Baseball championship

The players' union became bolder under the leadership of former United Steelworkers chief economist and negotiator Marvin Miller, who was elected executive director in 1966.[51] On the playing field, major league pitchers were becoming increasingly dominant again. After the 1968 season, in an effort to restore balance, the strike zone was reduced and the height of the pitcher's mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches. In 1969, both the National and American leagues added two more expansion teams, the leagues were reorganized into two divisions each, and a post-season playoff system leading to the World Series was instituted. Also that same year, Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals made the first serious legal challenge to the reserve clause. The major leagues' first general players' strike took place in 1972.[52] In another effort to add more offense to the game, the American League adopted the designated hitter rule the following year.[53] In 1975, the union's power—and players' salaries—began to increase greatly when the reserve clause was effectively struck down, leading to the free agency system.[54] In 1977, two more expansion teams joined the American League. Significant work stoppages occurred again in 1981 and 1994, the latter forcing the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in ninety years.[55] Attendance had been growing steadily since the mid-1970s and in 1994, before the stoppage, the majors were setting their all-time record for per-game attendance.[46][56] In May 2010, the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay pitched the twentieth major league perfect game. That October, he pitched only the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history. The addition of two more expansion teams after the 1993 season had facilitated another restructuring of the major leagues, this time into three divisions each. Offensive production—the number of home runs in particular—had surged that year, and again in the abbreviated 1994 season.[57] After play resumed in 1995, this trend continued and non-division-winning wild card teams became a permanent fixture of the post-season. Regular-season interleague play was introduced in 1997 and the second-highest attendance mark for a full season was set.[58] The next year, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both surpassed Maris's decades-old single season home run record and two more expansion franchises were added. In 2000, the National and American leagues were dissolved as legal entities. While their identities were maintained for scheduling purposes (and the designated hitter distinction), the regulations and other functions—such as player discipline and umpire supervision—they had administered separately were consolidated under the rubric of Major League Baseball (MLB).[59] In 2001, Barry Bonds established the current record of 73 home runs in a single season. There had long been suspicions that the dramatic increase in power hitting was fueled in large part by the abuse of illegal steroids (as well as by the dilution of pitching talent due to expansion), but the issue only began attracting significant media attention in 2002 and there was no penalty for the use of performance-enhancing drugs before 2004.[60] In 2007, Bonds became MLB's all-time home run leader, surpassing Hank Aaron, as total major league and minor league attendance both reached all-time highs.[61][62] Even though McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds—as well as many other players, including storied pitcher Roger Clemens—have been implicated in the steroid abuse scandal, their feats and those of other sluggers had become the major leagues' defining attraction.[63] In contrast to the professional game's resurgence in popularity after the 1994 interruption, Little League enrollment was in decline: after peaking in 1996, it dropped 1 percent a year over the following decade.[64] With more rigorous testing and penalties for performance-enhancing drug use a possible factor, the balance between bat and ball swung markedly in 2010, which became known as the "Year of the Pitcher".[65] Runs per game fell to their lowest level in 18 years, and the strikeout rate was higher than it had been in half a century.[66] Before the start of the 2012 season, MLB altered its rules to double the number of wild card teams admitted into the playoffs to two per league.[

In 1847, American soldiers played what may have been the first baseball game in Mexico at Parque Los Berros in Xalapa, Veracruz. A few days after the Battle of Cerro Gordo, they used the "wooden leg captured (by the Fourth Illinois regiment) from General Santa Anna".[69] The first formal baseball league outside of the United States and Canada was founded in 1878 in Cuba, which maintains a rich baseball tradition and whose national team has been one of the world's strongest since international play began in the late 1930s (all organized baseball in the country has officially been amateur since the Cuban Revolution). The Dominican Republic held its first islandwide championship tournament in 1912.[70] Professional baseball tournaments and leagues began to form in other countries between the world wars, including the Netherlands (formed in 1922), Australia (1934), Japan (1936), Mexico (1937), and Puerto Rico (1938).[71] The Japanese major leagues—the Central League and Pacific League—have long been considered the highest quality professional circuits outside of the United States.[72] Japan has a professional minor league system as well, though it is much smaller than the American version—each team has only one farm club in contrast to MLB teams' four or five.[73] After World War II, professional leagues were founded in many Latin American nations, most prominently Venezuela (1946) and the Dominican Republic (1955).[74] Since the early 1970s, the annual Caribbean Series has matched the championship clubs from the four leading Latin American winter leagues: the Dominican Winter League, Mexican Pacific League, Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League, and Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. In Asia, South Korea (1982), Taiwan (1990), and China (2003) all have professional leagues