Origin of Major League Baseball Magic Number
Virtually every day of the final few weeks of a Major League Baseball season you hear and see the "magic number" teams need to clinch their respective divisions. I've been scratching my bald head trying to figure out why it isn't simply called the clinching number for years.
What is magic about it? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has the first definition of magic number as: "One of a set of numbers for which an atomic nucleus exhibits a high degree of stability when either the proton or neutron count is equal to the number."
The second definition talks about the use of the term in baseball.
Merriam-Webster noted the first use of the term in baseball was in 1947. A little more research finds the Washington Post first used the phrase in a article that year talking about the race between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
"The Yankees reduced the magic number to 4. That is a combination of games the Yankees must win or Red Sox must lose in order to insure the flag for the Yankees."
The Merriam-Webster definition of magic is: "The use of means (charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces."
In the baseball use of the term there is nothing supernatural about what happens for a team to clinch. It's a simple formula. No magic involved whatsoever.
For the record the Clinch Number for the Minnesota Twins is now 3. The Yankees and Houston Astros have clinched their divisions. Oakland has the first wild card position currently with a two game lead over Tampa Bay and Cleveland, tied for the second wild card spot.
In the National League the Dodgers clinched early. The Braves have clinched. The Cardinals clinch number is 4 with a 3 game lead over the Brewers. The Nationals and Brewers are in the wild card positions.