Baseball and politics: Does Phillies win predict an Obama victory?

Veering way off-topic here to discuss presidential politics.

You can have your FiveThirtyEight with all its fancy number-crunching and sophisticated analysis. Back in the days before the Internet, people used to rely on simpler methods of predicting the winners of presidential elections. One such method that held true for many years since the 1950s was this:

If the National League team won the World Series, the Democratic candidate would win the White House. Conversely, if the American League team won, then the Republican candidate would win the presidency.

This has played out fairly accurately over time since the 1940s. Take a look (data from Baseball Almanac’s Comprehensive History of the World Series, and the anomalies are in italics):

1940 – The Cincinnati Reds (NL) beat the Detroit Tigers (AL), and Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his unprecedented third term.

1944 – The St. Louis Cardinals (NL) defeat the St. Louis Browns (AL), and Democrat FDR again wins the White House.

1948 – The Cleveland Indians (AL) beat the Boston Braves (NL). So, the winner should have been the Republican, Dewey. But Truman won, so the baseball predictor didn’t work out that time. (However, many people thought Dewey would defeat Truman. Remember the famous newspaper headline? So that may account for the Indians’ victory.)

1952 – New York Yankees (AL) beat the Brooklyn Dodgers (NL). Eisenhower (Republican) wins the White House.

1956 – Yankees (AL) beat the Dodgers (NL) again. Eisenhower (GOP) wins a second term.

1960 – Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) beat the Yankees (AL) and JFK (Democrat) beats Richard Nixon, the Republican.

1964 – Cardinals (NL) beat the Yankees (AL) and Lyndon Johnson (Democrat) wins over Barry Goldwater (Republican).

1968 – Tigers (AL) beat the Cardinals (NL), and Nixon (GOP) wins the presidency.

1972 – The Oakland A’s (AL) beat the Reds (NL), and Nixon wins a second term.

1976 – The Reds (NL) beat the Yankees (AL), and Jimmy Carter (Democrat) beats Gerald Ford.

1980 – The Philadelphia Phillies (NL) beat the Kansas City Royals (AL), but a Republican (Ronald Reagan) wins the White House. (The fact that the Royals were the AL candidate may account for this fluke. Either that, or a bad economy.)

1984 – The Tigers (AL) beat the San Diego Padres (NL), and Reagan wins again.

1988 – The Los Angeles Dodgers (NL) beat the Oakland A’s (AL), but Republican George H.W. Bush wins the White House.

1992 – The Toronto Blue Jays (AL) defeat the Atlanta Braves (NL), but Democrat Bill Clinton wins.

1996 – The Yankees (AL) beat the Braves (NL), but Democrat Clinton wins a second term.

2000 – The Yankees (AL) beat the Mets (NL), and George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, wins. The formula returns to true form after three straight terms.

2004 – The Boston Red Sox (AL) beat the St. Louis Cardinals (NL) and Bush wins a second term. (That still hurts, by the way. The Sox beating my beloved Cardinals, I mean. Or maybe I mean the other thing.)

2008 – The Philadelphia Phillies (NL) beat the Tampa Bay Rays (AL). And….?

* * *

So, now that the Phillies have won the World Series, then the White House should go to the Democrat, Barack Obama, right? But remember that the last time the Phillies won (in 1980), a Republican (Reagan) beat the Democrat (Carter). If McCain wins this election, then there could be a “Phillies curse” for the Democrats.

There are some other theories about sports and presidential politics, such as, “If the Washington Redskins win the week of the election, this means a win for the incumbent party,” and “If the Los Angeles Lakers win the the championship, then the Republican candidate will win” (source). But I don’t go for that superstitious stuff.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

5 thoughts on “Baseball and politics: Does Phillies win predict an Obama victory?”

  1. It’s not fair! The stinking Phillies won the WS just 28 short years ago. Some of us are working on longer droughts, like 100 years. :-(

  2. Ah, yes, Matt. 1908 — when the Cubbies (NL) last won the Big One but William Howard Taft (the Republican) defeated William Jennings Bryan (Democrat). Maybe that’s where the curse came in? The Cubs were an NL team that won and led to a GOP victory.

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