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A bluffer's guide to... the World Series

Baseball’s biggest game kicks off in St Louis, Missouri tonight. Here’s everything you need to know.

St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, right, hugs Yadier Molina after they beat the Milwaukee Brewers to win the National League championship series.
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, right, hugs Yadier Molina after they beat the Milwaukee Brewers to win the National League championship series.
Image: David J. Phillip/AP/Press Association Images

The World Series? Is that the rugby thing in New Zealand?

NOPE, THAT’S THE Rugby World Cup.

The World Series is Major League Baseball’s annual championship decider, watched by an average audience of about 15 million Americans every year. It starts tonight in St Louis, Missouri.

It’s not actually the “World” Series though, is it?

Well, no, not unless you think that America and Canada are the only two countries in the world.

Since 1901, there have been two major baseball leagues in America: the National League which has 16 teams, and the American League which has 14. Every autumn, the top four teams in each league play off for divisional titles and ultimately for the league title or “pennant”. The winners of the American League pennant and the National League pennant then meet in the World Series.

Ok, I think I follow. So who’s in it this year?

This year’s World Series sees the St Louis Cardinals take on the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers are the American League champions after beating the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in their best-of-seven series.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are the story of the season (so far) after they went on a remarkable late-season winning streak, coming from nowhere to snatch the final playoff spot on the very last day of the regular season. They beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 to win the National League pennant.

I’ve never heard of either of them. Do they win every year?

Texas? No. No they do not.

The Rangers were established in 1961 but they had never made it to the World Series until last season. After waiting 50 years for their moment in the sun, they promptly went and lost 4-1 to Brian Wilson (you know, the madman with the beard) and the San Francisco Giants.

Ok then, what about the Cardinals?

First things first, the cool kids call them “the Cards”. And yes, they are good.

In fact, they are the second most successful team of all time with 10 World Series under their belts. The last time they won was five years ago when they beat the Detroit Tigers.

But what happened to the Yankees? I like the Yankees.

Of course you do.

Much to the delight of everybody outside the five boroughs, the Yankees were beaten by Detroit in the American League Division Series (think of it as kind of like the quarter-finals).

They’re the most successful team in baseball (27 World Series wins) and also the richest, so nobody misses them too much, don’t worry.

Ok, the Rangers and the Cardinals. Have they got any players I might have heard of?

Unless you have a passing knowledge of baseball, probably not. The Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols is probably as famous as they come while the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton has a pretty colourful life story — look it up.

Fair enough. So by tonight, we’ll know who the World Series guys are?

Not quite. Like the National League and American League series, the World Series is a best-of-seven match. Tonight’s game, which starts at the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium at 8.05pm ET (1.05am BST), is only Game One. Game Two is on in St Louis as well tomorrow night before everything heads to Texas for Games Three, Four and Five on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Is it on TV over here?

Yup, it’s on ESPN America tonight at 1am.

Alright, I’m interested. Who’s going to win?

Eh, I dunno. The bookies are making the Rangers the slight favourites, but anything can happen so you’re better off just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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