By 1894 the National League was the sole Major League, the American League not yet formed and the American Association defunct. It was a Big League (literally) with 12 teams. Noone thought it a good idea to run the League as two divisions, and a split season had been tried once and didn’t work. That meant that when th regular season ended, a champion was crowned with no postseason play. That could make for some awfully boring last months of pennant races. If you couldn’t get enough baseball, it was just too bad. Enter William Chase Temple.
Temple owned the Pittsburgh team and decided he wanted more baseball, postseason baseball, a close pennant race. So he offered a postseason series for possession of the Temple Cup, a garrish trophy to be presented to the winner of a best of 7 series at the end of the season. But wait a minute, there’s only one league. Where do you get the two teams necessary to hold a series? Simple, Temple argued. You take the league leader and the runner up and have them face off. It took some work, but Temple finally got the League to agree (it was difficult because if you’d already won the pennant, why jeopardize it with another series).
Between 1894 and 1897 the Temple Cup series was played annually. In 3 of the 4 years the second place team defeated the league champion, indicating that the champion wasn’t taking the Series too awfully seriously. After 1897 the series was discontinued and with one exception there was no postseason play until the modern World Series began in 1903.
The Cup? Well it took a while to track it down, but it was eventually found and now rests in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Temple Cup results:
1894-second place New York Giants beat the champion Baltimore Orioles (not the current Orioles) in 4 stratight games.
1895-second place Cleveland Spiders beat the champion Baltimore Orioles 4 games to 1.
1896-finally the first place team wins as the Orioles knock off the Spiders in a 4 game sweep.
1897-the second place Orioles defeat the champion Boston Beaneaters (now the Atlanta Braves) 4 games to 1.