This annotated week in baseball history: Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2009

On November 4, 2009 the Yankees won the World Series. For the Yankees, this represented their 27th championship, but was also an important win in another tally. Richard explains why.

Watching the World Series this year, it occurred to me that Texas’ win in Game 5 was the first time a Texas team had held a lead in a World Series. The Astros were swept in their only World Series appearance, while the Rangers had managed just one win in the 2010 series.

In fact, this meant that going into the 2011 World Series, the state of Texas was a collective 1-8 (.111) in the World Series, the worst collective record by any state with more than one appearance. A loss in seven games may not sound like much of an improvement—and I’m sure it is cold comfort to Ranger fans—but until then the World Series was not exactly a case of Don’t Mess with Texas.

More generally though, this got me thinking about the all-time World Series by state. As such, I went through and calculated the record for every state (and Canadian province and the District of Columbia) to send a team to the World Series. So we’ll review those states which have seen the most success, the least, and give you my thoughts on what the future might hold.

Most World Series Wins by State
{exp:list_maker}1. New York 203
2. Missouri 71
3. California 65
4. Pennsylvania 61
5. Massachusetts 49
6. Ohio 39 {/exp:list_maker}

First, and most obviously, is the incredible lead New York has on the field. You need the rest of the top five—which is actually five states—to beat their total. This is in no small part from the dominance of the state’s teams prior to the Dodgers and Giants move across the coast. New York teams played each other 14 times in the World Series, nearly 15 percent of the time, and every win in those series was a win for New York. There is a fairly obvious downside to that as well, which we will get to in a bit.
California got a late start in the running, of course, not winning a World Series game until 1959. But it also has the advantage of playing, since 1969, with five teams while no other state has more than two. In fact, given the sheer number of teams, it is surprising that California has only won 11 World Series games in the last 22 years.

I put Ohio and its 39 wins because of the state they just edge out. Illinois is in seventh place all-time with 36 wins. It is possible that had the 1919 White Sox not thrown the World Series that season they could have beaten out the Reds and would put the Land of Lincoln there. For now though, the Buckeyes hold on to their place.

Most World Series Losses by State
{exp:list_maker}1. New York 175
2. Missouri 74
3. California 67
4. Pennsylvania 66
5. Illinois 46 {/exp:list_maker}

Here we see the shortcoming of all the Subway Series games, as New York has nearly as commanding a lead in losses as they do when it comes to wins. But New York can at least take comfort in knowing they are in the only team among the top five in losses who nonetheless have a winning record in World Series play.

California and Pennsylvania have been switching on-and-off with that spot a lot recently. Prior the Phillies recent run of success, Pennsylvania had 61 losses, but the Phillies one loss in 2008 and defeat at the hands of the Yankees in 2009 left the states tied. The Giants, meanwhile, put the Golden State back alone in third with their loss in Game Three of the World Series two seasons ago.

Illinois, meanwhile, shows the effects of having two teams which have won a grand total of one World Series title since 1917.

Highest WS Winning Percentage (Minimum 2 Appearances)
{exp:list_maker}1. Ontario .666 (8-4)
2. Massachusetts .590 (49-34)
3. Maryland .576 (19-14)
4. New York .537 (203-175)
5. Minnesota .524 (11-10) {/exp:list_maker}

Two appearances is the same as eight games, of course, which means at least two Series wins, which seems like a reasonable standard to me. If you increase the appearances to more than two, you lose Ontario and Minnesota and move Florida (.500, 9-9) and California (.492, 65-67) move into the top five. It seems a little silly having teams in the top five of winning percentage to be teams at and below .500, so I’m sticking with my minimum. If you eliminate any minimum at all, Arizona (.571, 4-3) would slot in ahead of New York.

Lowest WS Winning Percentage (Minimum 2 Appearances)
{exp:list_maker}1. Texas .250 (4-12)
2. Georgia .379 (11-18)
3. Illinois .439 (36-46)
4. Washington DC .444 (8-10)
5. Michigan .450 (27-33) {/exp:list_maker}

Ouch, a state does not want to appear on that list. The issues Texas has had in the World Series I covered in the introduction—had the Rangers closed out Game Six, it would not have been enough to clear the state from the bottom spot on this list, but would have improved its winning percentage up to .333. The struggles of the Bobby Cox led Braves (who were 11-10 after winning Game 2 in the 1996 World Series) in the Fall Classic put Georgia into the second spot on this list.

Until I put this list together, I never really thought of Michigan as a state that struggled in October, but most of its struggles come from the early part of the 20th Century when the Tigers won three straight pennants and went a downright Texan 4-12. Since then, the state is 23-21 (.522) which is rather better.

If you drop the two appearance requirement, Colorado—which was swept in 2007—takes over the bottom spot, while Wisconsin (3-4 in 1982) would slot in before Illinois.

Of course, every year brings a new chance for states to redeem themselves. A successful trip to the World Series for the Diamondbacks will put Arizona into the top five all-time in winning percentage, which is also true of a good season from either the Rays or Marlins for Florida. New York’s spot as the leader in wins and losses is no doubt very, very secure but much else is up for grabs.

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Comments

  1. nightfly said...

    … If you increase the appearances to more than two, you lose Ontario and Minnesota …

    Small correction: you would not lose Minnesota.  The Twins have made three WS appearances: ‘65, ‘87, and ‘91.

  2. Dave said...

    I’m pretty sure Wisconsin has more than one world series, unless the Milwaukee Braves don’t count for some reason.

  3. Señor Spielbergo said...

    “Until I put this list together, I never really thought of Michigan as a state that struggled in October”

    Personally, I had never really pegged Massachusetts as one of the best states in World Series games, until I remembered that a) all four of the World Series the Red Sox appeared in between 1918 and 2004 went seven games (1946, 1967, 1975, 1986), and b) both the 2004 and 2007 Series were sweeps.

  4. Richard Barbieri said...

    I’m pretty sure Wisconsin has more than one world series, unless the Milwaukee Braves don’t count for some reason.

    Argh, they don’t count because I somehow decided the Milwaukee Braves played in Missouri. In any case, correcting that drops Missouri to 64-67 (.489) and brings Wisconsin up to 10-11 (.476).

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