Definition of "pennant"

This may be a stupid question, but in the context of major league baseball, what exactly is meant by the term “pennant”?

I always assumed in meant the championship of the American or National League, as in “After next week’s playoff series against the Yankees, the Red Sox will have won the pennant.” :slight_smile: When I recently saw the movie For the Love of the Game (pretty good, if you don’t hate Kevin Costner), a radio announcer in the film mentioned that the Yankees were trying to clinch the pennant in the last game of the regular season. I thought to myself, “What a bunch of idiots to make such an obvious goof! No team has clinched the pennant in the regular season since they divided the two leagues into divisions, what, 30 years ago?” But then I read an article in (which knows what it is talking about, I should hope) that mentioned the “pennant-deciding” regular season game between the Astros and the Dodgers. Now I’m a little confused.

So what does it actually mean?

“For what a man had rather were true, he more readily believes” - Francis Bacon

One can win a championship pennant of pretty much anything, and since the split of the leagues into divisions, this has metaphor been extended to the division titles also. It’s just not as literal as you were thinking. Or it has more uses, how about that.

More or less offcially, when the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant, they were the National League champions; the pennant is making it to the Big Show.
I think it’s used a lot just to refer to making it to the next round. Why? Laziness, idiocy, maybe ESPN figures anyone who’s watching knows that the actual pennant wouldn’t be decided in a reg-season game, and they figure the general American public is smart enough to use common sense. . . . . nah.

JMcC, San Francisco
“Hear the voices in my head, I swear to God it sounds like they’re snoring”

All of the people who talk of winning a pennant are wrong unless it is used in the context of the upcoming League Championship Series’ that get underway this evening.

Old habits die hard, however, and we still call a close finish in the regular season a “pennant race.” Doesn’t mean that phrase, or the examples you mentioned, are correct.

Yer pal,

I’ve been confused about that 30-years-ago league-dividing thing. Specifically, what happened 30 years ago in that league-dividing thing? What did it used to be?

Sucks to your assmar.

By the by, the phrase “win the pennant” has its origins with the first organization ever considered to be a “major league,” the National Association of Professional Base-Ball Players, or, for short,the National Association, founded in 1871. A group of 10 base ball teams met in New York to form the league, which had a set of “championship rules” but no fixed schedule. Every club was to play the other in a best 3 out of 5 series, and the team with the best record at the end of the season was entitled to fly the league’s championship streamer, which was called a “whip pennant” at its ballpark for the following year.

The NA started with 10 teams, representing the cities of Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, Troy, NY, Washington,D.C., Cleveland, Ft. Wayne IN, and Rockford, IL. Brooklyn balked over the ten dollar entrance fee, so the schedule started with 9 clubs. The Chicago team was in contention for the first NA pennant, but a certain incident near Mrs. O’Leary’s barn wiped out thier ballpark. They had to play the last week’s worth of games on the road, and finished 2nd. Thus, the tone for Chicago’s traditional baseball success was set that very first season.

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”

I may be wrong, but I always took it that there was a pennant at each level.

  1. The division pennant - won be the team with the best record in their division.

  2. The League Championship Pennant - either the NLCS or ALCS.

  3. The World Series Pennant - won by the winner of the WS.

The Braves have a pennant shaped thing for each year that they have won one of these levels. (Mostly in the 90s). There are some for division wins if that is as far as they got, others for NLCS wins and 1 for WS win.

I may be wrong but that is the way I have always viewed it. Especially since the mangers talk about winning the pennant when they win their division.


The present leagues were divided into 2 divisions in 1969 after each league expanded from 10 to 12 teams.
12-team leagues were tried in the 19th century and were dismal failures. Nobody likes to root on a team that’s battling for 10th or 11th.
Now there are 3 divisions in each league with anywhere from 4 to 6 teams.

Baseball is most likely angling to go to 32 teams overall with 8 four-team divisions like the NFL will be in 2001 or 2002 when Houston joins the league.
Then everybody will get a pennant.

However, echoing earlier statements, “winning the pennant” only refers to winning an American League or National League championship. Winning the World Series is something different. That is winning “the world championship.” No matter how much of a misnomer that might be.

To expand on BobT’s answer, prior to 1969 there were no divisions and no playoffs - there was simply the American League and the National League. The team with the best regular season record in each league won its respective pennant, and then went on to play each other in the World Series. Between 1969 and 1994, the leagues were divided into Western and Eastern divisions. The team with the best record in each division was declared “division champion” and then the Eastern and Western Division Champions played each other in the League Championship Series to decide who was the League Champion (or, as I’ve always thought, won the “pennant”), and the two League champions played each other in the World Series. Since 1995, the leagues have been divided into three divisions (East, Central, West), and the three division champions plus one wild-card team (the team with the best record among all the rest) play each other in a two-round single elimination tournament (a five-game series followed by a seven game series) to decide the League Champion, and the two League Champions go on to play the World Series.

Which brings up another question: The Red Sox (the wild-card team) just beat the Indians in the Division Championship Series. So what does that make them? Are they the Central Division Champions? (That doesn’t make any sense.) There not the Eastern Division Champions - that’s the Yankees. So what are they?

“For what a man had rather were true, he more readily believes” - Francis Bacon

They have no formal title…unless they beat the Yankees, in which case they are the American League Champions, despite not having been the champion of any one division.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

They are the underdog. Go Boston. Hey, if Boston beats NY and the Braves beat the Mets, then it would be the old Boston team against the new Boston team.

Cool Huh?

Go Braves.


No! Go YANKS!!

Yer pal,

Hey, you really ARE Satan!

Despite the ties to Satan and Steinbrenner, the Yankees are an organization with history and tradition, and currently are on a run to rank with some of the great teams of its past, like the 1927 and 1961 Yankees.

When I was growing up, my Dad had season tickets to the White Sox. But his favorite player, his idol, was Mickey Mantle. My Dad was more of a baseball pureist than a Sox fan, so I have a lot of fond memories of pulling for the Yanks in the World Series, despite their regular trouncing of my beloved White Sox. So there is great sentiment in me to pull for the Yankees.

Imagine, in league with Satan! It boggles the mind!

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”

In a curious way, I want the BoSox to win, just so that we Cubs fans can: A) Have hope, and B) Know that we really ARE the worst team in the history of baseball at winning big ones… :wink:

As for the ‘pennant’ thing, well, your answer on the terminology pits purists against modernists. Anyone want to talk about something less controversial, like the DH? :wink:

In a curious way, I want the BoSox to win, just so that we Cubs fans can: A) Have hope, and B) Know that we really ARE the worst team in the history of baseball at winning big ones… >>>DSYoung

How will Boston winning give Cubs fans hope?
Boston has won the pennant 3 times since the Cubs last went to the world series, as well as several other post-season appearances. The “curse of the bambino” and the Red Sox as perennial losers is mostly myth and contrivance (much like everything connected with the aura around the Cubs), except when it comes to winning the series. At least the Red Sox get there occasionally.

Had Cleveland been able to take it all, that might have given Cubs fans more hope. Until recent years, the Tribe was a total disaster, never contending for the flag. They are a model for rebuilding a moribund franchise.

Or had Texas prevailed, it would have been a more apt comparison. Building from the ashes of the expansion team that was the Washington Senators, and also basically had never contended for a pennant before the last few years.

But comparing the Cubs to the Red Sox from a historical perspective is an apples/oranges comparison. Every 10 years of so, the Red Sox manage to rebuild their team into a contender and vie for the pennant and the world title. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, they have not been able to win the big one. The Cubs, on the other hand, other than the 5 to 6 years they spent under Leo Durocher in the late 60s and early 70s, have been dormats who can’t even contend. The three times they have made the playoffs since 1973 or so have been abberations rather than calculated efforts to build a strong franchise. I therefore find it irritating that hapless cubs fans need to find comaraderie with the Red Sox faithful, when the historical realities of the two teams have nothing in common.

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”

The Red Sox have been fairly successful compared to many other teams (like the Cubs, Angels, Astros, Rangers, and White Sox) because of what I am now deeming the “Great Man Theory of Baseball”
The Red Sox have won each of their post WWII pennants due to a player who is way above all the others.
1946 - Ted Williams
1967 - Carl Yastrzemski
1975 - Fred Lynn
1986 - Roger Clemens
1999 - Pedro Martinez (but not yet in the Series)

The Cubs have had some really good players, but even they’re “great man” last year (Sosa) wasn’t as great relative to the competition as the others.

The current Yankees don’t have “The Great Man”. They just have a lot of really good ones.

In the past when the Yankees have had “The Great Man” (Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle) they had a better supporting cast than the Sox.

Anyway, that’s my historical interpreation of the Red Sox.

It makes immense sense for Satan to be a Yankees fan. But does that make Heather Lola? :wink:

Since the Indians are out of it . . . Go Braves!

"The Great Man: theory has some credence in Red Sox history, but, as you say, either the current Yankees have several of them, or they don’t need one. Will the analysis work with other teams? I think it stands to reason that (generally) the team that wins the pennant has players having career years, and one or more of those “career year” players will be one of the aforementioned “Great Men.” I think of Bob Gibson for the 67 Cardinals, Denny McClain, 68 Tigers, etc. But there are team efforts that win pennants and world series too.

Changing the subject, here is some more evidence to prove my anal retentive mundane point that comparing the Red Sox to the Cubs as fans of teams that somehow “suffer” together, take note:

From 1945-99, the Red Sox had 38 years in which they finished the season with more wins than losses. In that time, they also won 4 pennants and made several other playoff appearances.

The Cubs, in the same time period, have had 14 years in which they have had winning seasons. 1945 is the only pennant, with 3 mostly eventless playoff appearances.

In recent history (since 1969, the year the majors split into divisions) the record is just as disparate, if not more so. The Red Sox have had 25 winning seasons, the Cubs 9. The Cubs had most of theirs at the outset of that time frame, during the Billy Willimas/Ron Santo years, while 4 of the 6 Red Sox losing seasons came in the last 6 to 7 years or so.

The Red Sox have been highly competitive and in real contention for most of the time periods I mentioned. Except for the early 1960s, you could count on the Red Sox to be a solid, contending ball club year in year out.

Except for the early 70s, the Cubs have been doormats.

Red Sox fans may be hungry for reaching that ultimate Valhalla of a world seres win, but they have not had to endure the misery of total failure year after year after year, like Cubs fans have.

The Cubs are an incredibly unique sports phenomenon. For over half a century, they have totally sucked. Other teams haven’t won the pennant, or the series, or have had long dry spells, but even the White Sox have had a winning record in 30 of those 55 years (most of the losers in the 70s), and the Indians have 23 winning years (with most coming in the 50s and the recent past).

Which is why the marketers for the Cubs are such geniuses. Wrigley Field, WGN, and Harry Carrey (or his ghost) are what draws people to see the Cubs. The product on the field has been DOA for decades.

So, Red Sox fans, don’t let yourselves be compared to Cubs fans. At least your team has given its fans something to cheer for.

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”