As the Dodgers players charged onto the field after Julio Urias secured the final out of the World Series the word dynasty began to be thrown around. What if I told you these Dodgers already were a dynasty? That it was 10 days earlier when Urias finished off the Braves in the NLCS that the Dodgers had entered rarefied air? Defining a dynasty can be tricky and there’s no single way to do it. I’d like to posit a definition and then take a look at the history of the game and the franchises that have accomplished dynastic reigns. In order to be a dynasty, a team must make it to at least 3 World Series in no more than 6 years. Since 1884, there are 34 distinct examples of teams that managed to accomplish this feat. In two cases, which we’ll see, a team reached the mountain top only to fail every time. As I was developing this, I wondered if the 2020 Dodgers would be in that even more “elite” company. They got the job done and joined an elite pantheon of teams to dominate for an extended period and bring home the hardware.
A few words about the process, after isolating which franchises achieved the dynasty benchmark I broke down the players that composed those teams. Of course, over the course of six seasons, a roster can experience a fair amount of turnover. As a result, I had to make choices between the various teams who would represent them in my list. To do so, I looked at the number of games played and the productivity and in a few cases just subjectively picked my favorite. Also, I am aware a team could have been “dynastic” in a sense without reaching the World Series. Consistent dominance at the divisional level is still impressive, but not impressive enough to get on my list. To win a World Series you need more than just nine guys but to simplify things I didn’t want to select a complete 25-30 man roster either, so I compromised and every lineup will also have a DH. The DH is not necessarily the player who played that “position” the most (The DH is really just a role, not a position, but don’t get me started) but instead is the 10th most impactful position player over the length of the dynasty.
Since there’s a lot to cover, this will be Volume 1 of a 3 part series. I’ll cover everything up to 1930 in this one and Vol. 2 should be out sometime later this week. So, let’s take a look at the MLB dynasties.
Baseball has been around for a really long time. The time before the first World Series (1903) was extremely wild as the sport figured itself out. Rules were developed and abandoned from year to year and many of the statistical benchmarks we have come to trust were completely insane. However, in the late 1880s, the American Association and the National League sent their best teams to a tournament to determine an inter-league Champion. From 1884 to 1890 a champion was crowned.
St. Louis Browns
The AA’s representative for 4 straight years (85-88) was the St. Louis Browns, a prehistoric iteration of the modern-day Cardinals. They were the first dynasty. They defeated the Chicago White Stockings in 1886 but lost the other 3 years. They were player-managed by one of the original great baseball men, Charlie Comiskey, and a composite representation of them would be this (all stats from the years they were on the Browns and reached the World Series, bold indicates Hall of Famer):
The last World Series between the AA and the NL was in 1890. In 1892, the NL selected Champions from its two divisions to face off and the Boston Beaneaters beat the Cleveland Spiders in a one-year short-lived experiment. It wasn’t until 1903, when the American League was established, that the World Series as we know it began. The Boston Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates arranged a 9-game series which the Americans won. Then, after the AL’s New York Giants boycotted the 1904 series, the leagues drafted compulsory rules, and the Fall Classic was born. Those Giants came close to being the first modern dynasty, they would’ve appeared in ’04 and won the ’05 series but were quickly overtaken by the actual first dynasty in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs went to three-straight series, 1906-1908, and returned again in 1910. They featured multiple players who would go on to Hall of Fame immortality and their 1906 team won a record 116 games, only recently matched by the 2001 Mariners. Star catcher/first basemen Frank Chance was also the player-manager for their entire run of dominance. They are represented by this:
The Cubs had a common opponent for the ’07 and ’08 Series’ and managed to come away victorious both years. That team, the Ty Cobb-led Detroit Tigers, conquered the AL a 3rd consecutive time in 1909 only to meet the Honus Wagner-led Pirates in the World Series. Wagner soundly outplayed Cobb and the Tigers became the first of only 2 teams to lose three straight championships in MLB history. The other will be addressed shortly.
In the 1910s there were dynasties in both the AL and NL. However, there was also a run of 8 consecutive seasons (1914-1921) that didn’t feature a repeat NL representative. A number not exceeded for another 20 years.
The winningest manager in MLB history reached his first World Series in 1910 and made four of the next five (and will be back). Connie Mack coached the Athletics for 50 years and racked up 3731 wins which is 1000 more wins than the next guy on the list. He famously wore a suit and hat as opposed to a uniform and ran a tight ship. He valued education and a somber lifestyle above pure talent on the baseball field. His A’s dominated the AL for most of the decade and made it to the Series back-to-back years twice, both in 1910-1911 and 1913-1914. They won all but the ’14 series. In ’10 it was the aforementioned Cubs’ dynasty they ended, then in ’11 and ’13 they defeated a Giants team we’ll talk more about. In ’14, they were upset by an upstart Boston Braves team. The first Philadelphia Athletics dynasty was comprised thusly:
New York Giants
Opposite the A’s in the ’11 and ’13 series were the New York Giants. They also represented the NL in the 2012 series and lost the dynasty coming next. John McGraw was at the helm of the Giants and was a transcendent figure in the early days of baseball. McGraw was an excellent player who transitioned to a domineering and effective manager. He is second in history, behind Mack, in wins with 2,763, and like fellow Irishman Mack, was a stickler for decorum and discipline on his teams. Unlike Mack, McGraw was known for his fiery temper and pushing the boundaries of the game. He was thrown out of more games than any manager until Bobby Cox came along and broke his record in the 90s. The Giants became the second and only other team to lose three consecutive World Series when Mack’s A’s beat them in ’13 but they’d return to the series again in ’17 and then in a new iteration of a dynasty in the 20s. This would be their representation:
Boston Red Sox
The American League’s first two decades were dominated by several dynasties. We already met the Tigers and Athletics who controlled the late 1900s and first half of the 1910s. The latter half of the 1910s belonged to the Boston Red Sox. They had an early taste of victory winning the 1912 series against McGraw’s hapless Giants. Then they reeled off back-to-back titles in ’15 and ’16 and then another in ’17. One of their best players was a hefty left-hander named George Ruth. They decided to trade him to the Yankees and the curse of Bambino was levied on the franchise. They made it back to the World Series only 4 more times before 2004 when the curse was finally broken. Bill Carrigan helmed the Sox for the ’15 & ’16 series while 2B Jack Barry player-managed in ’18. A composite team would look something like this:
The 1910s had three dynasties that were in every World Series except 1919. The ’19 series is famous for the Black Sox scandal. The Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox but by all accounts, the Sox threw the series. It effectively ended what would’ve likely been a dynasty in the South Side featuring the talents of stars like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte.
New York Giants II
The first team to have a second dynasty needed revenge from being shutout their first time at the top. McGraw had retooled and after losing in ’17 his star-studded GMen went to four-straight World Series from 1921-24 and secured a pair of wins. The first three were all matched up against the next dynasty, the first New York Yankees team to reach the finals, and the fourth year was against Walter Johnson’s Washington Senators. The Senators secured the first title in their franchise history and only one till 1987 when they won as the Twins. The Yankees won in ’23 but McGraw got back-to-back championships in ’21 and ’22. A representation of this dynasty would be this:
New York Yankees
At the same time McGraw was finally securing a championship, the cross-town rivals from the Bronx also reached the Series for the first time. The Yankees will appear in this series a couple of times. Their acquisition of the Babe from the Sox became the most lopsided exchange of talent in league history when he proceeded to lay waste to the very concept of the sport. Never before had a player hit the ball so far, so often. It changed baseball forever and ushered in an era of offensive superlatives. The Yankees completely dominated the entire decade of the 20s and for the purposes of this process, I’ve split it into a pair of 3-peat dynasties with a tag on the end. The first went to the 1921-1923 World Series facing the aforementioned Giants all three times. The Giants won the first two, but the Yankees took home the ’23 title, the first of many for the Pinstripes. Miller Huggins managed the Yankees for the stretch and Ruth and SS Everett Scott are the first two players to appear in multiple dynasties. The “Yankees 1” are:
New York Yankees II
After the three-year run by the Yankees, dominant pitcher Walter Johnson took the Senators to the World Series in back-to-back seasons. They won in ’24, lost in ’25, and looked poised to be the next dynasty. Unfortunately for them, the Yankees got better. They went back to the World Series three consecutive seasons again, from ’26 to ’28, and then tacked on another visit in ’32. Of the four appearances, they won three of them, only losing in ’26 to the St. Louis Cardinals. This second Yankees dynasty may be the greatest in the history of the game. Known as Murderer’s Row, particularly in ’27, they featured a large contingent of Hall of Famers and were headlined by the lethal 3-4 punch of Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Miller Huggins was still the manager, and a composite looks like this:
Philadelphia Athletics II
Connie Mack made it back. After winning 4 pennants and 3 titles in 5 years back in the 1910s, the Athletics sank down in the standings for nearly 15 years. Then Mack assembled one of the most fearsome hitting lineups the game has ever seen. “Cochrane-Simmons-Foxx” rolls off the tongue and struck fear in the hearts of pitches in the transitional years between the 20s and 30s. Even Murderer’s Row couldn’t keep them from a 3-peat of AL pennants from 1929-1931 and a pair of titles in each of the first two years. Their fearsome lineup looked something like this:
Volume 1 concludes with the second iteration of the Athletics. The Browns, Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox, a pair of Giants, a pair of Athletics, and a pair of Yankees dynasties dominated the three decades. The Senators, White Sox, and Pirates all got very close to dynasties but weren’t able to quite secure the third appearance. The second volume will take us from 1930 to 1970 and features 13 different dynasties.