or fourth game or so, which would be unacceptable to today's players).
- Roger Maris was a relatively obscure player who was good for a few years and who most everybody today would have forgotten about, if not for this one season where he got really lucky and broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, which stood for 37 years. 
- Mark McGwire was the holder of the single-season home run record after Maris. He was scary dangerous as a rookie, was one half of the "Bash Brothers" on Oakland's feared late-'80s teams, then got hurt a lot for a while. After this, he resurfaced in St. Louis where he broke the record. Almost immediately afterward, it was uncovered that he had used androstenedione, a legal but all-too-steroid-like performance-enhancing substance, an event which is generally considered the climax of the "Steroid Era". For years his reputation was ruined, but he's slowly become an accepted member of the St. Louis sports community again after becoming the Cardinals' hitting coach.
- Jose Canseco was the other half of the aforementioned "Bash Brothers" who was for a while one of baseball's most notorious, and disliked figures. After his career, he wrote a book called Juiced where he not only admitted that he used steroids during his career, but also "outed" a number of prominent players as steroid users. However, sportswriters and baseball experts regard him as a shameless scandal-monger who merely lobbied blind accusations at players who he suspected might have been "juicing" and by chance happened to be right about a few. (Mark McGwire, for instance, admits to using steroids, but flatly denies Canseco's account of events.) During Canseco's career, he was known for his speed and power but lampooned for his defense; he once had a ball bounce off his head for a home run, a mainstay of "blooper" reels.
- Jim Bouton is mostly an obscure pitcher who had a couple of good years for the Yankees. He is famous, however, for writing the 1970 book Ball Four, which was a controversial "tell-all" book about the "behind the scenes" life of the sport while he was playing for the Seattle Pilots for their only season in existence . Was blacklisted for this, and the commissioner at the time tried to get him to disown the book. He was also the co-creator of Big League Chew bubble gum, with fellow ballplayer Rob Nelson.
- Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hits record, and somewhat coincidentally, is about as well-liked as Cobb was. Gambled on baseball (after he retired and became a manager), and therefore is considered banned from the sport and ineligible for the Hall of Fame. He never bet against his own team (although he did sometimes pass up a chance to bet for his team), so whether or not this is a fair judgment remains one of baseball's open debates (going back to the Black Sox scandal, betting on baseball at all is prohibited, so it's academic if your name isn't Bill James). While Cobb sharpened his spikes, Rose is well known for once running over opposing catcher Ray Fosse, separating the catcher's shoulder. This would have been acceptable play had it not happened in the All-Star Game, which at the time was a meaningless exhibition. (While the incident did not end Fosse's career as is often reported - he stayed in the lineup during the second half of the season, and played eight more seasons, three as a starter and one as an All-Star - he was never again as good as he was prior to the injury.)
- Satchel Paige is widely considered one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, he was also black, which meant he couldn't play in the Majors until 1948, when he was in his 40s. He was still pretty good at this age, though, considering his team was the first integrated team to win the World Series. Was coaxed out of retirement to pitch one game at 59 (not a misprint), went three scoreless innings in a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Well-known for pithy sayings, the most famous being "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."
- Ted Williams is one of the best hitters in history, and was the last person to have a batting average (hits divided by at-bats) of over .400 in a season, batting .406 in 1941. (No player since 2000 has hit over .372.) Took time off in the prime of his career to serve as a pilot in both World War II and the Korean War. Well loved in Boston (where he played) and San Diego (where he was from), and there are highways named for him in both cities. After he died in 2002, he received a lot of media attention over the bizarre battle that took place within his surviving family; his son and daughter claimed that the three of them were to be cryogenically frozen together. At Fenway Park, there is a single seat in the right field bleachers painted red to mark the landing spot of one of his home runs, the longest in the park's history. The home run ball actually hit the guy sitting in the seat while he was taking a nap, and broke his straw hat. Hit a home run in the last at-bat of his career. Oh yeah, and he had his incredible career while serving his country twice (WWII & Korea).
- Yogi Berra was the catcher on the Yankees' solid teams of the '40s and '50s, but towards the end of his life, he was mostly known was one of the funniest s ever. He was once complimented by a female reporter: "You look cool out there, Yogi." "Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself!" There are many other examples. Yogi also enjoyed some success as a manager, leading the 1964 Yankees and 1973 Mets to the World Series (though both teams lost). You can probably guess which cartoon character is named after him.
- Roger Clemens pioneered the modern concept of the "power pitcher" with the Red Sox in the 1980s. Nicknamed "The Rocket", Clemens threw harder than almost anyone else at the time, and had a dominant, macho personality that intimidated hitters and made him almost synonymous with Boston at the time. Clemens set a then-record in 1986 by striking out 20 batters in one game and very nearly won Boston the infamous "Game Six" of the World Series that year. Clemens has won a total of seven Cy Young awards in his career, a record for any pitcher. Unfortunately, his personality translated into a long, long, long record of Jerkass behavior over the years that tarnished the public's perception of his career more and more. Split acrimoniously from the Red Sox in 1996 and went on to play for the Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros, winning two World Series with the Yankees. Opinions vary of the man, but these days he is almost universally despised in Boston, even more so when he became suspected of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, which put him under investigation for lying under oath to Congress for a while.
- Randy Johnson, a.k.a., "The Big Unit" (he's 6' 10"/2.08 meters tall) is one of the hardest throwing, most intimidating pitchers in recent history, and is often regarded as the greatest left-handed pitcher ever. He retired with over 300 victories and the second-most strikeouts in baseball history, only behind Nolan Ryan. He is also one of only 20 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He also formed one-half of the pitching duo that ended up winning the Diamondbacks their first World Series in 2001 and also won them co-MVP honors that year.
- Dock Ellis, most famously of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is well known for two things: firstly, a number of incidents of deliberately hitting opposing players with balls; and secondly, a June 12th 1970 game, when Ellis pitched a no-hitter while tripping balls on LSD.
- Harry Caray, pretty much regarded as the most memorable baseball (if not sports in general, he also did some football games too) broadcaster of all time. As their entry below shows, he was most well known for broadcasting Chicago Cubs games, although during his career he did White Sox, Athletics, and Cardinals at various points too. He is highly quotable to this day, with his frequent calls of "Holy Cow!" and "It might be...it could be...It is! A home run!" Apparently his talent was In the Blood, as shown by both his son (Braves broadcaster Skip Caray, now also deceased) and his grandsons (Cubs/Braves broadcaster Chip Caray and AAA Braves broadcaster Josh Caray).
- George Steinbrenner was the longtime owner of the New York Yankees. His deep pockets were historically an asset to the team; his meddling nature and tendency to fire managers was not. Steinbrenner passed away in 2010; during his time as owner of the Yankees, the team won seven World Series championships. His son Hank now runs the team, and Hank is shaping up to be very much like his father. A fictionalized version of George Steinbrenner was George Costanza's boss on Seinfeld.
- Billy Martin was the hard-nosed second baseman for the great New York Yankee teams of the 1950s. After his retirement, he became a successful major league manager known for his ability to turn losing teams into winning ones. However, Martin's abrasive and blunt nature also caused him to perpetually feud with upper management, leading to him being frequently fired despite his success on the field. He served five different stints as manager of the Yankees, in addition to stints in Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland; all but Texas reached the postseason at least once under his leadership, and he at least took them from last place to second in the span of a year. He was preparing to become Yankee manager for the sixth time when he died in a car crash on Christmas Day 1989.
- Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Fame pitcher, known for his devastating breaking ball and long, productive career. A member of the 3000 Strikeout Club, his career spanned over two decades and included two World Series rings (with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 and the Minnesota Twins in 1987). He was an inveterate dugout prankster (teammate Kirby Puckett noted that he would crawl under the bench to light somebody's shoelaces on fire - and this was BEFORE Major League Baseball banned chewing tobacco) and overall loose cannon. Currently the color commentator for the Twins.
- Blyleven's post-playing career is notable in part for the path the pitcher took to Cooperstown. He received precious little Hall of Fame support in his first several years on the ballot. Internet baseball fans took up his cause and relentlessly, tirelessly advocated on his behalf, writing countless blog posts and emails to voters. This, along with the facts that many more recent pitchers being under a cloud of suspicion for alleged or admitted use of steroids and HGH and new approaches to statistical analysis steadily revealing that Blyleven had a much more dominating career than he had been given credit for, made the tide turn in Bert's favor. Blyleven's eventual election is almost certainly the first in baseball history attributable largely to the Internet.
- Kirby Puckett joins Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente in baseball's pantheon of players whose career was cut brutally short. One of the most productive and popular stars in Major League Baseball from 1984 until 1995, Puckett was a stalwart presence in the Twins dugout. Most nationally famous for winning Game Six of the 1991 World Series (the second of his two World Series rings) with a walk-off home run against Charlie Liebrandt. Puckett was one of the few good things going for the Twins from 1992 until 1995. During the preseason of the 1996 baseball season, Puckett woke up without vision in his right eye - he would eventually lose the eye and be forced to retire from baseball. Puckett died in 2005 of a hemorrhagic stroke.
- Curt Schilling during his playing career was known for not only being an outstanding pitcher (helping the Philadelphia Phillies enter the 1993 World Series, as well as forming the other half of the co-MVP pitching duo that won the Diamondbacks the 2001 World Series), but one of the gutsiest competitors you'll ever find. While pitching for the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees, he tore a ligament in his ankle, yet was able to pitch again in the series thanks to a brand new experimental surgical procedure, albeit one which did not prevent him from bleeding. The Red Sox came back from a 3-0 defecit to win that series, and Schilling's bloody sock became an iconic image of the team's first World Championship in 86 years. Later in his career and after his retirement, Schilling became known for his outspoken political views. He's a hardcore Republican who has openly supported several prominent Republican candidates for public office, even going so far as to actively campaign for John McCain during his 2008 Presidential run. Rumors have long abounded that Schilling would run for public office himself, but he has yet to do so. He's also known as a fairly hardcore gamer who plays MMORPGs (once another player that hit a home run off of him claimed it was to avenge an Everquest character Schilling had betrayed) and started his own game studio.
- Curt Flood was a defensive center fielder who played for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, he vehemently did not want to go there, so he refused to report, then wrote a letter to Bowie Kuhn requesting to be made a free agent, in circumvention of the league's Reserve Clause (which said that the team that a player played for keeps his rights, meaning that he could not sign with another team even after his contract expired.) When Kuhn refused, Flood sued for the right to be a free agent. His case went to the Supreme Court, where Flood was denied the right. However, Flood's action strengthened the Major League Baseball Player's Association such that the reserve clause would be struck down in 1975, creating the "free agency" era in Major League Baseball.
- Mike Schmidt was known for both his defensive prowess (earning 10 gold gloves by the time of his retirement), and his power-hitting ability (he finished his career seventh all time with 548 career home runs). Playing his entire career in Philadelphia, he earned three MVP awards (at that time unheard of for a third baseman), and played in two world series, winning one in 1980. Five years after his retirement, he was named to the Hall of Fame, and about five years after that, he was named to the MLB All Century team as the starting third baseman. Pete Rose once said about Schmidt: "To have his body, I'd trade him mine and my wife's, and I'd throw in some cash."
- Ken Griffey (Jr.) was one of the best (arguably the best) players of The Nineties. Well-marketed (even having his own series of baseball games made by Nintendo for the SNES and the Nintendo 64) and excelling in all facets of the game, he led the previously pathetic Seattle Mariners out of obscurity and enjoyed tremendous popularity. He's also the first of two players in history (Tim Raines Jr. joining him in 2001) to play on the same team with his father (of the same name), who was a successful, if not Hall-of-Fame caliber outfielder. After many good years with the Mariners, he requested a move to the Cincinnati Reds, where he would mostly spend the next nine years and last years of baseball injuring his hamstring. Still, he became the 6th player to hit 600 home runs (and, some argue, the first since Aaron to do so legitimately, since the 4th and 5th (Bonds and Sammy Sosa, respectively) were both linked to performance-enhancing drugs). Despite having a prodigious Hall of Fame career, many fans consider there to be an element of What Could Have Been to his career, because for years he seemed destined to break Aaron's all-time home run record, and if not for constant injuries nagging him for those seasons on the Reds he may well have done so. May have had the most beautiful swing in history during his prime. One darker, and lesser-known fact about Junior is that he has on occasion been an advocate for suicide/depression awareness, himself having attempted (and nearly succeeded) suicide early in his minor league career.
- Barry Bonds, a former San Francisco Giant, considered one of the best all-around players of his era. He holds the record for both the single-season and career record for home runs, which is even more impressive when you consider that he also holds the career records for both walks and intentional walks. He has won 7 MVP awards, more than any other player (his closest competitor in this department has 3). Despite the fact that he holds these feats, he's one of the central figures in the recent performance-enhancing drug scandals and is widely hated by most baseball fans. Rail-thin as a Pittsburgh Pirate rookie, he suspiciously grew a massively bulky frame later in his career which he attributes to power lifting. Though, of course, nobody's ever really liked him, thanks to his frigid relationship with the media. At one point in his career, he was so feared that many pitchers literally refused to pitch to him and is the only person since intentional walks began being recorded in 1955 to have one when the bases were loaded. His 2001-2004 seasons are regarded as some of the greatest in baseball history.
- Pedro Martinez pitched for four teams in his major league career, but was best known for his time with the Boston Red Sox. In the '90s, he was on everyone's short list of "greatest ever", as he was putting up ridiculous, video game-esque pitching numbers at a time when the trend was toward ridiculous, video game-esque hitting numbers. He was controversially cheated out of an MVP award in 1999 because two writers refused to list pitchers, even though one of them had done so the year before. He was also one of the central characters of the recent Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. In the 2000s, his performance began tailing off. He was clearly still a talented pitcher, but in the latter part of the decade had a great deal of trouble staying healthy (he threw the ball very hard and had a slight frame, not an ideal combination), causing most teams to shy away from him.
- Greg Maddux Also known as "Mad Dog" or "The Professor", Maddux pitched for the Cubs, Braves, Padres, and Dodgers. He was discovered at a young age when scouts went to see his brother Mike, and his father said "you'll be back later for the little one". Most scouts were turned off by the scrawny kid who had no velocity on his fastball, but Chicago Cubs scout Doug Mapson saw past it saying "I really believe this boy would be the number one player in the country if only he looked a bit more physical". 1987 was his first full year in the majors, and Maddux went 6–14 record and 5.61 ERA, with several people saying "we told you so, he won't make it. Too scrawny and not enough juice on the ball". Then, in 1988 it started (finishing 18–8 with a 3.18 ERA). Gregory Alan Maddux cut a swath of devastation not seen in major league history, going SEVENTEEN seasons with at least fifteen (15) wins. During this time Maddux would often have an ERA lower than is batting average, he won Gold Gloves (18 in his career), Cy Young Awards (four in his career). To give an indication of his dominance during this period; "On July 22, 1997, Maddux threw a complete game with just 76 pitches, against the Cubs. Three weeks earlier, he had shut out the defending champion New York Yankees on 84 pitches, and five days before that, he'd beaten the Phillies with a 90-pitch complete game. Maddux allowed just 20 bases on balls in 1997, including six intentional walks. Ignoring those six intentional walks, Maddux only went to a 3-0 count on one batter in all of 1997". He eventually joined the 3000 strike out club, and passed Clemens in career wins. His mind and ability to read players was uncanny; he once intentionally gave up a homer to Jeff Bagwell so later on in the season Bagwell would look for that pitch again. On another occasion, while sitting on the bench, Maddux once told everyone "watch this, we might need to call an ambulance for the first base coach." The batter then drove the next pitch into the chest of the Dodgers' first base coach. There are several other stories about Greg Maddux, and no one should argue his credentials as one of the greatest of all time.
- Although Alex Rodriguez is best known for his career with the Yankees (2004-2016), he first got infamous when he moved from the Seattle Mariners to the Texas Rangers in 2001, when the contract he signed made him baseball's highest paid player. This fact combined with the fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs at one point make him one of baseball's most passionately disliked figures. His status as one of the game's all-time greats is not in doubt, as he's been a prime MVP candidate every year since he turned 21 in 1996. (He has won the award three times.) But he's still hated, even by Yankees fans, for nebulous reasons ranging from "he's cold and distant" to "he hasn't played in a World Series" (not true after 2009) to "he doesn't deliver big hits when you need them" (an assertion not backed up by statistics), among others. Known by his nickname "A-Rod", but prior to 2009 his lack of postseason performance led to detractors (including within the Yankees lockerroom) to call him "A-Fraud", and his admission in 2009 to having used steroids early in his career inevitably led to him being called "A-Roid".
- Derek Jeter, shortstop for the NY Yankees from 1995 to 2014, has generally been thought of as the "heart and soul" of the great Yankees teams of those 20 seasons, although he wasn't usually not their best player statistically. In his heyday, he was a very talented player who had a tendency to play well in clutch situations. He's also very personable and charismatic; however, sportswriters and Yankees fans have often had a Godlike reverence of him to the point of causing a Hype Backlash for everyone else. His final game was a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, as it was in FENWAY PARK and he got massive applause from Red Sox fans.
- Mariano Rivera today is known mostly for the fact that he's the last player to wear #42. But as the closer for the Yankees, he is baseball's all-time saves leader and believed by many to be the best relief pitcher in baseball history. He is particularly known for his many clutch postseason performances, often working up to two innings for a save. (Saves lasting more than one inning had become extremely rare by the time Rivera began pitching.) His signature pitch, the cut fastball or "cutter" (a fastball thrown with a slightly off-center grip to give it extra lateral movement), has been compared by opposing batters to a chainsaw, because its late, fast movement breaks bats off in batters' hands.
- Jose Fernandez: Yet another in a line of players whose careers got cut tragically short, this Miami Marlin died late in September 2016 at just 24 from a boating accident. Prior to that, he was something of a Crazy Awesome player, putting up insane pitching numbers. He'd also become the face of the U.S.'s reopening of border relations with Cuba after a stunt the Marlins pulled to get his grandmother Olga into a game. The Marlins retired his number almost immediately after they learned of his death. Their game against the Braves on September 25th was cancelled, while for every other game that day, the home team placed a Fernandez #16 jersey in their colors in the home dugout. Since October 29th, though, he's become something of a Chris Benoit-type figure when it was determined that he'd been drunk and on cocaine at the time of the crash, although Miami-Dade Police claimed that neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor.
- Vin Scully, announcer for the Dodgers for 67 seasons, is often regarded as one of the greatest baseball announcers ever. A recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting, he is revered in California, and was listed as the greatest sports announcer ever by the American Sportswriters Association. But, more importantly, he's regarded as the soul of the Dodgers, much like Chick Hearn was to the Lakers. During the 1980s, he was the main play-by-play announcer for NBC's baseball coverage, where his warm, friendly voice became familiar to a nationwide audience. Three of his most iconic calls are Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run ("A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South!"), Bill Buckner's error in the 1986 World Series, and Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. Ironically, the final game Scully announced was in San Francisco; the Giants put up a plaque in their press box to honor this.
Current people to know in MLB
- Bud Selig is the commissioner and has been so, officially and unofficially, since 1992. He made a number of risky changes in Major League Baseball's format which risked alienating the sport's traditionalist fanbase but since have proven very successful, such as interleague play (before 1997, American and National league teams did not play each other except in the World Series) and the introduction of the new three-round playoff format. His most important achievement would probably be the addition of the wild card, which increases overall fan interest by keeping many teams relevant much later into the season than they normally would be. However, he's largely blamed for the performance-enhancing drug scandals which more or less happened on his watch, and this fact has caused him to be portrayed as inept and bumbling.
- Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels is seen by many as baseball's best player, and, strangely enough, is actually polite, charitable, and well-liked. Lots of fans hope he'll break Barry Bonds's records someday. He is nicknamed "The Machine" due to his incredibly consistent production.
- Ichiro Suzuki, of the Seattle Mariners until 2011, is the first Japanese player to have a protracted, successful career in the American majors, and holds the record for hits in a single season. As of the 2016 season, he's had a whopping 3,030 hits in the U.S. alone (plus 1,278 when he played in Japan). Needless to say, he is considered a lock for the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible. He is also an apparent victim of Memetic Mutation.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka is another Japanese player. An insanely dominant pitcher for the Seibu Lions who came to international prominence during the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he was offered $51 million by the Boston Red Sox just to negotiate a contract, and somehow was the subject of hysterical rumors that he knew how to throw a mysterious pitch known as the "gyroball". So far he's been good, but not quite among the best pitchers in baseball. He is nicknamed Dice-K, an Anglicized pronunciation of his first name and pun on the symbol scorekeepers use for a strikeout (the letter K).
- Later, Matsuzaka has earned infamy for being one of the biggest-name busts from the Japanese posting system. The Red Sox ended up forking over about $100 million for six years of a pitcher who has been above-average at best ('07 and '08) and downright painful at worst (not to mention frequently injured). He finally went back to Japan in 2013 after failed stints with the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets, the former of which saw him perpetually stuck in the Minors.
- Ozzie Guillen is the former manager of the Chicago White Sox and current manager of the Miami Marlins. He is credited with making the White Sox a winning team again, though he is also perpetually in the news for saying something controversial, often an inflammatory remark regarding a player, umpire, or sportswriter. (However, there are many who feel he attracts controversy to himself on purpose in order to take heat off his players.)
- Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins is often thought of as the second-best player in baseball (after Albert Pujols) and, despite only being in his mid-20s, is already considered one of the best-hitting catchers in MLB history. Barring injury, he will likely be one of the game's biggest stars for the next decade or so. Also notable for being something of a hometown hero, as he grew up in the Twin Cities and has spent his entire career (thus far) with Minnesota. Easily the most marketable player currently, he's been in commercials for Head & Shoulders and Sony's MLB The Show series. Well played, Mauer.
- Josh Hamilton is a standout hitter, currently playing for the Texas Rangers. While he's been in the league in some form or another since 1999, he really only started to get attention when he started playing for Texas - his dominance at the plate is cited as one of the key factors in their 2010 turnaround. In the 2008 Home Run Derby, he hit a record 28 home runs in the first round, though the amazing performance ended up working against him; by the final round, he had tired himself out slugging so many home runs that he ended up losing to Justin Morneau (as the home run totals were reset for the finals). Early (and later) in his career, he's dealt with his addiction to alcohol - because of this, when the Rangers won the division and their two playoff series in 2010, they celebrated with ginger ale instead. After the season, Hamilton would be named the American League MVP for 2010.
- Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies is arguably the best pitcher in the game today. He began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, but in 2000 became so bad that he was demoted all the way down to the Blue Jays' Single-A team to relearn how to pitch. It worked: he had a breakout season in 2002 and won the AL Cy Young award in 2003. In December 2009, he was traded to the Phillies, giving him a shot at pitching in the postseason. During his first season with the Phillies, he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins, and in his first-ever postseason appearance, he threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds - only the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history, following Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Halladay won the NL Cy Young in 2010, one of only five pitchers to do so in both leagues (the others are Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens).
- Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers is another candidate for best pitcher in the game. Playing for the Detroit Tigers, he pretty much walked away with the American League Cy Young by winning the Pitching Triple Crown: most wins (24), strikeouts (250) and lowest ERA (2.4). He was instrumental in the Tigers running away with the American League Central division title. There is serious debate on whether or not he deserves the American League MVP award, which is seldom awarded to a pitcher because of strong feelings that it should go to an everyday player, and not one who plays every four or five days.
- Armando Galaragga became famous for his perfect game for the Detroit Tigers which was tarnished by a bad call by umpire Jim Joyce, who tearfully apologized, leading to an unlikely friendship between the two. He later traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks where he seemed to take a level in jerkass and hasn't been heard from since being demoted to their Triple-A affliate in Reno. He has, however, opted to enter Free Agency once the World Series is over.
- Manny Ramirez, over the course of his career, has been one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, but also one of baseball's most unpredictable characters. His frequent mental lapses, both on and off the field, have cost his teams a game or two and have been referred to as "Manny being Manny". Most controversially, in the latter part of his career, he acquired a reputation for playing outstanding baseball his first few months with a new team, but at some point thereafter wearing out his welcome and resorting to childish outbursts and lackadaisical play until he's shipped off somewhere else. He twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs; after the second test, he chose to retire rather than face a 100-game suspension. Or not. He requested a reinstatement, and has since signed with yet another team (the Athletics).
Major League Baseball has 30 teams, some more notable than others. Here are some things to know about the teams and, perhaps more importantly, their fanbases.
- The Baltimore Orioles: Although traditionally one of the flagship franchises of baseball, they have entered a Dork Age with seemingly no end under the "leadership" of Peter Angelos, probably the most reviled owner in baseball. Since taking over the Orioles in 1993, his tremendous incompetence has turned a once proud franchise into the laughingstock of baseball. Almost everything he does makes you say What an Idiot!. (Baltimore itself also seems to have declined in this time frame...) They came very close to turning around their fortunes in 2016, but they lost the ALDS spot to Toronto. The team's most famous players are super-fielder Brooks Robinson and "Iron Man" Cal Ripken Jr, both Hall-of-Famers who played their entire careers with the Orioles. Prior to 1953, the club was known as the St. Louis Browns. They play at Camden Yards, widely considered one of the most beautiful stadiums in the league. Too bad it's in one of the ugliest towns...
- The Boston Red Sox are often considered by their fans to be La Résistance to the Yankees' Evil Empire. This was effectively started by a fateful trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees that was then followed by an 86-year span in which they did not win a single World Series (the "Curse of the Bambino", although despite what the American film version of Fever Pitch told you, barely any hardcore Sox fans believed that this curse was why they kept losing). That finally ended in 2004 when the Red Sox, coming off a Miracle Rally that saw them come back from a unprecedented 3 games to nothing hole to beat the Yankees, swept the Cardinals in the World Series (during a lunar eclipse, nonetheless). The Red Sox are Serious Business in Boston, and the rivalry between them and the Yankees is the biggest Fandom Rivalry in North American sports, if not sports period. When viewed from outside the rivalry, however, the Red Sox have since the end of the curse merely become the lesser of two evils (the result of adopting Yankee-like spending habits). The Red Sox play in Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball. Fenway itself is known for "The Green Monster", a ridiculously high left-field wall erected to compensate for its close relative proximity to home plate. (Short pop flies that would be easily caught in other parks can turn into home runs over the Green Monster, while hard liners that would fly out of other parks bounce off the Green Monster for doubles or sometimes even singles. In rare cases balls have come close to landing on the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike.) Because of the management after Jackie Robinson's debut, they were the absolute last team to integrate in baseball, passing on both Robinson and Willie Mays.
- The Chicago White Sox: President Barack Obama's favorite team (to the point where he wore their logo-jacket to an All-Star Game in St Louis, resulting in an awkward situation), they also had an 86-year curse, which began, it is said, in 1919 when 8 of the team's players ("The Black Sox" or "the 8 Men Out"), including Shoeless Joe Jackson, either took, intended to take or knew the others were taking money to throw the World Series. All eight of them were kicked out. Forever. And then the White Sox didn't win anything until 2005, when Magnificent Bastard Ozzie Guillen (who had starred for them as a shortstop during The Nineties) guided them to a World Series championship. It still didn't make them more popular than the Cubs, though.
- The Cleveland Indians, a charter member of the American League, are as of 2016, the current "cursed" team, not having won a World Series since 1948. No one really remembers how they got their name (popular belief asserts that it came from an early Native American-descended player named Louis Sockalexis, but this is wrong), but some agree it's politically incorrect. Their previous stadium was cold, windy, and in general a horrible place to play. Their new stadium is nicer, but players and fans occasionally get attacked by swarms of insects (which actually helped the Indians win a key playoff game in 2007) and, in 2009, seagulls. They lost a game in 1974 when their fans, drunk on cheap beer, began to attack the opposing players. They were perennial last-place finishers in the '80s, which led up to the movie Major League, in which a fictional version of the Indians overcomes their idiosyncrasies and ineptitude to win the pennant. Incredibly, they became successful a few years after the release of the movie and today are one of the most consistently solid teams in the American League.
- The Detroit Tigers seem to be the Yankees' original rivals and are one of the charter American League teams. Historically, they've alternated between periods of brilliance and long dry spells of non-contention. After enduring one such dry spell for over two decades following their 1984 World Series championship (which included losing 119 games in 2003, one shy of tying the record), the Tigers came out of nowhere in 2006 to reach the Fall Classic again (only to get unexpectedly and swiftly defeated by the Cardinals). However, high expectations in ensuing seasons failed to bear fruit; in 2009, the team suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history, losing a three game division lead with only four games to play. The Tigers have boasted several Hall of Famers in their history, including Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford in the 1900s and '10s, Hank Greenberg (the majors' first Jewish-American star) and Charlie Gehringer in the '30s and '40s, and Al Kaline in the '50s and '60s. Another Tiger Hall of Famer is the late broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who called the team's games for over 40 years and was basically the AL counterpart to Vin Scully.
- The Kansas City Royals are the American League's equivalent of the Pirates, albeit without most of the history and with a management team that seems to give a crap. The franchise did enjoy some glory years in the late 1970s and early '80s (winning several division titles, two AL pennants in 1980 and 1985, and the 1985 World Series, and boasting eventual Hall of Famer George Brett at third base) before sliding into perennial non-contention in the ensuing decades (except for 2015, when they won that year's World Series). Their stadium, which features a fountain just beyond the center field fence, is regarded as one of the nicest in baseball. (And just to clarify, they play in Missouri, not Kansas.) Became infamous in 1983 for the "Pine Tar Game" against the Yankees, in which George Brett went apeshit after he was ejected (and his two-run homer reversed into an out) for having too much pine tar on his bat; he was eventually Vindicated by History when the AL president allowed the two runs to stand on the technicality that the Yankees had improperly challenged the bat.
- The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The "other" team in the Greater Los Angeles area. Formerly known as the California Angels. They spent most of their history as the Butt Monkey of the area living in the shadow of the more popular and successful Dodgers and being a a place where past their prime players spent their final years. From its inception 1961 until his death in 1998, the team was owned by Gene Autry, a famous Western film actor and singer. In the late '90s, the team was bought by Disney (which had begun to pour money into the club earlier in the decade, starting with the production of a remake of Angels in the Outfield focused on the Angels instead of the Pirates). Upon the company's acquisition of the franchise, they changed the name to the Anaheim Angels and made the team one of the dominant teams in the American League West, eventually winning their first (and so far only) World Series title in 2002. In 2004 Disney would eventually sell the team. The new owners decided to rename the team the Los Angeles Angels for marketing purposes, but because the team's contract with Anaheim contained a stipulation that "Anaheim" had to be part of the team name, this led to the rather cumbersome moniker "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"; much to Anaheim's (and the city the team borrowed without domicile, Los Angeles') dismay, there isn't a rule about two cities being used in a team's name. As a Bilingual Bonus, Los Angeles means 'The Angels' in Spanish, so the name is effectively "The The Angels Angels of Anaheim". Angels' fans are noted for using Thunder Sticks, and being generally loud and enthusiastic (although the "leave early to beat traffic" thing still does occur every once and awhile). The team's mascot is the Rally Monkey (a capuchin monkey dressed in team apparel whose appearances are usually on videotape) who made his debut during the 2002 title run. Their biggest rivals are the A's, though they also have a strong inter-league rivalry with the Dodgers.
- The Minnesota Twins: Originally the Washington Senators and one of the original eight American League teams, the Twins (who had lost a World Series in 1965) won the World Series in 1987 and 1991 before entering a bad stretch that saw them nearly be disbanded (along with the Montreal Expos). The only thing that kept them from being contracted was the lease they had with the city of Minneapolis. Then, go figure, they started winning, and have become a perennial threat in the AL Central during the 2000s (although success in the playoffs has been harder to come by). A common compliment said about the Twins is their seemingly bottomless Minor League farm system, which has allowed them to remain reasonably competitive even as star players leave town for big city riches. They are also often called "scrappy", with a habit of climbing back into things when least expected that led White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to call them "The Piranhas," as their team at the time did not have one single "slugger" but a lot of "little" players chipping away at the edges.
"All those piranhas -- blooper here, blooper here, beat out a ground ball, hit a home run, they're up by four. They get up by four with that bullpen? See you at the national anthem tomorrow. When I sit down and look at the lineup, give me the New York Yankees. Give me those guys because they've got holes. You can pitch around them, you can pitch to them. These little guys? Castillo and all of them? People worry about the catcher, what's his name, Mauer? Fine, yeah, a good hitter, but worry about the little [guys], they're on base all the time."
- The New York Yankees: If you can name only one baseball team, it's probably this one. Being the most successful team in the World Series era (27 titles) and the fact that it is based in the Big Applesauce have combined to make the Yankees the most popular team in America...and the least popular team in America. You must, by internet law, either hate them with a passion that rivals the love you have of your own team or be an obnoxious, unpleasable pinstripe-wearing fan. An entire industry exists of anti-Yankee media, and although primarily centered in Boston, it thrives throughout North America, including New York itself. The same thing goes for pro-Yankee media. Depending on your point of view, the Yankees are either The Evil Empire or The Chosen Team, but it's clear that the Yankees are the Big Bad to many fans and media heads. Team owners George Steinbrenner and his sons are, however, universally considered an example of Evil Overlord (or at least a Mean Boss), while Lou Gehrig is universally beloved. This is not a new phenomenon. The play Damn Yankees!, about a man who hates them so much he sells his soul to the Devil to beat them, was written over fifty years ago. Choked in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, allowing the Red Sox to make the first 0-3 comeback in baseball history and win their first Series title in 86 years. Red Sox fans will never let them forget this. Notable for having not one (Ruth), not two (Gehrig), not three (DiMaggio), but four (Mickey Mantle) names in the argument for best baseball player ever. Their 27 World Series championships make them both the most successful team in Major League Baseball, AND North American professional sports. Their current GM is Brian Cashman.
- The Oakland Athletics, often shortened to just "the A's", are one of the league's oldest teams (being descended from earlier franchises in Philadelphia and Kansas City) and also one of the current sufferers of "small-market syndrome". However, their stretch of unexpectedly strong teams with tiny payrolls in the early 2000s led to writer Michael Lewis writing the book Moneyball on Oakland general manager Billy Beane. Beane's "Moneyball" approach to the game emphasized new statistics, computerized analysis, and unconventional means of analyzing players. And for a while, it worked, proving that baseball really is the Game of Nerds. Many other teams, most notably the Red Sox, then began adopting Moneyball-style strategies, relegating Oakland to the back end of the league. The franchise as a whole has won nine World Series, third most in baseball behind the Yankees and the Cardinals (although only one of those titles has come in the last 35 years).
- The Seattle Mariners are now known for a high number of Japanese players and fans and a good budget who never close the deal. They are one of only two teams (along with the Washington Nationals) who have never played in the World Series. The team's only real run of success came from 1995 to 2001 when they made the playoffs four times, and in three of those four occasions, advanced to the League Championship Series (though they never got any farther). In 2001, they had the best regular season record in baseball history, but still failed to reach the World Series. The club has had a few stars in its history, most notably Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and Ichiro Suzuki, all of whom are likely future Hall of Famers and likely candidates to have any number besides 42 become permanently retired for the first time . Alex Rodriguez also began his career with the Mariners before moving on to greater fame with the Rangers and Yankees. An interesting note is that this team's currently owned by Nintendo. It explains how Ken Griffey Jr. got a couple of video games on some of Nintendo's consoles.
- The Tampa Rays: Initially the "Devil Rays", they probably renamed it because it made no sense. A relatively new team, they spent the first decade of existence losing a lot and generally coming in last. However, in 2008, they went worst-to-first, winning their division, defeated the much-higher-payroll Yankees and Red Sox, and made it all the way to the World Series, largely due to the emergence of a number of extremely talented younger players and lights-out relief pitching. Though they've displayed a Montreal Expos-like inability to hold onto their stars, they have remained competitive, winning another division in 2010 and coming out of nowhere to steal the wild card from the Boston Red Sox in 2011. Their notoriously lukewarm fanbase and terrible stadium don't help, not to mention the fact that they have to share a division with perennial AL powerhouses Boston and New York.
- The Texas Rangers are best known as the team that George W. Bush owned before his political career and producing a number of sluggers (Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, among others) who may or may not have been chemically enhanced. They are descended from the Washington Senators, but not the old Senators team from the first half of the 20th century; rather, they are descended from the new expansion Senators that began play in 1961. The old Senators are now the Minnesota Twins. For years, the club was known for big bats, terrible pitching, and not much else. Until 2010, they were the only team in baseball who had never won a postseason series. They finally accomplished this in 2010 after nearly 50 years of trying, making it all the way to their first ever World Series before finally losing to the San Francisco Giants. In 2011, they lost ace pitcher Cliff Lee to free agency, but managed to have an even better year than before, reaching their second consecutive World Series. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan pitched his last two no-hitters and earned his 5,000th strikeout and 300th win with the team. His plaque in Cooperstown bears a Rangers cap, and he currently serves as Owner and Team President; his guidance, especially with regard to how to handle pitchers, is considered the biggest factor in the team's turnaround.
- The Toronto Blue Jays are Canada's team. Their glory days were the early 90s when they put together an All-Star lineup and won two consecutive World Series ('92 and '93). They also got a stadium, first called the Sky Dome, which had this cool "futuristic" retractable roof that popularized the trend in bad-weather ballparks. Today, Toronto performs like a smallish-market team, not because Toronto is a small city, but rather because some players refuse to play in Canada due to much higher taxes than the U.S. They also have the misfortune of playing in the brutal American League Eastern division, where they're forced to compete against perennial powerhouses like the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the recently good Tampa Bay Rays. In recent years, they've had a tendency to get off to a fast start only to fade halfway through the season. Roberto Alomar, who played a crucial role in the Jays' back-to-back championships, was inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap. Paul Molitor, another Hall-of-Famer, also spent time in Toronto, and was the MVP of the Jays' 1993 World Series championship.
- The Houston Astros (originally the Colt .45s) are the world record holders for most ugly uniforms. MLB awarded the franchise in 1962 when owners unable to obtain expansion teams decided to form their own league, the Continental League. The league was intended solely to bluff MLB into awarding the cities MLB franchises; the Astros were awarded in response along with the Senators (now Rangers), Angels and Mets. The Astros are responsible for both the domed stadium (the Astrodome) and, because grass doesn't grow indoors, for artificial turf, better known as AstroTurf. The team often contends, but always fizzle out, even though they did have a streak of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If you're any kind of player and have a last name starting with B, join the Astros and you're the next Killer B, a reference to a period when the team had several very good players whose last names all began with the letter B (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, and several lesser names). Moved into Enron Field in 2000, just in time for Enron to have a major Enron-killing scandal; the stadium was quickly rebranded into Minute Maid Park. In 2011, Jim Crane officially decided to buy the team, in exchange for their move into the AL West (Pacific) division in 2013; this makes them the second of the currently operating teams to have switched leagues.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks are one of the two relatively newer teams in baseball, as they began play in 1998 along with Tampa Bay. It took them only four years to win their first World Series (2001), and they're largely credited with forcing the perpetually annoying Yankees into hibernation for a few years. Immediately afterward, they pulled a Marlins and promptly gutted the team, and have been in a recovering status ever since. Their current manager is Kirk Gibson, a former player who's best known by Dodgers fans for his home run off Hall-of-Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
- An interesting thing to note is that despite only existing for 14 years, there's been only 4 years so far where a Diamondbacks player hasn't been nominated for the Cy Young award. This kind of gives an implication that the Diamondbacks are like Heaven for pitchers, although it does help that they had one of the very best one-two pitching tandems around for a few years.
- The Atlanta Braves are, along with the Cubs, one of the two franchises that have existed since the beginning of the National League, though they were originally based in Boston and later Milwaukee. Actually, they're even older than that; they were formed when the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, folded and their manager and key players migrated to Boston. They are the oldest continuously exsisting sports franchise in America. Historically, they've had flashes of success interspersed with long periods of being a Butt Monkey. The team of Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's career home run record despite receiving numerous death threats. After Aaron, they went from mediocre to horrible in the mid-to-late 1980s. In 1991, they went worst-to-first, went on an absolute tear in the second half of the season, defeated the Pirates on a controversial call in the NL Championship Series, and lost in the World Series. Then, in 1992, they basically did the same thing all over again. From then until 2005, they made the playoffs every year, won one World Series, and were best known for their outstanding starting pitching rotation. After 2005, they slid back into mediocrity for the next few years, but returned to the postseason as the wild card in 2010. In 2011, they were poised to reach the postseason again, but suffered a horrific collapse in the season's final month and watched the St. Louis Cardinals overtake them for the wild card and, eventually, the World Series championship. They are one of two teams (the other one being, again, the Cubs) that has had nationwide television coverage thanks to Ted Turner's WTBS "superstation" (now Atlanta-only), and, therefore, one of the Majors' biggest fan bases.
- The Chicago Cubs: The Woobie of Major League Baseball. They were infamous for not having won the World Series since 1908 and not having even reached it since 1945. Superstitious Cubs fans claimed that the team's lack of postseason success was the result of the "Curse of the Billy Goat" (don't ask). They had a couple of agonizingly close calls (1984, 2003, and 2015). Then, in 2016, they finally won another World Series title, defeating the Cleveland Indians, who is now the current "cursed" team. They play in Wrigley Field, the oldest park in the National League (active since 1914), and possibly the most well-known and loved Major League stadium. It's famous for countless quirks such as ivy-covered outfield walls, fans sitting on nearby rooftops to watch the game, and the fact that night games were not allowed there until 1988. They are also well known for now-deceased broadcaster Harry Caray, known for his 7th inning renditions of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" as well as his unique approach to color commentary.
- The Cincinnati Reds: Cincy was the first city to have a pro team (the Cincinnati Red Stockings), and although the current Reds aren't directly descended from that one (see: Atlanta Braves), the Reds are still generally considered the oldest club in the league (even though they aren't). Before TV ratings became important, it was custom that the first game of every season take place in Cincy, and even today the Reds Home Opener is quite a big deal. They were the "Redlegs" in the 1950's due to the Red Scare. The glory days of the Reds were the '70s, when they were called the Big Red Machine. Current ESPN broadcaster Joe Morgan was a member of the Big Red Machine, and he won't let you forget it. Also had a bright spot in 1990, winning the World Series. Owned for a while by the totally insane Marge Schott, famous for her racist tirades, collection of Nazi memorabilia, and devotion to her Saint Bernard, Schottzie.
- The Colorado Rockies began play in 1993 along with Florida. Based in Denver, which is by far the highest-altitude MLB city. This is important because the thin, dry air leads to balls flying out of the stadium regularly, leading to massively overinflated offensive statistics and some very miserable pitchers. This has lessened somewhat in recent years as the local grounds crew began storing game balls in a special humidor in the stadium. They have a strong fan base and have generally been a good team in recent years, including a rather spectacular 23-game winning streak in 2007 and a strong performance in that year's Series - they didn't win it, but they sure as hell didn't make themselves look bad, either.
- Apparently, they also have a fetish for nuts at the Advanced Class A Minor League level. Their current affiliate is the Modesto Nuts, and in 1997, they tried to have a nut as their mascot for their then-affiliate, then known as the Salem Avalanche. He was tossed due to negative reception and replaced with a dog named Mugsy.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers: Formerly of Brooklyn ("trolley dodgers"), making their name an Artifact Title. In their Brooklyn days, they were one of the best teams in the National League, winning 12 NL pennants and being in contention practically every season, though they couldn't translate all those titles into success in the World Series. (In 12 trips, they only won once, the "Brooklyn's got a winning team" made mention of in one certain song.) They've been far more successful in LA, winning 9 NL pennants and 5 World Series. Noted today for their TV/radio announcer Vin Scully (who is The Voice of many a great Baseball moment), former manager Tommy Lasorda, and Alyssa Milano. A running joke in baseball is that most Dodger fans are just there to be seen and will leave early to beat traffic (after arriving late because of traffic). The Dodgers were also the team of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's unofficial "color barrier" and remains a revered figure. All Major League teams have retired the number 42 because of Robinson.
- Lately known for their despised owners, the McCourts, who purchased the team with loans against their Boston parking lot empire in 2004 and used the franchise as a piggy bank, before the MLB commissioner took control away during their bickering divorce and bankruptcy. The team was finally sold in March 2012 for 2 billion dollars to a consortiom that included Magic Johnson, formerly of the Lakers.
- There are the always (hated) Giants to hate -- so long as it doesn't spill over to beating their fans half to death in the parking lot.
- The Miami Marlins: Formerly known as the Florida Marlins. Came into the league in 1993. Until 2012, they played their games in a giant football stadium intended for the NFL's Miami Dolphins to miniscule audiences that would make even a smaller stadium appear empty. Announced attendances were small enough already, usually hovering around 10,000, but the crowd actually in the stadium had a tendency to go into triple digits from time to time, to the point where hecklers who would never be heard in a regular game setting were thrown out of the game as the umpire could hear them very well, and player chatter was easily heard in the stands without amplification. In a stadium with a capacity over 75,000 (only half of those seats were sold for baseball). This comes partly as a result of Miami being a football town and the distance to the stadium from population areas (suburban stadiums distant from a city are fine for football games and concerts, but nobody wants to make that drive up to 81 times a year for baseball), but more as a result of poor ownership. Weather is also a factor; games in Miami are extremely prone to being rained (or even hurricaned) out. The Marlins have won two World Series championships in 1997 and 2003, but both titles, and several other seasons besides, were immediately followed by releasing or trading virtually every breakout player on the team. They made frequent threats to move the team if a new stadium was not built, which they finally got in 2012; it has a retractable roof and a backstop featuring an aquarium with real fish (which will be protected with hopefully multiple layers of Lexan). Current Marlins' owner Jeffrey Loria is arguably one of the most hated owners in baseball behind Baltimore's Angelos and New York's Steinbrenner. He's been accused of deliberately putting an inferior product on the field simply to save money, and has on two separate occasions fired a well-liked, well-respected manager for failing to win with such a cash-strapped lineup.
- As a point of interest, the Marlins have never lost a postseason series, the only club in baseball this can be said of; the two times they made it to the postseason, they won it all. They were also the Wild Card of the NL during those two postseasons, meaning that they've won two World Championships but have never finished first in their own division.
- Also, they have cheerleaders, known as the Mermaids.
- The Milwaukee Brewers are descended from Seattle's original team, the Pilots, who were a complete disaster that only lasted one season. Then they were bought by a Milwaukee car salesman, Bud Selig, who somehow worked his way up to commissioner of MLB. The Brewers are best known for playing at Miller Park, considered by many to be the best modern ballpark, and for their odd traditions such as the 6th inning "sausage races" and the mascot, Bernie Brewer, who formerly slid into various containers of liquid but now just slides down a waterpark-sponsored slide as a cute mascot marketed towards children can't dive into an oversized mug of beer these days. Brewers fans are also considered to have invented tailgating back when the team played at County Stadium. Bob Uecker, better known outside of Wisconsin for his appearances in Lite Beer commercials, the sitcom Mr. Belvedere, and the Major League movies (not to mention being choked by Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania IV), has been the team's radio announcer since 1971. The Brewers had their glory days in the early '80s, nearly winning the 1982 World Series. They are the first of the currently existing MLB teams to have switched leagues, as they were American until 1998. Despite their fairly small market (smallest in MLB by Nielsen TV market size), the Brewers are generally considered an above-average team. In many ways, they're considered a Spiritual Successor to the Milwaukee Braves, having retired Hank Aaron's jersey and erected a statue of him outside of Miller Park despite having only spent two uneventful seasons with the Brewers. The Brewers are also the fourth team to have the name; the first two were short-lived (as in one season) teams in the also short-lived American Association and Union Association, and the third is now the Baltimore Orioles.
- The New York Mets: The Unfavourite of the two New York baseball teams, the Mets have, for most their history, been the polar opposite of their more popular and older brother. They tend to go through cycles of brilliant play for five or six years followed by stretches where they're one of the worst teams in the league. They've won two World Series titles, both of which are the source of major Baseball mythology (the first one literally considered a miracle, the second one only happening because they were playing the Red Sox during their Curse of the Bambino stage (see: Bill Buckner). The Mets' first season (1962) featured only 40 wins in 160 games, and is considered the worst team in modern history. They have one of the higher budgets in the majors, but in recent years have an uncanny tendency to collapse in the season's final weeks, having done so (both times losing a division championship to the Phillies) in 2007 and 2008. Don't worry, they have their fans. Everybody loves an underdog, right? The Mets are also infamous for attracting somewhat rowdy, undisciplined players; as a case in point, many of the players on the 1986 World Series team had cocaine problems at some point during their career.
- The Philadelphia Phillies: Played their first season in 1883 after replacing the Worcester Worcesters, making them one of the oldest franchises in baseball, if not all of modern professional sports. 2008 World Series champions and 2009 runners-up, their victory in the 2008 WS ended Philly's long run of All-Sports Butt Monkey. Though they've been the best team in the National League the last few years, historically, they are the losingest baseball franchise ever (and in terms of number of losses, the losingest team in all of professional sports). They were also the last of the 16 original Major League teams to win a championship, their first title not coming until 1980. Like all Philadelphia sports teams, their fans are usually appear to be generally good-hearted working-class folk, but they can get really dangerous if drunk or if their team wins a championship (rioting is a popular Philly pastime), or if you are wearing a Mets uniform. Then you are just asking for it. The late great Harry Kalas -- The Voice of NFL Films after John Facenda died -- was their radio announcer until his death during the 2009 season. Currently known for their ludicrously talented roster of starting pitchers: 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels was joined in 2009 by Cliff Lee, who left in the off-season and was replaced by Roy Halladay. Midway through 2010, the Phillies picked up Roy Oswalt, and then managed to sign Cliff Lee in the offseason, even though the Yankees and Red Sox were offering more money. Thus the Phillies started 2011 with what was quickly dubbed the Four Aces -- Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt. With rookie Vance Worley having an astounding year, the Phillies ended up with five aces. Normally, a team is lucky to have one pitcher that good. The Phillies had more of them than they could start in the playoffs -- surely a problem anyone else would love to have. By the way, the team's somewhat uncreative nickname is an artifact of history; in the early days of baseball media would often refer to teams by simply pluralizing a city name. Also the home of the Phillie Phanatic, one of the goofiest and most-beloved mascots in sports.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates are best known today as the league's best example of "small-market syndrome"; they just can't pony up the cash to put a decent team together, though many fans argue that there's as much front-office ineptitude at work here as lack of money. If ever a Pirate becomes a legitimate All-Star, it's a sure bet he'll be traded to a richer team mid-season. Their last winning season was 1992; their streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons is the longest such streak in American professional sports history. And don't expect it to be ending any time soon. It appeared to be ending in 2011, but, 6 games over .500 after the All-Star Break, they went on an amazing 9-27 (as of this writing) run proving they're still the Pirates. The Pirates have such a small budget, they still turn a pretty decent profit despite how terrible they are; consequently, management feels no obligation to change its penny-pinching ways. In 1991 and 1992, they lost the NL Championship Series twice, both to the Braves, both in 7 games, and both times on controversial umpiring decisions at home plate. Before that they were a somewhat respected franchise with 5 World Series championships. The team of Roberto Clemente, a very highly regarded right fielder who hit his 3000th hit, then after the season died in a plane crash delivering supplies to earthquake victims. Also the original team of the preternaturally talented and equally hated Barry Bonds, whose departure in 1992 began the collapse of the franchise.
- The St. Louis Cardinals: The most successful team in the National League during the World Series era (11 championships) and by far the most popular "Small Market" franchise, the Cardinals are noted for their highly-devoted and highly-knowledgable fanbase (it is not uncommon for them to applaud the opposing team or one of their players should they do something impressive), Albert Pujols and their rivalry with the City of Chicago in general and the Chicago Cubs in particular (it is said that the only way you can get booed in Busch Stadium is if you are wearing a Chicago jersey - just ask Barack Obama). Their fanbase is not only incredibly devoted, but incredibly nice - see the booing example above. Three Hall of Fame broadcasters were once employed by the Cardinals: Harry Caray (who spent 25 years in St. Louis before moving to Chicago), catcher-turned-announcer Joe Garagiola, and Jack Buck. (Jack's son Joe is the current main broadcaster of both MLB and the NFL for Fox.)
- The San Diego Padres are close runners-up to the Houston Astros for the title of "ugliest uniforms in baseball" thanks to their earwax-colored digs during the 70s and 80s and their occasional inexplicable camouflage jerseys today (yes, they're to honor the military, but still). The Padres typically field good but not great teams, and few players get much in the way of national attention due to the team's small market and offense-unfriendly stadium. They've reached the World Series twice, but lost both times. The only players to really achieve superstardom with the Padres are Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, and closer Trevor Hoffman, who looks likely to join the Hall as soon as he is eligible. Known for odd public address-related incidents; in the team's very first home game in 1974, the owner grabbed the microphone and apologized to the befuddled crowd for the team's poor performance. Later, in 1990, they got Roseanne to sing the National Anthem for some reason, and she delivered a deliberately horrible rendition that briefly irritated the entire country. And their long-time radio announcer, Jerry Coleman, is well known for frequently saying things that just plain don't make any sense ("It's a high sky out there, and that can get you in trouble if you get caught in the middle of it."). Also known for their former mascot, the San Diego Chicken, who is the reason most teams have annoying mascots today.
- The San Francisco Giants: Another of the classic NL teams, with roots going back to 1883. Most of their first seven decades were spent in New York at the oddly-shaped Polo Grounds in Harlem, where they enjoyed a three-cornered rivalry with the (hated) Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees (whom they faced in six World Series). The team's luster began to fade in the mid-1950s due to mediocre play and a crumbling stadium (not to mention the NFL starting their own New York Giants team), but as luck would have it the (hated) Dodgers were moving to sunny California and needed a travel buddy! And so in 1958 they relocated to San Francisco, where they've been ever since. From 1960 to 2000 they played in frigid, windy Candlestick Park, where (supposedly) a pitcher was blown off the mound during the 1961 All-Star Game, and (definitely) Game 3 of the 1989 World Series was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake. After flirting with moves to Silicon Valley and St. Petersburg, Florida they traded up to spiffy new Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park in 2000 (with its rapidly-becoming infamous Triples Alley and its constantly-changing name). The Giants have a proud pedigree of Hall of Fame players - including Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott from before the move, and Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal after - but they hadn't won a World Series since 1954. That is, of course, until 2010. Backed by a sterling pitching staff headed by two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Tim Lincecum and closer Brian "The Beard" Wilson (no, not that one), along with a starting lineup composed largely of other teams' castoffs, they managed to overcome a big late-season deficit to beat the San Diego Padres for the NL West title, then squeaked by the Atlanta Braves in a tight, pitching-dominated Division Series, upset the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in the League Championship Series, and finally dominated the Texas Rangers in the World Series to bring the city of San Francisco its first ever World Series champion. But even when the team isn't going well, the garlic fries are tasty, the farm system is strong, Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller does the radio broadcasts, Kruk and Kuip keep the TV broadcasts fun, and there's always the (hated) Dodgers to hate.
- The Giants have also won the most games out of any baseball team, and possibly the most games of any professional sports team in North America.
- The Washington Nationals: Founded in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, they are arguably The Chew Toy of Major League Baseball. Sure, the Phillies have accumulated more than 10,000 losses, the Cubs took 108 years to win their third World Series title, the Red Sox spent decades always losing to their hated rival, the Mets have to share a city with that hated rival, the Pirates haven't had a winning season since the first George Bush was president, and the Rangers didn't win a playoff series for 50 years, but all those teams have bright spots in their history as well. The Expos almost had one; they were leading their division in August 1994 and were considered a legitimate threat to win it all that year, only for the season to be cancelled by a strike (itself a Dork Age), leading to the first year without a World Series since 1904. Their owner spent the rest of the decade trading their stars for much cheaper players. This eventually resulted in the team being bought by the league, nearly eliminated altogether, and eventually sold and moved to Washington D.C. The old owner is now doing pretty much the same thing to his new team, the Marlins (see their paragraph above). Oh, and don't confuse them with the Washington Senators - local politicians vow to oppose that name as long as Washington, D.C. has no vote in Congress, and the previous Senators baseball club still owns the rights to the name even though they became the Texas Rangers in 1972. As a result of their team's suckage, Washington D.C. is subject to favorite moniker "First in war, first in peace, and last in the National League" (which was true of both Senators teams except with "American" instead of "National").
The Minor Leagues
To get to the Majors, most players (with the exception of people coming over from Japan's league and occasionally a rare prodigy) have to go through time in the Minor Leagues, lower leagues in smaller cities where every team is made up of players who are the property of a major league club. Because the players are not well known, Minor League teams are often marketed through use of crazy promotions and give-aways, and a sense of local pride. Lately, some teams have come around to the realization that in comparison with the bigs, the smaller, more intimate facilities and comfortable vibe and wallet-friendly prices are a powerful draw themselves (think jazz bar versus large arena). However, players from the majors will occasionally play for minor-league affiliates of their teams while they recover from injuries. The roster rules forbid a major league team from reactivating an injured player within 15 days of his last game played if the team calls up a player from the minors to replace him, but there is no prohibition on that player from playing in the minors during that 15-day exclusion period.
Each league is in one of a few classification levels that roughly note the level of play and size of city. Working from the bottom:
- In Rookie level the players are raw, often straight from whatever college or high school they were playing at before they signed. Teams in the Rookie Leagues range from Arizona and Gulf Coast league teams that merely use the Spring Training practice facilities in front of basically nobody to (in higher rookie leagues) small-town teams in places like Casper, Wyoming and Danville, Virginia that play in front of a few hundred or a few thousand people.
- Getting past that is the Short-Season A level, which is like the Rookie level, only in bigger cities, more modern stadiums and slightly more polished players.
- From there is the A level, which is the lowest level that plays a full-season schedule (Rookie and Short-Season players have a shorter schedule of games to account for the College season).
- The Advanced A-Ball level is when the players really start getting good and when a player starts to have any shot whatsoever of getting promoted straight to the majors.
- Then there is AA, which is, not surprisingly, basically A-ball only better. Although it is technically the second-highest level of the Minors, some teams will often call up their best prospects straight from here (see below for reasons), although with others it is just simply another step on the road to another level and closer to the Show.
- Finally, there is AAA Baseball, the last rung before MLB. In general, the competition here is almost as good (and in some cases better) than what it is in the Big Leagues, and the prospects are often, but not always, the best in a team's system. But even if the Prospects skip AAA, the AAA team will still generally be the most talented team outside the MLB club itself. This is because sometimes AAA will become a "parking lot" for players who are either good enough for the big leagues but are unlucky enough to be trapped on the depth chart behind a established MLB player (Ryan Howard of the Phillies remained in AAA longer than he probably should have because the Phillies had an established player in Jim Thome, for example) or players who are just barely not good enough to make it in the Big Leagues, but are certainly better than most of their AAA compatriots (these players are sometimes said to be playing in AAAA). Because of the fact that AAA rosters have less fluidity than those in AA or A, it is not uncommon for fans to become attached to their favorite players and follow their careers once they make it to the majors, even if they aren't playing for one's favorite team. Similarly, some "AAAA" players sometimes become fixtures for years on certain AAA teams, and become involved with local charities, hospitals, etc (although this has become less common in recent years because the cold hard economic realities of the game and the dream of getting to the big leagues will usually lead to a player either being released or signing with another team where he'd have a better shot of making the big leagues). AAA ball is also notable for its mascots and promotional gimmicks between innings, making it great for families with young children. Notable teams in the AAA leagues are the Durham Bulls (of Bull Durham fame), the Toledo Mud Hens (of MASH fame), the Albuquerque Isotopes (named for the would-be location of the Springfield Isotopes in an episode of The Simpsons), the Portland Beavers (part of an earlier attempt for a 3rd major league and continuously trying to get added to the big leagues), the Indianapolis Indians (play in what is essentially a major league park and used to be good, but currently suck), the Rochester Red Wings (one of the oldest continuously-operating teams in Baseball, and the only Minor League team that has operated uninterrupted since the 19th century), and the Pawtucket Red Sox (notable for playing host to the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33 inning win over the aforementioned Rochester Red Wings).
The rest of the story
There are also other layers of Ball in North America as well.
- The Independent Leagues are like the minor leagues, but they are not connected to the Major League teams, so instead they hire their own players (usually at a much lower salary than even a Minor Leaguer). Although generally this is a "last gasp" place where has-beens and never-will-bes go to die, on occasion a major player will play for a Independent team during a salary dispute or to prove that a injury wasn't as serious as thought. Because of the low level of play, Independent teams often make up for it with over-the-top promotions and giveaways, although this is also common for many Minor League teams.
- College baseball is not followed even close to as much as its Basketball and Football counterparts. There are a few reasons for this. For one, many top prospects are drafted from High School. Second, all but the very, very, very, best Collegiate players will still have to go through a few years of the minor leagues, ending any "buzz" he might generate. Third, they use metallic bats, which mean that their offensive statistics are somewhat inflated. Finally, due to weather and economic issues related to it, warm-weather schools in the South and the West Coast have dominated competition. The top Collegiate competition is the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
- High school baseball has similar problems to College: all but the very, very, very best are still going to have to go through the Minors, so it's not like a prospect can get much "buzz" like a top football or basketball recruit. Plus, they only play seven innings.
- Little League and other youth organizations such as Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Baseball and RBI Baseball are, of course, organized leagues for younger people, basically from as soon as someone is old enough to swing a bat until they are eligible for College (sometimes even longer). Little League itself is the largest youth sports organization in the world, and its Little League World Series (which differs from the College and MLB World Series in that it actually involves the world) in Williamsport, PA draws pretty large crowds, is shown on ESPN and ABC, and has featured many future Major Leaguers back when they were young innocent 12-year-olds.
- Negro Leagues Now defunct, but from about 1887 to 1947 Major League Baseball instituted a color line, barring players of African descent (this was technically a gentleman's agreement since neither the American nor National Leagues had an explicit policy. The result was the creation of a "third" major league (although many of its teams were not as consistently financially viable as their white counterparts) consisting of the top African-American talent. Many Negro League teams were often on par with or better than their white counterparts. Sometimes it would exist as a formal league other times it would exist as a collection of barnstorming teams. After 1947, when Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers, Negro League teams hemorrhaged talent to the Majors. The Negro American League formally folded in 1958 and the final Negro League team to exist, the Indianapolis Clowns, lasted until the 1980s.
Around the world
Baseball came to Cuba in the 1860s. Brought by Cubans who studied in the United States and American sailors in Cuban ports. Nemisio Guillo is credited with bringing a bat and baseball to Cuba in 1864 after being schooled in Mobile, Alabama. Soon after this, the first Cuban War of Independence against its Spanish rulers spurred Spanish authorities in 1869 to ban playing the sport in Cuba. The reasons were because Cubans began to prefer baseball to viewing bullfights, which Cubans were expected to dutifully attend as homage to their Spanish rulers in an informal cultural mandate. As such, baseball became symbolic of freedom and egalitarianism to the Cuban people. Until the 1959 communist revolution Cuba was a hotbed for Major League scouts. Afterwords, Cuban professional baseball was shut down and replaced by "amateurs." This resulted in Cuba becoming the most powerful team on the international stage since Major League clubs refused to allow their talent to play in international competitions. Major League money is still a powerful lure to their players, and those brave enough to do so, often defect to the US. This lure is so powerful that when the Cuban national team is playing abroad the Cuban government will rely on police state tactics to prevent defections.
Cuban refugees brought the game to the Dominican Republic in the nineteenth century, and the Island soon developed a thriving domestic league. After the communist revolution closed Cuba to the majors the Dominican Republic became a major pipeline for Major League talent. The island is home to numerous baseball academies run by MLB clubs seeking to find those diamonds in the rough.
Baseball was first played in Japan in 1873 at Kaisei Gakko (now Tokyo University) under the instruction of an American teacher, Horace Wilson. Around 1880 the first Japanese baseball team was organized at the Shimbashi Athletic Club, and several college teams were formed in Tokyo. During the period 1890 to 1902, a team from the First Higher School in Tokyo played and often defeated a team made up of American residents in Yokohama; the publicity for these games helped make baseball one of the most popular Western sports in Japan. Since World War II, baseball is the most popular spectator sport in Japan; no doubt the American-led occupation had something to do with that.
Other than the earlier elaborated leagues in North America, Professional leagues (or professional level in the case of Communist Cuba) exist in (in rough order of level of play- although not necessarily of the baseball playing abilities of that country): Japan, Cuba, Korea, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy and China. Australia has had professional baseball on-and-off since the 80's, but has not had a stable league since 2002—three years after the country's one MLB player bought the entire league—though plans are in place for a new professional league beginning during the southern-hemisphere summer of 2010–11. Colombia, Nicaragua, the Phillippines and several other European countries have semi-professional leagues, although little information is available on them.
Although it tends to be scoffed at in the modern United Kingdom due to its resemblance to rounders (a similar game, albeit with shorter bats, which is regarded as a children's sport in the UK), baseball enjoyed a burst of popularity there in The Thirties. This culminated in England even beating the United States in the final of the very first Baseball World Cup in 1938. However, the intervention of World War Two killed the sport's popularity (and leading to joking conspiracy theories among enthusiasts that the Americans secretly engineered the war to prevent England from beating them again).
Baseball was an Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008. The reason it isn't any longer is because the IOC, citing the fact that Major League players were not allowed to participate in tournament due a conflict with the regular season (among other things, such as the steroid problems of MLB and the fact that the sport is not popular in Europe, from which most of the influential IOC members hail), dropped the sport from the program.
In response to that, Major League Baseball, along with the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), the sport's international governing body, instituted the World Baseball Classic. This sixteen-team tournament -- first held in 2006, with the second edition held in 2009 and future tournaments to be held in 2013, 2017, etc. -- takes place in March, right before the MLB regular season, and many of the players are on MLB teams, unlike in most tournaments. Japan has won both WBCs played so far, and has a bit of a rivalry with South Korea for obvious reasons. The USA missed the semifinals in 2006, but made the semifinals in 2009.
Tropes that often come into play in baseball-related works of fiction:
- Down to the Last Play: Important games in works of media almost always end with a big dramatic play, usually either a home run, a strikeout, or an incredible defensive play (usually a leaping/diving catch or a close play at the plate). You never see a climactic game end with a a routine groundout to shortstop.
- The 'down by three with the bases loaded, a full count and one out to go' is a popular setup for a game-winning grand slam. (This has been done once in the majors. ONCE.)
- Recently, on September 27, 2011, all but the full count happened as the Arizona Diamondbacks staged a 10th-inning Miracle Rally against the Dodgers -- who scored five runs in the top of the inning -- with two outs and nobody on. Ryan Roberts capped off a six-run rally by hitting a walk-off grand slam on the first pitch. The Diamondbacks won this game 7-6.
- Sometimes happens in real life games - in baseball, extra innings go on as long as necessary, and are often referred to as "bonus baseball" or "free baseball". If the home team takes a lead in its half of any inning after the 8th, the game immediately ends, with no further play. This has lead to the concept of the "walk-off" hit, originally only a "walk-off home run" but the concept was since expanded to any hit that ends a ball game. The "walk-off" hit was originally coined by pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who intended it to indicate that the pitcher walks off the field with his head hung in shame but has come to mean that the batter-runner walks off the field to the adulation of his home crowd.
- Because baseball has no clock, a team can be down to their last out and still win, no matter how far down they are. There are actually Real Life cases of a team being way down with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and winning the game because the defense wasn't able to record that final out (e.g. Cleveland's 9-run rally against Washington in 1901, final score 14-13).
- Game of Nerds: Baseball probably has the highest geek quotient of any mainstream sport, and several media works (especially those involving children) will have at least one kid who isn't really athletic but tries to make up for it with his knowledge of baseball's minutiae.
- Put Me in Coach: With seemingly every other option exhausted, a neglected player comes out of nowhere to lead his team to victory. Happens in Real Life as well, though hardly ever under as dramatic of circumstances.
- Who Needs Overtime: The game is always decided in the ninth inning, win or lose. Teams never tie the game in the ninth and then win in extra innings. In Real Life, extra inning games are considered extremely exciting, but in fiction, this violates the Law of Conservation of Detail.
- Mighty Glacier: First basemen and DHes tend to be portrayed this way because...well...most of them in Real Life tend to be big, slow, power hitters.
- ↑ The idea of a DH was first proposed around 1900 and was set to be implemented in 1920. Of course, had it been implemented then, Babe Ruth's legacy would certainly be a lot different...
- ↑ It usually falls about a week after the season's mathematical halfway point, but for discussion purposes, it's regarded as the easiest place to divide the schedule
- ↑ The President at the time was Herbert Hoover, so Ruth's statement was probably accurate.
- ↑ That record was the Ur Example of baseball's "asterisk", as Commissioner Ford Frick ordered that Ruth's record remain in the books, as he had achieved the record with eight fewer games on the schedule.
- ↑ the next season they moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers
- ↑ Seattle has a special condition where they only retire a number if they played about 5 or so years with the Mariners and said player ends up going to the Hall of Fame. Although, we do admit it'll be interesting to see how they'll handle both Randy & Ichiro's numbers at the same time since they both have/had the same number there.