Baseball is the oldest of the four big sports in North America, and it shows. MLB has seen some pretty big chances since it began, including the institution of the World Series in 1903, but some things have been relative constants, and by things, I mean teams. The most successful franchises in MLB history, to be precise.

I took a handful of different data points into account when determining this list, and I tried not to let recent history cloud my judgment, positively or negatively. That can be tough to do when teams seem to spend extreme amounts of time only winning or only losing, but I did what I could for your entertainment (and potentially ego).

World Series victories and appearances, playoff seasons, all-time records, notable players, and more came into account. Championships won in the 1910s were done so in an incomparable context to those in the 2020s, but they have to count for something. I’ve considered all of MLB’s World Series history to come up with the league’s most successful franchises all-time.

All records as of May 4, 2023.

The Most Successful Franchises in MLB History

1: New York Yankees

World Series titles: 27 (1923, 1927, 1938, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009)

World Series appearances: 40 (Losses in 1921, 1922, 1926, 1942, 1955, 1957, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1976, 1981, 2001, 2003)

All-time record: 10,619-8,015 (.570)

Playoff appearances: 58

All-time playoff record: 244-178 (.578)

Notable Players: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter

Who else could it be? The Yankees are the most successful franchise in MLB history, and it’s not exactly a secret.

Nobody comes close to the 27 championships the Pinstripes have compiled, nor to the 40 trips the team has taken to the World Series. The Yankees have been home to some of the most influential players and teams in the history of baseball, and the franchise transcends the sport itself – the intertwined “NY” has become a fashion staple around the world. This article isn’t about the biggest brands in baseball, but New York is what it is commercially because of what it has accomplished on the field.

The Yankees have produced several eras of utter dominance over Major League Baseball. They went to the World Series six times in the 1920s, triumphing in half of them. From 1936 through 1943, New York only missed one World Series. The Yankees swept every title between 1949 and 1953. The franchise experienced back-to-back World Series wins in 1961 and 1962 as well as in 1977 and 1978. Between 1996 and 2003, the Yankees advanced to all but two of those years’ ultimate series and took three-straight crowns from 1998 through 2000.

As I said, several eras of utter dominance.

They’re simply undeniable. You can hate them (and many do), you can make fun of them for currently being on a long drought by their standards (and many do), but you can’t pretend like they aren’t the sport’s pace-setter. The Yankees run away with the award for most successful franchise in the history of MLB.

2: St. Louis Cardinals

World Series titles: 11 (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)

World Series appearances: 19 (Losses in 1928, 1930, 1943, 1968, 1985, 1987, 2004, 2013)

All-time record: 10,361-9,822 (.513)

Playoff appearances: 32

All-time playoff record: 134-128 (.511)

Notable Players: Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Rogers Hornsby

St. Louis has seen the fourth-most World Series appearances and third-most playoff entrances of any franchise in the league, but most importantly, the second-most rings.

The Cardinals have collected 11 MLB championships in their illustrious history, last mastering the mountaintop in 2011. St. Louis held a stranglehold on the National League for much of the early 1900s – the team went to five World Series from 1926 to 1934 and made it to four in a five-season span in the 1940s. The franchise experienced periods of great success in the 1960s and 1980s, plus participated in four World Series from 2004 through 2013.

In rankings such as these, I prioritize championships above all else. In some worthwhile categories, other franchises have the Cardinals beat. But the Yankees are the only team to have declared themselves champions more than St. Louis, and that’s a pretty big deal.

This franchise has missed just 10 playoffs since 1996 and won the NL Central 12 times since then, too. The Cardinals are one of MLB’s most consistent outfits and have cemented themselves among the most successful franchises the league has to offer.

3: Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series titles: 7 (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988, 2020)

World Series appearances: 21 (Losses in 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1966, 1974, 1977, 1978, 2017, 2018)

All-time record: 11,253-9,955 (.531)

Playoff appearances: 36

All-time playoff record: 129-144 (.473)

Notable Players: Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers have held a ridiculous number of names throughout their long history, all back when the franchise was still playing in Brooklyn. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1957, they were the Atlantics (1884), Superbas (1899-1910), Robins (1914-1931), Grooms (1891-1895), Bridegrooms twice (1888-1890 and 1896-1898), Grays twice (1883 and 1885-1887), Trolley Dodgers (1911-1912), and Dodgers twice (1913 and 1932-1957). You can also call them seven-time World Series champions.

Those seven titles rank among the best for any franchise in the MLB – sixth-most, to be precise – and help the Dodgers earn inclusion into this list. But what has the Dodgers sitting at the No. 3 spot is how many times they have reached the ultimate series.

The 21 trips the Dodgers have made to the World Series is the second-most of any MLB franchise in history, and they’re fairly spread out, too. The 36 years that passed between appearances from 1988 and 2017 was the longest the franchise has ever waited between World Series experiences since first getting there in 1916, surpassing the 21-year gap that occurred between 1920 and 1941. It wasn’t until 1955 that the Dodgers finally got over the hump after failing in the World Series seven times in a row before, but that marked the first of four championships that they would win through 1965. The 1980s also bore two titles for the team, and Los Angeles last re-upped on its supremacy in 2020 in its third World Series presence in four seasons.

4: San Francisco Giants

World Series titles: 8 (1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954, 2010, 2012, 2014)

World Series appearances: 20 (Losses in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1923, 1924, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1962, 1989, 2002)

All-time record: 11,395-9,871 (.536)

Playoff appearances: 27

All-time playoff record: 100-93 (.518)

Notable Players: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Mel Ott

Founded in 1883 as the New York Gothams, this franchise has undergone some changes since then. For one, it dropped the Gothams moniker for the Giants name just one year later, and for two, it moved to the opposite end of the country in 1958.

Over the many seasons of Giants baseball, the franchise has racked up eight championships and 20 runs to the World Series. Those accomplishments are fairly spread out – it took a long time for this franchise to again replicate the level of success it experienced in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, reaching the World Series eight times between 1911 and 1937 and triumphing three times to take the cake.

After the 1930s, trips to the ultimate series thinned. Between 1938 and 2009, this franchise played in just five World Series and won only one. Then the 2010s happened, and San Francisco returned to the forefront of the sport. The Giants were baseball’s best in 2010, 2012, and 2014, cementing themselves among the most successful franchises in MLB history and snapping a title drought that lasted 55 years.

5: Boston Red Sox

World Series titles: 9 (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018)

World Series appearances: 13 (Losses in 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986)

All-time record: 9,816-9,112 (.519)

Playoff appearances: 25

All-time playoff record: 108-91 (.543)

Notable Players: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz

The Red Sox are a weird one. They famously experienced an absurdly long championship drought between 1919 and 2003 that finally ended with the remarkable 2004 run. Twenty years ago, Boston wouldn’t have sniffed the top five of the most successful MLB franchises as it rode an 85-year championship drought, but a 4-0 World Series record and a bunch of playoff appearances later, the Red Sox are now one of the league’s most-decorated clubs.

This was one of the premier teams in Major League Baseball in the 1910s. Boston picked up four championships, taking crowns in each of their trips to the World Series that decade. Then it sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and that aforementioned 85 years of futility began. Suffering through the “Curse of the Bambino,” Boston became one of MLB’s laughingstocks, comically condemning itself to more than eight championship-less decades, often in ways that tore Red Sox fans’ hearts to pieces, while the hated Yankees continued to conquer everyone and everything. That all changed in the mid-2000s, and since David Ortiz made some big hits to go along with plenty of other massive plays from that 2004 team, the Red Sox have represented something totally different.

Boston appeared in four World Series during the course of its drought. Its 25 playoff appearances – 18 since MLB expanded its postseason beyond two teams in 1969 – illustrate an organization that has been in the mix plenty throughout the many years of baseball. The Red Sox have seen some of the sport’s best come through their dugout, and their impact on the game cannot be dismissed. Neither can their success on the ball field.

Honorable Mentions: Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates

Before it was the Oakland Athletics, this franchise started as the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901. In 1955, it moved to Kansas City while keeping the same nickname, and it did the same in 1968 when it settled in Oakland, where it has remained since. The A’s have one of the best win percentages in the World Series among active MLB franchises, winning more than 64 percent of their turns under the brightest lights. In total, the Athletics have added nine crowns to their trophy case and been to the ultimate series 14 times, with the best periods in their history coming in the 1910s, 1970s, and 1980s. At this point, Oakland hasn’t won the World Series since 1989 or been there since 1990.

The Braves only came to Atlanta in 1966. Before that, they were in Milwaukee from 1953 through 1965, which isn’t even where they started – this franchise originally began in Boston in 1871 and operated under numerous names other than Braves, such as Doves, Rustlers, and Beaneaters. Most of the organization’s best years have happened in Georgia, though. While in Boston, this franchise attended and ascended in just one World Series, and it made it that far three times in Milwaukee, coming away with the title only in 1957. While in Atlanta, the Braves have won two World Series and played in six. The team’s relative lack of championships keeps it from entering the top five of the most successful MLB franchises in history, but 10 World Series appearances and 28 playoff showings, including a streak of 14 in a row from 1991 through 2005 are enough for an honorable mention. Atlanta might not be here without its 2021 title, though, which was their first since 1995.

Modern baseball fans don’t associate the Pirates with success, but they used to be one of the league’s top dogs. Pittsburgh has celebrated five World Series victories since the franchise’s inception in 1882 and has a fantastic 5-2 all-time series record in the sport’s ultimate event. The 1900s, 1920s, and 1970s were the best times for this franchise – the Pirates produced four titles and six World Series trips in those decades collectively. Players like Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell have called the Pirates their team. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Pirates haven’t quite lived up to their old standards for a while. The last time this franchise won it all was in 1979, which was also the last time it played in the season’s final series. But all those wins way back when, plus 17 playoff appearances and a host of some of the sport’s most influential athletes, is enough for the Pirates to earn an honorable mention on this list. But if Pittsburgh wants to stay much longer, it should probably try making more than three postseasons in 30 years.


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