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The Commissioner’s Trophy (MLB)
As the summer months bleed into the gray days of October, Major League Baseball (MLB) welcomes another round of the World Series to determine its champion. After a long, 162-game season and a dozen or so intense playoff matchups, the winners take home the Commissioner’s Trophy. Awarded since 1967, it holds the distinction of being the only prize of the four major American sports to not be named after a particular individual – the NBA’s O’Brien Trophy, the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy and the NHL’s Stanley Cup all honor former coaches or high-ranking officials.
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After decades of crowning a winner without a true trophy, MLB commissioned Lawrence Voegele of tiny Owatonna, Minnesota to design a prize worth of America’s then-favorite sport. He settled on a circular base holding small flags to represent each of the league’s teams surrounding a baseball with latitude and longitude lines to signify the worldwide reach of the game. The baseball is surrounded by the team-honoring banners while being supported by a gold-plated ring a few inches above the heavy black base, with the tiny pennants giving the Commissioner’s Trophy the appearance of a light breeze sweeping past the prize.
At the time it debuted, the trophy had no name. It took nearly twenty years for the owners to settle on a moniker noting who would be awarding it during the post-game ceremony. When most sporting associations come together to name a trophy a former administrator is honored, but MLB has left the option to do so open until later since first using the current name beginning in 1985.
Late in 1999, MLB decided to update the trophy for the new millennium, hoping to award a sleeker iteration of the Commissioner’s Trophy in time for the 2000 World Series. The new version removed the central baseball and spread a baseball-like dome with lines of longitude and latitude across the base. This allowed the surrounding flags, each engraved with the individual team names, to be stretched higher above the bottom. Each year, a fresh trophy is manufactured by Tiffany & Co. in New York at a cost of $15,000.
Oakland Athletics (1972-74)
In an era when great pitching seemed to dominate the sport, these Athletics teams had a great balance of tremendous defense and explosive offense. Led by the strong-swinging Reggie Jackson and a trio of 20-game winners on the mound – Ken Holtzman, Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter – there was little much of the league could do to curtail the A’s from snagging the Commissioner’s Trophy three times in a row, they were one of the few squads who could really beat the opponent in multiple ways.
Cincinnati Reds (1975-76)
Coaches at all levels say hard work is the key to victory – and this team is the one they can point to as proof. Led by Pete Rose, known as “Charlie Hustle” himself, the Big Red Machine worked its way to two consecutive championships on the strength of solid pitching and aggressive base running. For many, this group was a return to classic, strategic baseball where every single play was part of a larger chess match to determine victory.
Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93)
The Commissioner’s Trophy made its way to Canada for the first time when this squad from the American League claimed consecutive World Series victories. Though solid all year long and throughout the playoffs, the team is best remembered for the stunning three-run home run hit by Joe Carter to see the Philadelphia Phillies off in 1993. The jubilant celebration is among the most famous in the history of the sport.
New York Yankees (1998-2001)
Throughout the existence of the World Series, one franchise has claimed far more titles than any other – and this collection of Yankees is just as famous as the rest. Winning three consecutive titles and finishing as runners-up for a fourth, Derek Jeter and David Wells led this new group of legends to the top with a string of great pitching and timely defensive plays. But for a tremendous performance by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, they would have made it four in a row and been at the head of the conversation for greatest of all time.
New York Yankees (7; 1977-78, 1996, 1998-2000, 2009)
St. Louis Cardinals (4; 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)
Oakland Athletics (4; 1972-74, 1989)
Cincinnati Reds (3; 1975-76, 1990)
Philadelphia Phillies (2; 1980, 2008)
Boston Red Sox (2; 2004, 2007)
Florida Marlins (2; 1997, 2003)
Toronto Blue Jays (2; 1992-93)
Minnesota Twins (2; 1987, 1991)
Los Angeles Dodgers (2; 1981, 1988)
New York Mets (2; 1969, 1986)
Detroit Tigers (2; 1968, 1984)
Baltimore Orioles (2; 1970, 1983)
Pittsburgh Pirates (2; 1971, 1979)
San Francisco Giants (1; 2010)
Chicago White Sox (1; 2005)
Anaheim Angels (1; 2002)
Arizona Diamondbacks (1; 2001)
Atlanta Braves (1; 1995)
Kansas City Royals (1; 1985)