The history of the World Series program

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Last winter I wrote a guest piece for Baseball Prospectus about a concept I call “metafandom.” In the intro, I described one of my most prized possessions: a poster I’ve had since I was a kid — and which is framed and hanging on the wall 10 feet from where I sit as a write this — with the cover of all of the World Series programs from 1903 through 1981.

It was a free giveaway from the Lipton Tea Company in 1982. I got mine — and about 10 extra copies of it people left laying around and which my brother and I snagged — at Tiger Stadium sometime in the first half of the 1982 season. It’s a gorgeous poster, reproducing what were, for the most part, the gorgeous covers of those Series programs.

And they were not just gorgeous. They were influential on me. I used them to memorize all of the World Series participants. And, in some small ways, to learn a bit about popular art styles of the 20th Century. I mean, is this cool or what?

Over at the New York Times there’s a great story about the World Series programs, and a slide show with closeup versions and stuff. It’s great fun and, for me at least, it gives life to something that has always been important to me. The only sad part? This passage which explains why the covers got so blah starting in 1974:

In 1974, the league started producing a single program for both teams. The content inside was expanded to include material on all four teams in the postseason. The price was doubled to $2, and steadily escalated until 2003, when $15 was charged for the first time.

I get why they did this — the programs are big sellers now and they want them ready more than two days in advance — but they became so generic after that. A picture of the World Series trophy, maybe. Some illustration of a non-identifiable player in a plain uniform throwing a pitch to no one. Lots of AL and NL logos. They all look like the cover of baseball video games too cheap to enter into a merchandising agreement with the league and the union.

But I still have my poster and 1903-1973, and that’s pretty cool.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.