History of College Baseball


Many people are less familiar with college baseball than they are with college football or basketball. The main reason for this is that the sport is mostly played during the summer, between college semesters! This is unfortunate because the sport has a long and illustrious history, a vibrant community, and an abundance of underappreciated talent.

But how did college baseball get to this point? This article will look at the history of college baseball from its beginnings to the present.

Baseball's Origins

Baseball has its origins in the early nineteenth century. Before that, a similar game known as "rounders" existed in England, but in America, the game began to develop and evolve into what is now modern baseball. Some claim that Alexander Joy Cartwright invented baseball, but this is debatable. Although the game is thought to have evolved gradually, Cartwright and other New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club members developed and documented the rules that still apply today.

The first recorded game took place in New Jersey in 1846 between the Knickerbockers and the New York Baseball Club. The National Association of Baseball Players founded the first organized league in 1858, which later evolved into Major League Baseball.

How College Baseball Began

In 1859, a team from Amherst College faced a team from Williams College in Massachusetts. Williams was defeated 73-32 by Amherst. Other games followed over the next few decades, but the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) did not appear until 1905. Although the NCAA began by regulating college football, it eventually recognized college baseball as a sport.

 NCAA College World Series

The NCAA College World Series tournament first took place in 1950. Since then, it has been held annually in Omaha, Nebraska.

NCAA Division II and Division III Championships

The NCAA Division II championships began in 1968 and were held in Illinois, California, and Alabama (where they have taken place ever since 1985). Wisconsin has recently seen the emergence of Division III championships.

Baseball Popularity Increase

Due to population increases around colleges in the South and South-West of the United States, NCAA baseball became significantly more popular in the 1980s. Despite a surge in popularity, college baseball has yet to achieve the national recognition that college football and basketball have.

However, the NCAA has been able to significantly grow the sport. Budgets for stadiums, staff, equipment, and training programs have all been increased. This has resulted in increased talent and press coverage for college baseball. You can now watch the NCAA College World Series on ESPN and place wagers with Unibet TV!

College Baseball's Future

It is difficult to predict the future of any sport. Who knows what events may occur to influence the popularity of a hobby? However, if the current trend of rising popularity continues, it appears likely that college baseball will become as popular an American tradition as college football and basketball.

The geographical location of college baseball's power centers can tell the story of the game's history. The Southeast region of the country currently reigns supreme, but this has not always been the case.

In the past, the West Coast was regarded as the epicenter of the college baseball universe. However, if you go back even further, you will find the Big Ten at the top of the sport, and prior to that, as was the case in most collegiate sports, the Ivy League had its time in the spotlight.

This list of the 25 winningest programs in history demonstrates the sport's shifting geography. Some are higher on the list than you might expect, perhaps because they were a power in a previous era, while others are lower on the list simply because their dominance did not come until much later.

The duration of a program is also an important factor to consider. It doesn't take an accountant to see that a program that has been around for 140 years or more has an inherent advantage over one that has been around for less than 100 years.

Top 25 Winningest Programs in College Baseball History

This list is a living document that recounts the entire history of college baseball, rather than a snapshot of how things are right now.

1. Fordham - 4,627 victories in 160 seasons

Fordham may appear to be an unusual name at the top of this list, but consider that it was playing baseball and winning games long before most other college baseball programs existed. The Rams have a total of 160 seasons in the NCAA record book. With over 1,000 wins between Fordham and Texas, it's safe to say the Rams will be at the top of this list for a long time.

2. Texas - 3,526 victories in 124 seasons

Texas has more than 3,500 wins over 124 seasons of baseball, more than 500 more than second-place Fordham, and more than 500 more than third-place Michigan. Texas has won six national championships and six more runner-up finishes along the way, making it one of the most decorated college baseball programs in history.

3. Michigan - 2,970 victories in 147 seasons

Big Ten programs such as Michigan, like Fordham, benefit from having played a large number of baseball seasons. The Wolverines have played 147 of them, which helps their ranking, but they've also been extremely successful for many of those 147 seasons, winning roughly 63 percent of their games and two national championships.

4. Stanford - 2,956 victories in 127 seasons

Stanford's history is comparable to Texas', with 127 seasons under its belt. While it appeared in the College World Series in 1953 and 1967, the majority of its national success has come in the modern era, with national titles in 1987 and 1988, as well as runner-up finishes in 2000, 2001, and 2003.

5. Florida State - 2,936 victories in 73 seasons

Florida State is an outlier among the top teams on the list in that it has only played 73 seasons, but thanks to being able to play a large number of games each season prior to the 56-game limit and winning more than 72 percent of its games, it has quickly made up for lost time.

6. Southern California - 2,919 victories in 126 seasons

It's not surprising that a program with a record 12 national titles is also one of the most successful in history. The Trojans have obviously had a lot of standout individual seasons that have helped them rack up wins quickly, but they also have a long history of 126 seasons to draw from.

7. Arizona State - 2,910 victories in 109 seasons

Arizona State has produced some of Major League Baseball's brightest stars, including Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds, and has a long history of success. Between 1965 and 1981, the Sun Devils won five national championships and finished second five times, most recently in 1998.

8. Clemson - 2,891 victories in 123 seasons

Clemson and Florida State are two of the most historically successful and influential college baseball programs without a national championship. The Tigers have nearly 3,000 wins and 12 CWS appearances over 123 seasons, which are fairly evenly distributed across the decades.

9. North Carolina - 2,889 victories in 131 seasons

North Carolina and Clemson were tied for eighth place on this list entering the 2020 season, but the Tigers won two more games than the Tar Heels, dropping the Tar Heels to ninth. The results indicate that UNC and Clemson are very similar programs, as the Tar Heels have been to the CWS 11 times and have yet to win the national title, despite finishing second to Oregon State twice in 2006 and 2007.

10. Arizona - 2,871 victories in 115 seasons

Although it does not always receive the same level of recognition as rival Arizona State as a historically successful program, Arizona fits the bill. In addition to 2,871 wins over 115 seasons, it has four national titles, most recently in 2012, four second-place finishes, and 17 trips to the CWS.

11. Texas A&M - 2,749 victories in 118 seasons

Despite a long and successful history that includes conference titles dating back to 1931, Texas A&M has really taken off in the modern era, with four of its six CWS trips occurring in 1993 or later. It has now been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 2007.

12. Washington State - 2,719 victories in 123 seasons

Washington State isn't a name you'd expect to see here, but the Cougars won a lot of games under Buck Bailey and Chuck "Bobo" Brayton, who combined to coach every WSU team from 1927 to 1994, with the exception of a three-year gap during World War II, when Bailey was in the Navy. The Cougars advanced to the CWS four times under Bailey and Brayton, falling one win short of a national championship in 1950.

13. Mississippi State - 2,710 victories in 131 seasons

Mississippi State has undoubtedly gained ground on this list in the modern era, as its success over the last 40 years, particularly under the legendary Ron Polk, compares favorably to the rest of college baseball. With MSU experiencing another high point, passing Washington State to enter the top dozen on this list is within reach.

14, Oklahoma State - 2,670 victories in 109 seasons

Although it won a national championship in 1959, Oklahoma State's best run of success came in the 1980s under Gary Ward, when the Cowboys advanced to the College World Series seven times in a row from 1981 to 1987. The Cowboys returned four more times in the 1990s. With its success over the last five years, OSU has pushed past a group of teams that were all tightly packed in the middle of this list.

15. Minnesota - 2,668 victories in 132 seasons

The Gophers have played 132 seasons in their history, but their ranking isn't simply the result of accumulating wins over a long period of time. Throughout the Big Ten's history, they have been consistent contenders, and in the 1950s and 1960s, they were one of the best teams in the country, winning three national championships.

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16. Alabama - 2,652 victories in 127 seasons

Alabama entered 2020 trailing Illinois and tied with Miami on this list, but thanks to a strong start to the season, it has moved ahead of both. The Crimson Tide have been to the CWS five times, three of which were in the 1990s under Jim Wells, and they finished second in both 1983 and 1997.

17. Illinois - 2,651 victories in 141 seasons

With 141 seasons under its belt, Illinois ranks third on this list, trailing only Fordham and Michigan. Taking Fordham out of the equation, Illinois is the only team on this list that has never competed in the CWS, despite appearing in 12 NCAA Tournaments.

18. Miami - 2,648 victories in 76 seasons

Miami, like Florida State, is one of the winningest programs in college baseball history despite playing nearly half as many seasons as the majority of the list. In 76 seasons, the Hurricanes have won 2,648 games while also winning four national championships and finishing second twice.

19. South Carolina - 2,646 victories in 128 seasons

The Gamecocks have played 128 seasons, but nearly all of their national success has occurred in the last 50 years, with the majority of their major accomplishments occurring in the last 20 years. South Carolina won national titles in 2010 and 2011, after finishing second in 1975, 1977, and 2002, and nearly won three in a row before falling short in 2012.

T20. Fresno State - 2,641 victories in 92 seasons

Fresno State's crowning achievement was winning the program's only national championship in 2008, but the school has a long history of success. Not only have the Bulldogs won over 2,600 games in 92 seasons, but they've also appeared in 35 NCAA Tournaments and four College World Series.

T20. Louisiana State - 2,641 victories in 125 seasons

Tied for 21st place may seem low for a program with six national titles to its name, but keep in mind that Louisiana State's history as a nationally relevant baseball program really began when Skip Bertman took over ahead of the 1984 season. It has won a lot of games since then, but it has had to do a lot of catching up to get to this point.

22. California - 2,639 victories in 129 seasons

Its baseball history is littered with peaks and valleys, but California's peaks have been high enough over 129 seasons to place it on this list. It won national championships in 1947 and 1957 and has appeared in the CWS six times, the first and last of which were more than 60 years apart.

23. Ohio State - 2,629 victories in 137 seasons

Ohio State, another Big Ten program that shone in an earlier era of college baseball, made four CWS trips between 1951 and 1967, finishing as runner-up in 1965 and winning the national title in 1966. Since then, the Buckeyes have remained a consistent top-tier conference contender, with another high point in the 1990s when they went to the NCAA Tournament seven times.

24. Oklahoma - 2,625 victories in 115 seasons

On this list, Oklahoma trails rivals Texas and Oklahoma State, but it has a rich history of its own. It has won national titles in 1951 and 1994, and has appeared in the CWS ten times, most recently in 2010. Since the 1970s, the Sooners' status has never dipped below that of a top-tier regional program.

25. Florida - 2,600 victories in 106 seasons

Florida, like LSU, is lower on the list than one might expect simply because its history as a national title contender is shorter than that of many other programs on this list. Though it made nine NCAA Tournament appearances before reaching the CWS, its first trip to Omaha came in 1988. It has now been done 12 times and won a national championship in 2017.

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