A century of heroes

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One hundred years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates (champions of the well-established National League) challenged the Boston Americans (also called the Pilgrims), champions of the upstart American League, to a showdown: a best-of-nine series to decide who was best. (See ticket at right.) Even then the modest event was billed as the "world's championship games."

Boston proved its worth, beating the Pirates 5 games to 3. No one bothered with a series the following year. But the tradition grew, and the idea of a "world championship" stuck. In 1905, the National League's New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Athletics. World Series play continued through world wars and economic depression. It took a players' strike in 1994 to derail it. Today, the World Series - though still not exactly global - is a centerpiece of American sports culture.

Many teams and players have stepped into the World Series spotlight. Some have left a lasting impression. It's nearly impossible, however, to compare players and teams across a century, given the many changes in the sport. In the so-called "dead ball" era, for example, a slugger was someone who hit a dozen home runs a year. The size of old ballparks and the height of pitcher's mounds (bigger and higher, respectively) also complicate comparisons of teams and players then and now.

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OK, so it's hard to compare, but we've made our selections anyhow. Here are our choices for the most heroic World Series performances in the past 100 years.

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