American, Top 40: Title extends NYY mark

Yanks without peer in one category

NEW YORK -- Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry. Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill.

The tradition goes on for the Yankees, and with it, the tradition of winning American League pennants.

The Yankees clinched the AL Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the Angels in Game 6 on Sunday in their first year of the new Yankee Stadium, marking the 40th pennant -- a Major League Baseball record by far -- and the first since 2003 for the sport's most fabled franchise. Six years isn't a long time, you say? Well, these are the Bronx Bombers we're talking about.

That six-year drought represented the fourth-longest stretch without a pennant in franchise history.

The Yankees didn't win a pennant until their 21st season in 1921, while also experiencing spans of 12 years (1964-76) and 15 years (1981-96) between AL titles. The Yankees have been to the World Series seven times since '96, five more times than any other team during that period.

The Yankees' 40 pennants have come over the past 89 seasons -- at a pace of almost one every other year. The Bombers own nearly twice as many pennants as any other team; the Dodgers have won the National League pennant 21 times. New York, in fact, has more pennants itself than the next three teams in the AL, with Oakland (14), Boston (12) and Detroit (10) combining for 36 pennants.

"You kind of took it for granted around the Yankees that there was always going to be baseball in October," Ford once said.

Most championship round appearances by sport
Major League Baseball
Team World Series trips Most recent
Yankees 40 2009
Dodgers 21 1988
Giants 20 2002
National Basketball Association
Team NBA Finals trips Most recent
Lakers 30 2009
Celtics 20 2008
76ers 9 2001
National Football League (Super Bowl era)
Team Super Bowls Most recent
Cowboys 8 1995 season
Steelers 7 2008 season
Patriots 6 2007 season
Broncos 6 1998 season
National Hockey League
Team Cup Finals Most recent
Canadiens 34 1993
Red Wings 24 2009
Maple Leafs 21 1967

The Yankees' next opponent, the Phillies, will play in the World Series for just the seventh time, even though they were founded in 1883 -- 18 years before the Bombers. The second of those seven trips, in 1950, ended in a four-game sweep at the hands of New York.

The Bombers' 40 appearances in a title game or series are the most among the four major North American sports. The closest team to New York is the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, who have been to the Stanley Cup Finals 34 times. The Canadiens' 24 titles are also second among major sports franchises to the Yankees' 26 championships. Montreal, though, is currently laboring through the longest title drought in team history, as the Canadiens have not played for the Stanley Cup since winning it in 1993.

The only franchise to appear in a championship series at a faster rate than the Yankees is the NBA's Lakers, who have been to the NBA Finals 30 times in their 63 seasons, including each of the past two. In fact, the Lakers' six trips to the title series this decade are the best among all sports teams, besting the Yankees' four. But six of their 30 Finals appearances overall came when the franchise was still located in Minneapolis, and the Lakers are just 15-15 once they get to the Finals.

The NFL doesn't have any teams that even approach the Yankees' mark. The Dallas Cowboys lead the league with eight Super Bowl appearances in 43 years. The New York Giants, who once played their games at the former Yankee Stadium, have played for the most NFL championships dating back to the game's inception in 1933, with 18 appearances. The Giants, however, have only won six of those contests.

The Giants' title-game woes highlight that the Yankees don't just get to the World Series; they usually win it once they're there. New York is 26-13 in its previous 39 World Series trips. Only the Pirates, who have won five of their seven trips to the World Series, have a better winning percentage among teams that have made the Fall Classic more than twice.

The Yankees, however, have lost their past two World Series -- to the D-backs in 2001 and to the Marlins in '03. That means they're still looking for that elusive second championship this decade; New York has won at least two World Series in all but one decade (the 1980s) since its first title in 1923.

It has long been a fact of life in America that the Yankees will win the pennant or at least will not wait long for their next one.

The wait for their next one is over.

The Fall Classic is coming back to the Bronx. This time, it comes to a new ballpark, but one with the same tradition. Now the question is whether a 27th World Series championship can be far behind.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.