The American League started its play in time for the 1901 season. The league consisted of 8 teams, the Boston Americans, Cleveland Blues, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators. Because of the fact nobody knew that this league would last, it was referred to as the "junior circuit." Though there was some very good players and well knowns that chose to play in the new league, the majority of the stars played in the National League. Because of those and other reasons, it is understood why there was no World Series played until 1903. And even with that, the sentiment was that the World Series would be just an exhibition, as the National League, mainly the Giants and Reds, thought of themselves as the superior and only "major league."
The first American League team to take home the Pennant was the Chicago White Sox, managed by Clark Griffith. Griffith was still an active pitcher and went 24-7, 2.69 leading the pitching staff. Of course, Griffith would later become pitcher and manager for the New York Highlanders, then manager and later owner of the Washington Senators. An overall balanced attack allowed them to score 819 runs and give up 631. The White Sox, who were 83-53, held off the Boston team by 4 games. The Tigers finished 8.5 games back, with the Athletics 9 and the Orioles finishing 13.5 games out but still 3 games over .500. The Senators, Blues and Brewers rounded out the league as each team finished well under .500 and over 20 games back.
Outside of Griffith, the most notable White Sox player was OF Dummy Hoy- who by the way, belongs in Baseball's Hall of Fame. Hoy hit .294, 2, 60 with 27 SB, 112 RS, 28 2B and 11 3B at age 39. The most prominent position players for the White Sox were 2B Sam Mertes and 3B Fred Hartman. Mertes, who would later star for the NL's New York Giants, hit .297, 5, 98 with 47 SB, 16 2B, 17 3B and 94 RS. Hartman had one of his only full, successful seasons as he hit .309, 3, 89 with 31 SB and 13 3Bs. Ironically, Hartman played for the Giants in 1897 and 1898 after a season with the St Louis Browns of the NL. He was 37 and after another season in St Louis, this time with the team known as the Cardinals, he was done playing MLB.
Going forward and working backwards, it is easy to see how dominant the Pittsburgh Pirates were. The NL Champions of 1902 and 1903 also won the Pennant in 1901. OF/ manager Fred Clarke and SS/ OF Honus Wagner. It was Wagner who had one of his best seasons, hitting .353, 6, 126 with 101 RS, 194 hits, 37 2B and 11 3B. he stole 49 bases and OPSed .911. Young 3B Tommy Leach was just breaking in, so the performances of OF Ginger Beaumont (.332, 8, 72, 120 RS, 185 hits) and 1B Kitty Bransfield (.295, 0, 91. 16 3B) led paced the team after Wagner.
The Pirates held off the Philadelphia Phillies by 7.5 games and the Brooklyn Superbas by 9.5 games. The team would improve drastically over the next couple seasons, with the 1902 team being much superior. The Pirates won 90 games in 1901, with 103 wins in 1902 and another 91 in 1903.
I'd give the Pirates the advantage in the pitching department as they possessed a strong starting staff, led by Deacon Phillippe, Jack Chesbro and Jesse Tannehill. Ed Doheny came over from the Giants. Outside of Griffith and Roy Patterson (20-15, 3.37), the White Sox lacked the depth, though Jimmy Callahan went 15-8, 2.42 in 22 starts. Offensively, the White Sox were a slightly better offensive team, and like I said before, the Pirates offense got better in 1902 and 1903, as they won two more NL Pennants.
This would have been the closest World Series out of the three fictitious ones I have previewed. This would have come down to the Pirates pitching against the White Sox hitters. In a 9 game series, I think this could have gone the distance. Saying that would make the series a pick-em. I take the Pirates, 5 games to 4. This series set up a balanced matchup against two even teams. It would have been a perfect first World Series and if it happened, there would have never been a dispute over which league was superior. Yes, the NL was referred to as the senior circuit and the AL as the junior circuit, but a well played first World Series would have set the tone. Going back in time, if we had a well played 1901 series, the Pirates winning back to back series and the AL Champion Americans winning in 1903, the Giants likely never play the power trip and there is a World Series played in 1904.