When the Major League Baseball season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans were not sure when, or if, they would be able to watch their favorite teams at all in 2020. Following months of quarantines and precautions, baseball is set to start, without fans, this Thursday.
With Opening Day right around the corner, it's only fitting to examine how the teams in the Ancient Eight match up to several of their MLB counterparts.
Harvard Crimson – New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are best-known within the baseball world for their 27 World Series titles, which outpaces every other major league team by wide margin. Like their MLB counterpart, Harvard has a longstanding history of winning in relation to the rest of the Ivy League. The Crimson have won six conference tournaments, have appeared in 15 NCAA tournaments, and have seen four College World Series’.
Aside from Harvard’s strong 2019 season, both of these teams have also struggled in recent years to replicate their historical successes.
While these teams may not always find success on the field, their winning cultures make them contenders every year in their respective leagues.
Dartmouth Big Green – Oakland Athletics
For these teams, it is not about the players on the field but rather the manager in the dugout. Both Bob Melvin of the A’s and Bob Whalen of Dartmouth are long-tenured at their current team. Melvin took over in 2011 in an interim position but used consistent success to continue to earn contract extensions. In his nine years as A’s manager, Melvin has won AL Manager of the Year twice and has climbed up the MLB’s managerial wins rankings.
Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 collegiate baseball season, Whalen was entering his 31st year at the helm of the Big Green. Like Melvin, Whalen has continued to produce great baseball teams, which has translated into over 600 victories for the Big Green under Whalen’s tenure.
It also doesn't hurt that they both wear green.
Yale Bulldogs – Los Angeles Dodgers
Talent. That is the word that sums up the historical rosters of these two squads. No matter whether these teams are at the top of their conference or barely missing the playoffs, there is no question that their teams feature some top-notch talent. The Bulldogs have produced 35 MLB players since the draft’s inception, including players such as Ryan Lavarnway and Craig Breslow.
The Dodgers have also been defined by their superstars throughout their history. In earlier days, they featured Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. Then, the team was led by talented southpaw Sandy Koufax. Now, in the modern era, the Dodgers are known for perennial Cy Young contender Clayton Kershaw and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger.
Columbia Lions – San Francisco Giants
While this comparison may not seem obvious at first, these teams have followed a similar pattern in their history. Both the Lions and the Giants have experienced moderate success without being considered perennial contenders in their respective leagues. As a result, instead of being known as powerhouse teams, these squads are known for their most famous alumni.
The Giants are the former team of arguably one of the most memorable players in MLB history, Barry Bonds, as well as other greats Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. Bonds holds the records for most home runs in a season and has seven MVP trophies to his name. The Lions also boast a famous alumnus of their own: Lou Gehrig. The former Yankee played baseball and football for the Lions in the early 1920's before putting on the Pinstripes.
Cornell Big Red – Tampa Bay Rays
These two squads have both struggled to be successful over the course of their histories. Aside from their 2008 World Series run that resulted in a defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Rays, formerly known as the Devil Rays, have experienced a low level of success in baseball’s American League East. Similarly, the Big Red have only appeared in the NCAA tournament twice and have only won a single conference championship in the past few decades.
Though these teams may be competitive during the season, their lack of historical success often leaves them off of the preseason favorites list among most media outlets.
Princeton Tigers – Boston Red Sox
Both the Red Sox and their Ivy League counterpart Princeton Tigers have a rich baseball history. The Red Sox were one of baseball’s earliest teams, and after forming in 1901, the Sox defeated the Pirates to win the first World Series in baseball history. The Tigers were also at the forefront of baseball’s development in their league, as they faced Columbia in collegiate baseball’s first televised game.
Though these teams are known for their history, both have been perennial contenders in their respective leagues in the 21st century. Both clubs have claimed multiple titles since the dawn of the century, with the Tigers capturing seven Ivy tournament championships and the Sox winning four World Series in the same frame.
Brown Bears – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Brown Bears and their MLB counterpart the Pirates are both under-the-radar teams in their respective leagues. Whether they are cellar-dwellers or making a rare run at the postseason, neither of these teams is likely to draw much preseason or in-season media.
In addition, both teams are also frequently associated with the players that transcended their franchise/team. For the Pirates, it was Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, whose contribution to the game is still remembered nearly five decades after his death. For the Bears, it is a mix of players. Bill Almon was a number one overall draft selection in 1974, Lee Richmond was the first pitcher to achieve perfection, and Mark Attanasio is now the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Penn Quakers – Chicago Cubs
Now for the one you've all been waiting for.
These two teams are both competitive year in and year out within their respective conferences. Preseason polls often have them as either a favorite or an underdog with a strong chance to shine. Both squads also frequently find themselves in the thick of the postseason, with the Cubs often making a late run at the pennant and the Quakers competing in the Ivy League Championship Series.
However, despite their consistent success, both of these teams often struggle to emerge as the top team when the postseason dust settles. Fans are often left longing for more when the Quakers cannot outbid another team in the Ivy Championships or when the Cubs drop the ALCS. Although these teams always have a chance, it is often difficult to translate their preseason and in-season momentum into tangible postseason successes.