The Thrill of the Pennant Race: Understanding; What Is A Pennant In Baseball

The crisp autumn air signals that we’ve reached one of the most action-packed times on the baseball calendar – What is a pennant in baseball race season. If you’re a new fan wondering “What is  pennant in baseball?”, or a lifelong viewer seeking a refresher, this guide will get you up to speed on everything that makes these division battles so intense. 

From the strategies at play to the legendary moments pennant races have produced, we’ll break it all down for you. Strap yourself in for a deep dive into the forces that drive this frenetic final sprint to the playoffs.

Defining the Elusive Baseball Pennant-What is a pennant in baseball

Before we dig into the famous pennant races, it helps to understand exactly what is a pennant in baseball .

Simply put, the pennant is the prize awarded to whichever team finishes atop their division in the regular season. The victors in the American League (AL) and National League (NL) each get to hoist a metaphorical championship banner.

So, if you hear that the Yankees won the AL pennant this year, it means they conquered the AL East division. The NL pennant winner prevailed in the National League bracket.

Claiming your league’s pennant earns an automatic bid to the playoff’s Division Series. It greatly boosts the wild card teams who must compete in a risky do-or-die play-in game. 

In the early 20th century though, the pennant in baseball was an actual physical flag Teams would proudly fly above their ballpark to show off their regular season dominance. Though it’s now symbolic, winning the pennant remains a tremendous badge of honor.

What Is A Pennant In Baseball

The Gripping Pennant Race 

Now that we know what What Is A Pennant In Baseball represents, let’s understand how it’s won.

The pennant in baseball race refers to the final 3-4 weeks of the MLB schedule when division rivals go head-to-head in a dash to the finish. With the standings bunched together, a pennant race ratchets up the competitiveness as teams scratch and claw for every possible victory that could decide the crown. It’s a valid showcase of intestinal fortitude, with clubs playing through exhaustion, aches, pain and pressure. Squads that have battled for 6 long months have their fates determined in the final few games. 

In the blink of an eye, a single pivotal play – a walk-off homer, a soaring catch, a missed called third strike – can flip the pennant race upside down. Managers reach into their bag of tricks trying to find an edge. For the players, these final high-leverage contests are exactly what they toil for all offseason and fight through the hot summer grind to reach. The chance for your team to come together and achieve something special.

Meanwhile, fans live and breathe each pitch knowing their team’s World Series aspirations hang in the balance. The uncertainty and edge-of-your-seat theatrics make for an addicting emotional rollercoaster down the home stretch.

Unforgettable Pennant Race Moments 

Speaking of theatrical finishes, the  pennant in baseball has delivered more than its share of unforgettable finales over the decades. Certain pennant races still live vividly in the memories of fans years later. Here are some classics:

  • In 1908, the Cubs and Giants infamously battled to a tie atop the NL standings at the end of the season. This forced them to play a dramatic one-game tiebreaker where 37-year-old pitching legend Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown outdueled Christy Matthewson 1-0 to deliver the pennant.
  • The 1951 National League campaign culminated with Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World”, a walk-off homer to give the Giants the pennant after a captivating three-game playoff with the Dodgers. 
  • More recently, chaos reigned on the final day of the 2011 season. The Rays and Cardinals claimed playoff spots in extra innings amid a slew of close scores. These pennant in baseball race memories never fade.

winning the pennant in baseball

Do-Or-Die Game 163s

In the age of divisional play, we’ve also been treated to “Game 163” one-game playoffs to settle certain pennant races that end in a deadlock. Imagine two rivals battling neck-and-neck for months before finishing the season in an exact tie at the top of the standings. One game will now determine everything in a win-or-go-home duel.

In 2008, the White Sox beat the Twins in a nail-biting 1-0 affair to win the AL Central. Meanwhile, in the NL West, the Rockies outlasted the Padres in 13 innings to capture the pennant. Game 163 instantly produces unforgettable drama.

The Keys to a Classic Pennant Race

So, what elements help breed an all-time pennant race? A few ingredients that kick a division battle into overdrive:

– Two hated rivals with playoff pedigree battling for the crown 

– A three or four-team scrum leaving the standings bunched entering September

– Likable, larger-than-life superstars delivering in the clutch 

– Rookies emerging to make an unexpected pennant impact 

– Numerous lead changes and twists to keep fans on edge

– Pennant coming down to the final innings of Game 162 (or 163!)

Blend those factors and you have a recipe for a legendary pennant race etched permanently into the history books.

"pennant baseball, a red flag with black writing displayed at a game"
“pennant baseball, a red flag with black writing displayed at a game”

The Thrill of the Pennant Race in Major League Baseball

The pennant race is heating up as we enter the final stretch of the MLB regular season. With only about a month left, every game matters so much for the teams battling it out in their divisions. Fans are glued to the standings watching the rivals face off, knowing each series could shift the balance of power. It’s an intense situation – some clubs holding comfortable leads may start resting their stars to stay fresh for October, while others fighting for a playoff spot have to keep pushing at 100%.

The dynamics of each pennant in baseball race creates so much drama. You’ve got the defending champs trying to lock up home-field for the whole postseason. Meanwhile, a young squad nobody saw coming is trying to crash the party. It comes down to who wants it more during these high-pressure weeks. The thrilling conclusion to the regular season is what makes baseball so exciting. As a fan, there’s nothing better than following your team as they compete to win their division or force a one-game playoff. The MLB pennant in baseball races are must-see TV down the stretch.

In Major League Baseball, the pennant represents the championship of each league. Winning the American League or National League pennant is a prestigious achievement as the team advances to the World Series. Over baseball history, legendary franchises like the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals have won the most pennants, displaying their consistent excellence. For players and fans, capturing the pennant creates memories that last a lifetime. Cities take great pride in flying the championship pennant, which symbolizes the team’s dominance. The pennant winner reflects an entire season of hard work and reflects the culture of a franchise. While the ultimate prize is the World Series, winning the league pennant is still a remarkable accomplishment.

The Structure of Major League Baseball

Ever since the late 1960s, MLB has had its current divisional setup to accommodate the growing number of teams. The two major leagues, the AL and NL, are each split into three divisions – East, Central, and West.

The East and West divisions have 5 teams apiece grouped by geography. In the AL East, you’ve got the O’s, Sox, Yanks, Rays and Jays squaring off. Out west, the Astros, Angels, A’s, M’s and Rangers battle it out. Over in the NL, the Braves, Fish, Mets, Phils and Nats do their thing in the East. And out in the Golden State, you’ve got the D-Backs, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres and Giants going at it.

The Central divisions are made up of 5 Midwest squads as well. In the AL it’s the White Sox, Tribe, Tigers, Royals and Twins. And representing the NL Central are the Cubbies, Reds, Brew Crew, Pirates and Cards.

This setup means each team plays plenty of games within their division as well as rotating matchups with other league opponents. At the end of the long season, the top team in each division earns a playoff berth along with a couple of Wild Card clubs sporting the best non-division winning records. This balanced format gives all 30 teams a fair shot to make some October noise.

The Pennant Payoff

Finally securing that last necessary win to clinch the pennant represents the ultimate payoff after a six-month marathon. The home clubhouse erupts in a champagne-soaked celebration to commemorate the feat.

For fans, the moment produces unbridled jubilation and goosebump-inducing memories that will live forever. Lifting that pennant marks the pinnacle, providing a joy and sense of community that only sports can deliver. It symbolises the promise of even greater glory in the postseason.

So now that you know the nitty gritty on pennants, appreciate this iconic tradition when it unfolds each fall. Revel in the high-stakes drama, clutch plays, and unbreakable bonds forged in the hunt for the pennant.

A pennant baseball flag on a wooden surface
A pennant baseball flag on a wooden surface

What it Means to a City

Winning a pennant in baseball isn’t just about the team – it’s about bringing pride to the whole city. That flag you see waving represents so much more than just the guys on the field.

Take what happened in Boston back in ’04 for example. The Sox were down 3-0 in the ALCS against those damn Yankees. Seemed impossible. But somehow, some way they battled back to take the next 4 games and clinch the pennant.

Once they delivered the city its first World Series title since 1918 to finally end the “Curse of the Bambino”, the whole place exploded. I’ll never forget being packed in with everyone on Lansdowne Street just going nuts. Strangers high-fiving, hugging, crying tears of joy. It was the release of almost a century of waiting.

That championship was as much for Nomar, Pedro and the rest as it was for every Bostonian who lived and died with that team through all the years of coming up short. And to get over on our hated rivals made it ten times sweeter. That ’04 run will forever be a part of our city’s story, a time when we all came together as one through America’s pastime.


In summary, I hope this guide brings a new appreciation for baseball’s treasured pennant tradition. It represents the fruits of a long season’s labour finally being harvested. Championship glory awaits those who survive the perilous pennant gauntlet.

FAQs; What is a pennant in baseball

  • What is a pennant in baseball? The pennant is the metaphorical championship flag awarded to whichever team finishes first place within their division. Pennant winners advance to the MLB postseason.  
  • How do you win the pennant? To win the pennant, a team must outlast their divisional rivals across the 162-game regular season and finish atop the standings. This involves angling for any slight advantage during the frenzied pennant race in September.
  • How many pennants have the Yankees won?  The Yankees have won the most pennants of any MLB franchise, capturing a total of 39. This includes 20 American League and 19 National League pennants between their dominant early days and recent decades.
  • What does winning the pennant mean for a team? Winning the pennant means a team automatically qualifies for the Division Series as their league’s representative, rather than having to play in a wild card knockout game.
  • How intense are pennant races? Pennant races are incredibly intense as rivals battle with everything on the line over a few short weeks. Margins are razor thin and each game carries enormous weight. Spectacular moments happen when seasons hang in balance.
  • What does it mean to win the pennant in MLB? Winning the pennant means a team has won their league championship series to advance to the World Series. It is a major accomplishment.
  • What’s a pennant in baseball? A pennant is a flag given to the team that wins their league championship. The pennant winner advances to the World Series. 
  • How many pennants have the Astros won? The Houston Astros have won 3 American League pennants in their history (2005, 2017, 2019).
  • What does pennant mean in baseball? In baseball, a pennant refers to the flag signifying a team has won their league championship. It represents their dominance that season.

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