A century of heroes

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.

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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