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From the (e-)mail bag, Patrick O’Mara from Washington, D.C., sent the following message: “I’m writing as a new fan to the game; my wife got me into (baseball) this past season, when the Red Sox finally overcame the Yankees. My question is why do they call it the “World” Series?

“Obviously, baseball is popular in Japan and other places, so has anyone ever tried to gather the best players from Japan to face the best of the USA or something like that? It seems to me then it would really be the World Series.”

The term “World Series” originated, Patrick, in various baseball guides published 118 years ago. According to the Fall 2001 issue of Outside the Lines, the newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research Business of Baseball Committee:

“Spalding’s Base Ball Guide for 1887 reported the results of the 1886 postseason series between Chicago, champion of the National League, and St. Louis, champion of the American Association, under the heading “The World’s Championship.” As the editor noted, the two leagues “both entitle their championship contests each season as those for the base ball championship of the United States,” so a more grandiose name was required to describe the postseason showdown between the two “champions of the United States.”

“By 1890, the Spalding Guide was using the name “World’s Championship Series” and, reporting on the first modern postseason series, the Red Sox-Pirates battle of 1903, the 1904 Reach Guide called it the “World’s Championship Series.” By 1912, Reach’s headline spoke of the “World’s Series.” The separately-edited Spalding Guide used “World’s Series” through 1916, switching to “World Series” in the 1917 edition.”

The first World Series took place in 1903, and Major League Baseball coined the phrase “World Series” long before the game became popular in Asia and other countries where it is now played at a high level by skilled professionals.

The term is officially registered and refers to the best-of-seven-game championship between the winning teams of the American and National Leagues held in October each year in North America.

Although the winner is referred to as “World Champions,” you could argue that teams from countries such as Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia should be included in something called the “World Series.”

In the same way, the Japan Series, pitting regular winners of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central and Pacific Leagues, does not include Japanese collegiate, high school or corporate teams. The “Japan Series” is simply the name selected (and registered) by NPB.

Curiously, one Tokyo visitor affiliated with MLB asked me several years ago, “Who won the Japan World (sic) Series last year?”

It occurred to me that, perhaps, NPB should change the name “Japan Series” to “Japan World Series.”

In any event, O’Mara-san, you will be happy to know a World Cup of baseball is planned for March of 2006. It will include teams from many of the countries mentioned above and should be more “worldly” to your liking.

Also, as a resident of Washington, D.C., you have chosen a great time to become a baseball fan. Your Washington Nationals will be in the majors this coming season. Perhaps you can help root them into the 2005 World Series. Enjoy.

Speaking of names, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

Ughh!

I agree with Anaheim city spokesman John Nicoletti who criticized the proposed title change for the American League team and was quoted as saying, “It’s geographically confusing and absurd” for a pro sports franchise to have two cities in its name. It is so bad that, if I were a fan of the Angels, I would switch my allegiance to another team.

The Angels throughout their history have been the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels and the Anaheim Angels. Now this.

If they want a long name, how about this: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in southern California, on the U.S. West Coast?

Silly, but all this reminds me of the New England Patriots National Football League franchise which began in 1960 as the original American Football League Boston Patriots. In 1971, the team moved to Foxboro, Mass., and was briefly called the Bay State Patriots before becoming the New England Patriots.

Said one newspaper headline, “Yesterday Boston; tomorrow the world.”

Yesterday Anaheim; tomorrow the universe.

Also in the name department, the expansion Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League plan to register their new American first baseman Damon Minor as “Damon,” by his first name, apparently so as not to imply a “minor leaguer” image.

In 1990, when the Central League Chunichi Dragons signed an outfielder named George Hinshaw, they called him “George” because, in Japanese, the phonetic pronunciation of his name, “Hin-sho” means “bad business.”

Incidentally, I really like those new Rakuten uniforms, pictured in these pages on Jan. 6; especially the road jerseys with that burgundy; not unlike the color worn by the NFL’s Washington Redskins. It is refreshing to see a Japanese team with colored road shirts in something other than black or blue.

I misspoke, or miswrote, when I suggested in my column of Dec. 22 the Orix Buffaloes should have considered posting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma so as to get him out of the Pacific League, rather than selling his rights to the rival Rakuten Eagles.

I had thought the “posting season,” whereby Japanese teams can make players available for bidding by major league clubs, had ended. I said it was too late to post Iwakuma but, upon further investigation, found out Japanese players may be posted any time between Nov. 1 at the end of a given season, and March 1 of the following year.

So, I stand corrected. Iwakuma could have been posted. For that matter, the Eagles could post him tomorrow if they so desire.

What is interesting is the case of Hanshin Tigers ace lefty Kei Igawa who wants to be posted and go to the majors now. The window for his posting is open for another seven weeks.

However, once a player is posted, the procedure moves quickly.

Interested MLB teams must submit their sealed bids within four business days of the posting. Also, everything is done through the Commissioner’s offices in Tokyo and New York. Teams are strictly forbidden to contact each other, directly or indirectly, with regard to the posting, or possible posting, of players.

Do you have a question or comment about Japanese or international baseball?

Like or loathe the Angels’ new identity?

Have an opinion of the Rakuten uniforms?

Fax me at (0422) 21-9342 or e-mail wsgraczyk@yahoo.com.

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