(Reuters) – Using the name World Series to determine the champion of a league consisting of 29 teams from the United States and one from Canada may strike some as American hubris, but the term these days is actually quite accurate.
What began as a game played almost exclusively by Americans has spread in popularity to the Caribbean and Latin America, and also further afield to Japan and South Korea.
When the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians set their 25-man World Series rosters, they included 14 non-American players from five different countries. (Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. but for sporting purposes fields its own national teams).
Perhaps nobody is likely to have a bigger influence on the outcome of the Fall Classic than Cuban-born Aroldis Chapman, the Chicago closer signed mid-season from the New York Yankees.
Chapman, who posted a miserly 1.01 ERA in 28 regular season games with Chicago, could prove to be the final piece in the Cubs puzzle as he blows away teams in the ninth inning with his 100 mph (161 kph) fastballs to earn 16 regular season saves.
The 28-year-old left-hander, who defected to the United States in 2009, entered Wednesday’s game in the eighth inning and recorded the last four outs in his World Series debut to tie the best-of-seven Fall Classic at one game apiece.
The other Cuban in the World Series is Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, who defected from the island in 2011.
The Dominican Republic has the biggest World Series representation, with five players including Cleveland slugger Carlos Santana, pitcher Danny Salazar and third baseman Jose Ramirez, who had three hits in Game One on Tuesday.
Venezuela has three players, all with the Cubs, including catcher Willson Contreras, while Puerto Rico also has three men flying the flag, including Cubs second baseman Javier Baez and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who had three hits in Cleveland’s Game One victory.
Back from injury is Brazilian-born, Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who was the first player from his country to play in Major League Baseball.
WORLD SERIES PLAYERS BORN OUTSIDE UNITED STATES
Michael Martinez (Cubs)
Jose Ramirez (Indians)
Danny Salazar (Indians)
Carlos Santana (Indians)
Pedro Strop (Cubs)
Javier Baez (Cubs)
Francisco Lindor (Indians)
Roberto Perez (Indians)
Willson Contreras (Cubs)
Miguel Montero (Cubs)
Hector Rondon (Cubs)
Aroldis Chapman (Cubs)
Jorge Soler (Cubs)
Yan Gomes (Indians)
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)