What would it mean if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016? Probably everything to a franchise that hasn’t claimed a title since 1908. Historically, it would mean little: the Cubs only have two championships in 16 tries since the club was formed in 1876. That’s a .125 winning percentage in the Fall Classic, worst in MLB history.
By comparison, the Marlins franchise (est. 1993) has two titles in two chances, as does Canada’s pride, the Toronto Blue Jays (est. 1977). Over on the South Side, the White Sox have three in six chances.
But this one’s not for the teams trying to claw back to relevance or for the eight clubs that never won a World Series in the first place; it’s for the all-time winningest clubs in baseball history. Everyone knows who sits at the top of a very lopsided list, but there has been significant movement since the start of 2000. Here are the five teams with the most World Series titles.
5. San Francisco Giants
Most fans know about the Giants’ even-year dominance with titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Prior to that run, the franchise had not won a World Series since 1954, when the club was still in New York and Leo Durocher’s squad swept the 111-win Indians in four games. Overall, the Giants have eight World Series titles, with the other four coming in 1933 and earlier.
Though Bruce Bochy’s three series wins this decade are impressive, the legendary John McGraw won three of his own in eight tries, starting in 1905. Since its first Series appearance in 1888, the Giants are 8-15 in the Fall Classic, good for a .347 winning percentage.
4. Boston Red Sox
You should have seen the Boston Red Sox of 1918. That team had Wally Schang, Harry Hooper, and Bullet Joe Bush. It also had Babe Ruth, who won two games as a pitcher and led the club with 2 RBI in the Series as a hitter. The Cubs were no match for Boston that year, and the franchise had its fifth title in five tries. Soon after, Ruth was making his way to the Yankees where he’d find far more fame as a slugger.
It took another 86 years, but the Red Sox eventually got back to those winning ways. The 2004 triumph ended what some say was a curse hanging over the club; others say it choked away its opportunities, offering Bill Buckner’s 1986 gaffe as evidence. In any event, Boston has emerged as one of the game’s top franchises in the 21st century. With wins in 2007 and 2013, the club has eight titles — equal to the Giants, but at a better winning percentage (.615).
3. Oakland Athletics
Before the Splash Brothers, there were the Bash Brothers — Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco — leading Oakland to a title with Dave Henderson and Rickey Henderson aboard in 1989. That club took out the Giants in four games for the franchise’s ninth World Series, putting it alone in third place. Prior to that championship, the Athletics won three straight (1972-1974) in the Catfish Hunter-Reggie Jackson era.
To find the other titles in A’s history, you have to go back to the team’s origin in Philadelphia, where Connie Mack won five World Series in nine appearances as the club’s manager. Mack had a remarkable 49-year run in the City of Brotherly Love, and the franchise wouldn’t have half its trophies without him. Overall, the Athletics are 9-6 in the World Series (.600).
2. St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals never go too long without giving their fans something to cheer for, and the club’s 11 World Series titles are all the proof you need. Today’s fans likely have the riveting 2011 Fall Classic in mind when thinking about this team, but the franchise’s first title dates back to 1886, when it nickname was the Browns. (A 3-3-1 tie in 1885 against the Chicago White Stockings can’t be counted here.)
Fans of opposing teams may grind their teeth when thinking of The Cardinal Way, but you can’t argue these results. Only one club has racked up more titles than the Redbirds, and its 23 NL pennants are tied for second with San Francisco. St. Louis has the edge on the Giants in both winning percentage and championships. The franchise has an 11-12 record (.478) in World Series play.
1. New York Yankees
When it comes to the MLB postseason, you have the New York Yankees and everyone else. The club has won an astonishing 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants since its founding in 1903. In every era, there was an impossibly legendary player: Ruth in the ’20s; Gehrig in the ’30s; DiMaggio in the ’40s; and Mantle (plus Berra) in the ’50s and early ’60s. Each won more titles individually than most MLB teams combined.
By the 1990s, a group of wisely drafted and immensely talented players ushered in a new Yankees dynasty, and that team won four titles in five years between 1996 and 2000. Recent Yankees teams have not had the same epic force, but the 2009 title proved the club is never too far from a championship. It’s hard to imagine any team ever catching up the Bronx Bombers’ title count. Since its first World Series appearance in 1921, New York is 27-13 against the National League (.675).
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.