College World Series

I really like the song that used to begin every College World Series game. It’s still occasionally played, but I’m disappointed when it’s not. Omaha-a-a-a-a-a-aaaa.

Baseball has been played on college campuses for a long time, dating back to the late 1800’s, but the games were mainly held within conferences. Late in the 1930’s, the National Collegiate Athletic Association began pondering a national tournament for basketball, and in 1939, the first national collegiate basketball tournament was held. This landmark beginning paved the way for national championships in other sports, including baseball.

In 1945, the American Association of College Baseball Coaches was formed, and their first idea was an All-Star Game. The first contest between East and West, which ended in a 6-2 East victory, was a success and promoted discussion of further events. University of California coach Clint Evans proposed a national tournament, such as the one involving basketball, but to be more like the World Series. Two years later, the idea was officially brought before an NCAA committee, and predictably, it was accepted.

Evans immediately benefited from his idea. The first College World Series (the name is a Major League Baseball trademark licensed to the NCAA — does everything have to be about money?) pitted Evans’ University of California versus Yale University. Originally, the tournament was pure double-elimination, and Yale had moved through without incident. In the first game, Cal pummeled Yale 17-4, bringing up a final game. Happy Chandler, the contemporary commissioner, had thrown out the first pitch and was extremely happy with how the tournament flowed, and he was excited for the last game. Yale put up a hard fight, but Cal won 8-7 to take the first College World Series. The last out? George Bush Sr. The place of that College World Series? Kalamazoo, Michigan

The College World Series was held in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1947 and 1948. A year later, Wichita, Kansas held the tournament. But for as good of an idea as it was and appears today, it wasn’t profitable back then. In 1950, the tournament moved again — this time to Omaha, Nebraska. For the first 12 years, the tournament did not turn a profit, but the city believed it could become a marquee attraction in the future and held onto it. Nice decision. Rosenblatt Stadium held the tournament in 1950, and it still does today.

Double-elimination was the preferred choice for the tournament through the 1987 season, but in 1988, it was slightly changed (a lot happened in baseball in 1988, my birth year). Instead of a pure double-elimination, it was divided into two brackets of four teams. Those brackets would play out in pure double-elimination fashion. The winners met for a championship game. Believing that only one championship game was unfair and unlike baseball (and the College World Series, for that matter), outcry led to the ending three-game series we see today, which began again in 2003.

But the College World Series isn’t the only part of the tournament. At the beginning, 48 teams played in 8 six-team brackets. The winner of those brackets went onto the College World Series. In 1999, the tournament expanded to 64 teams. With the addition of teams, 16 four-team double-elimination brackets begin the tournament in what are called regionals. The winners meet in 8 matchups of three-game series entitled Super Regionals. The winners of those matchups come to Omaha.

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