First division (baseball)

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First division is a term that has had various meanings, at various times, in the sport of baseball, but originally referred to the rankings within a league. Teams which ranked in the top half of the league standings table (e.g. the top five teams in a ten-team league) were said to have finished in the "first division", while teams in the bottom half of the standings were said to be in the "second division".

In the major leagues before 1969, players on teams finishing in the first division received monetary shares from the Players' Pool, which was funded by gate receipts from that year's World Series; specifically, prior to the aforementioned expansion, the team winning the World Series received 42% of this money, the team losing the World Series got 28%, with the second-, third- and fourth-place teams in each league being awarded 7½%, 5% and 2½% respectively. Concomitant with the expansion, 1% was taken from both of the World Series teams and given to each of the teams finishing in fifth place.

The New York Yankees finished in the first division for a record 39 consecutive years, from 1926 through 1964, all inclusive; by contrast, the Chicago Cubs once finished in the second division for 20 years in a row — between 1947 and 1966.

Major League Baseball meaning since 1969 realignment[edit]

With the realignment of both leagues into two geographically based divisions in 1969, the terms "first division" and "second division" quickly fell into disuse (largely because the word "division" had acquired a completely different meaning), although teams finishing in the top half of the standings — now the first three teams in each of the new divisions — continued to share in the Players' Pool. The distribution of the Players' Pool money was also changed at this time, with the World Series winner henceforth getting 36% of the pool, its loser 27%, the losers of the League Championship Series 12½% each, the second-place teams in the divisions 2 3/8% each, and the third-place teams 5/8% each. In 1991 these shares were revised to 36%, 24%, 12%, 3% and 1% respectively, and when both major leagues realigned again in 1995 (each league now consisting of three divisions, the winners thereof plus one wild card team in each league reaching the postseason), the 3% shares went to teams losing in the Division Series and the 1% shares went to the teams that finished second in their division but did not earn a wild card.