Though many associate baseball with the US, the sport actually has its origins in England. Dating back centuries, baseball was originally a rudimentary ball throwing game, with rules regarding bases, pitches, and home runs fluctuating throughout the ages.
By the mid-1800s, baseball was beginning to take its modern shape in the rural towns of New England in the United States. At this time, the game varied greatly by each town or region where it was played—and it wasn’t considered a sport for adults.
However, following baseball’s adoption by the Knickerbocker Club of New York City, official regulation began that would seek to streamline the rules of the sport so that a league could be formed. At this time, baseball became engrained in the American psyche.
These early leagues played in the late 1800s and early 1900s were split between the National League and American League. Both leagues would spend the next century cooperating to co-create Major League Baseball, as well as overseeing the minor league, as well.
From these two organizations, play was regulated and tournaments, rivalries, divisions, and even the championship format were formed. In fact, the MLB seasonal play coalesces in what’s known as the World Series, which has retained its main features from its early days.
The World Series is a best-of-seven game playoff, also referred to as the ‘Fall Classic’. As the US’s second-most lucrative major league sport, millions of Americans follow and bet on the World Series odds—though this annual championship doesn’t have quite the same international fanfare as the KBO-NPB Club Championship between top South Korean and Japanese baseball teams.
Korea Baseball Championship League in South Korea
Though the KBO league was founded as recently as 1982, baseball’s popularity and quality in South Korea can’t be understated. While baseball is seen largely as an American pastime, it should be noted that the South Korean variation has its own quirks and culture.
Composed of 15 teams, one major difference between the MLB and the KBO is their sponsorships. In the US, MLB teams are associated with cities and closely tied to culture, while in South Korea, teams are named by their corporate sponsors. Last year’s league champions were the Doosan Bears, though the all-time title leaders are the Kia Tigers with 11 titles in total.
KBO also displays a high level of professionalism and interesting habits. The league absolutely loves the bat flip, and fans are extremely vocal when it’s time for a batter to toss their bat before rounding the bases.
Though the KBO-NPB Championship only took place for two years (2009 and 2010) and each game saw NPB champion teams take the titles, fans would love to see another edition of this type of competition, such as the Asia Winter Baseball week (AWB).
While there’s also ample movement between leagues like NPB, KBO, and the MLB, international fans of baseball would also love to see a standardized international competition between these baseball-loving nations regardless of distance.
Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan
With the country’s first baseball league founded back in 1934, Japan has nearly just as much of a relationship to baseball as the United States does. The modern NPB was founded in 1950 and consists of 12 teams that are split between two leagues, much like the MLB’s American and National leagues.
Also like the MLB, the NPB has its own version of the World Series competition that finishes out each season, known as the Japan Series. However, there are many important and interesting distinctions between the MLB and KBO from the NPB.
In particular, the NPB has a smaller field structure, utilizes different designated hitter rules, and tends to prefer six-man starting rotations. The NPB also allows games to end in a tie, which means that the Japan Series doesn’t always end with seven games.
Given its extensive history, the NPB also stands out from its nearby KBO counterpart given its rivalries and popular team runs. For instance, the 1980s saw the rise of the ‘Invincible Seibu’, during which time the Tokyo-based Seibu Lions ruled the league.
During this time, home-run hitters became the star sluggers that the general public and baseball fans could adore. Since then, much like the KBO, the NPB has become known for its enthusiastic fans and the close relationship that these fans make with their team through specific chants and dances.