Some day when “The Big One” tears California from North America and sends it hurtling into the Pacific Ocean, all that may be left of “The Left Coast” could be a few letters from a famous sign (“HO WOO” everybody!), buoyant surfboards, and a few shiny World Series trophies.
Good riddance, high rent districts in Silicon Valley. But we’ll really miss Dodger Dogs.
Looking back at the history of Major League Baseball champions in the Golden State, we find 14 World Series winners as of 2022.
Who were the greatest World Series winners from California? We rank each of them, and invite you to tell us what we got right, and where we went wrong.
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1. 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers
The 1960s Dodgers were an elite team that won three pennants between 1963 and 1966. The recipe was smart and delicious: superb pitching, airtight defense, and speed in the outfield and on the bases.
Not surprisingly, manager Smoky Alston’s 99-win team was 35-18 in one-run games, including two such wins in the Fall Classic, when they swept the Yankees.
Sandy Koufax (25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 Ks) was fully developed finally, and backed up pitching buddy Don Drysdale (19-17, 2.63 ERA, 251 Ks), about whom it was said, “He would knock down his grandmother if she was crowding the plate.”
As if to announce his presence with authority, Koufax struck out 15 Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series in what still is the most dominant performance by a lefthander on baseball’s biggest stage.
2. 1989 Oakland A’s
Yes, there were the Bash Brothers, who got all the headlines.
But it was the pitching that led the A’s to the title. Pitching and Rickey Henderson back at the top of a formidable lineup.
Not even a devastating and deadly earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area before Game 3 could derail the mighty A’s, who swept the Giants in the Fall Classic. The quake paused the Series for 10 days, but Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Jose Canseco, and the rest of Oakland’s talented and brash roster was focused on winning a title, the first for Oakland since 1974, and the last since.
The 1989 A’s are the highest-ranked of four teams on this list that defeated another California team in the World Series. (The 1974 A’s, 1988 Dodgers, and 1989 A’s are the others.)
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3. 2002 Anaheim Angels
A Wild Card team that played much better than their record.
The Halos utilized an opportunistic offense, steady defense, and lockdown bullpen to strangle opponents. In Game 6 of the Series against the Giants, they trailed 5-0 inn the seventh inning. That’s when the baseball gods descended from the clouds to make sure Barry Bonds wouldn’t win a title. The Angels scored six runs and basically neutered the Giants, ensuring victory in Game 7.
4. 1973 Oakland A’s
The best of the three A’s teams that won consecutive titles from 1972-74.
The A’s were a young, confident bunch, led by pitching and defense. Three 20-game winners — Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, and Ken Holtzman — were stacked at the top of the pitching staff. Handlebar-mustache-wearer Rollie Fingers pitched in six of the seven World Series games (one earned run allowed), and the Mets lost to the “Swingin’ A’s” in seven.
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5. 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers
Hollywood loves sequels, and the 1965 Dodgers are the “Empire Strikes Back” to the 1963 Dodgers “Star Wars.”
The Dodgers won 97 games to claim their second pennant in three seasons. The pillars of this team were once again pitchers Koufax and Drysdale (combined 49-20 with 592 Ks). The bullpen was unneeded when those two Hall of Famers were on the hill, but it was still amazing, with Ron Perranoski, Jim Brewer, Bob Miller, and Howie Reed.
No batter hit more than 12 homers, but it didn’t matter when the team ERA was 2.81. Shortstop Maury Wills stole 94 bases, and the Dodgers had four switch-infielders who could pick it: Wes Parker, Junior Gilliam, Wills, and Jim Lefebvre.
6. 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers
Baseball’s greatest long-running infield was the quartet of first baseman Steve Garvey, second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey. For nine seasons those fellas formed a group for the Dodgers, All-Stars all. But, they were also losers. The Dodgers lost the World Series in 1974, 1977, and 1978.
But 1981 was different thanks to a pudgy kid from Navojoa, Mexico, named Fernando Valenzuela. A left-handed pitcher who sent hie eyes toward the heavens before each pitch in a classic delivery that launched “Fernandomania,” Valenzuela won Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award.
The Dodgers spotted the Yankees two wins in the World Series, but stormed back to win the next four to finally get the title the famed infield had been struggling so long to earn.
7. 1972 Oakland A’s
The 1972 World Series is very underrated. You can watch full games or highlights online, and see what it was like when baseball games didn’t take four hours, and fans dressed up when they went to the ballpark.
Manager Dick Williams had baseball’s scrappiest team: The A’s survived the Tigers in a very tight series, and proved their mettle by winning six one-run games in the postseason (out of seven necessary wins).
Oakland was led by Blue, Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, and team MVP Joe Rudi, who set the tone for the Fall Classic when he scaled the wall like a green-clad Spiderman to make a remarkable catch in Game 2.
8. 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s unfortunate this team didn’t have a full 162 to show what they could have been. The Dodgers won 43 of 60 in the COVID-shortened season, then navigated the four levels of the extended postseason like Luigi in a Nintendo game.
At least two Hall of Famers were on the team: funky-delivery ace Clayton Kershaw and five-tool superstar outfielder Mookie Betts. Add in Corey Seager, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Swiss-Army-Knife super-utility man Chris Taylor, and closer Kenley Jansen, and you have a deeply talented team.
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9. 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers
The first California team to win the World Series, the 1959 Dodgers were a good, but not great champion. They played a weak opponent in the Series (the White Sox). They also barely won the NL pennant, having to beat a superior Braves team in a special playoff series. Their 88 wins are the fewest by a World Series champion in a 154-game season.
10. 1974 Oakland A’s
Only two teams have won as many as three straight World Series since 1961 (known as the Expansion Era): The boringly efficient 1998-2000 Yankees, and the 1972-74 A’s.
Playing in the worst ballpark in one of the smallest markets in baseball, the A’s still grabbed headlines, because of their swagger, fearlessness, and revolutionary style. Dubbed “The Mustache Gang,” the A’s had the first player to wear facial hair in MLB since the 1930s (Jackson), and played in bright green-and-yellow mix-and-match polyester uniforms with white shoes. They even had baseball’s first professional pinch-runner, and a future MC Hammer was assistant general manager (yes, really).
Not the greatest California world champion, but probably the most entertaining.
11. 2012 San Francisco Giants
Ranked sixth in the NL in runs and fifth in ERA.
They managed to win 94 games, the most by the three title teams of the 2010-14 era, but this was far from a legendary group of players. Instead, they had to win six elimination games to even get to the Series. Bruce Bochy’s team rebounded from 2-0 and 3-1 holes in the NLDS and NLCS. Fortunately, the G-Men got to face a rusty Tigers team in the Fall Classic (Detroit had five days off between the ALCS and Game 1 of the World Series).
12. 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
Here’s a few names: Dave Anderson, Jeff Hamilton, Mike Davis, and Franklin Stubbs.
Those guys started for this team in the postseason. Only three players hit as many as 10 homers. The offense was sixth in runs, 11th in OBP, and 10th in extra-base hits. Somehow, for the love of Lasorda, the Dodgers found a way to beat the mighty Mets in the playoffs, and after Kirk Gibson did his Roy Hobbs impression in Game 1, the World Series outcome was settled.
Biggest upset in the Fall Classic ever, pulled off by a team that believed in themselves completely, because no one else did.
13. 2010 San Francisco Giants
Who had the Giants in the 2010 World Series pool? Even after the playoffs started? The Giants won 92 games and didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the final day of the regular season. They lost Game 2 of the ALDS to the Braves, surrendering homefield advantage. In the NLCS they faced the two-time defending NL champions, and were held to 19 runs in six games.
Yet each time the Giants faced adversity, they escaped with a W. They had more lives than a litter of kittens. Matt Cain was perfect — three starts in the postseason and he allowed zero runs in 21 1/3 innings. The Giants’ pitching was superb: The Rangers scored only 12 runs in five games in the Fall Classic.
14. 2014 San Francisco Giants
Go ahead NorCal, give me your best shot. I can take being sprayed in the mug with your fancy Napa Valley Pinot Noir. I can dodge your streetcars. I know my rankings of your beloved Giants will make you want to put me in Alcatraz for a few nights.
But, the fact is the Giants haven’t produced a great championship team yet. The 2014 version was savvy and knew how to win crucial games, but they were not a great team. This is a decent second-place team who got lucky in the postseason when Panda and MadBum got orange hot.