50 – that is the number of runs scored in two games played against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The brief but paramount series was played at London Stadium, the home of West Ham United F.C.
The first game had a combined 12 runs scored after only one inning, where almost 60,000 fans were in attendance over the last weekend in June.
The Yankees and Red Sox need no introduction for American fans and proved to be the perfect rivalry to show a fresh European audience what baseball is all about.
The Yankees have dominated baseball for the last century, as 27-time World Champions while their Boston rivals have recently had the upper hand by winning four titles in the past 15 years.
Some of the biggest names in sports history have played for these teams and there was no shortage of stardom present at the London Series.
Ex-Yankee legends such as Reggie “Mr October” Jackson and Alex Rodriguez were there to show support for both their team and the league that gave them everything, as well as the super fans like Oscar-Winning Director Spike Lee and past Mayor of New York City and current Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Michael Fiorentino, a journalist with NBC News London who covered the series, spoke with Nick Swisher, who won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009, about the series and what might transpire offensively. “C’mon man, we’re in London playing baseball? These guys are big and strong hitting homers like it’s no big deal” said Swisher in his usually upbeat enthusiasm.
Giuliani told NBC News that he expects British sports fans to learn how to gamble on baseball which would in-turn make the sport more popular. When asked who throws a better party, New York or London, the ex-New York City Mayor answered; ‘No one puts on a better show than New York.”
The Series gameplay proved very entertaining as 11 home runs between the two clubs provided a spectacle that fans in America don’t usually see.
Larry Elswit, a Boston resident and long-time Red Sox fan got a chance to travel to London to watch the game. When asked about the astounding offensively display, he commented, “I’m not sure whether it was the aerodynamics of the stadium, or maybe the pitcher’s mound was a bit low. But It was fitting for the festival-like atmosphere of the London Series.”
Larry turned a London vacation into a chance to see his beloved Red Sox in the London Series, an opportunity many American MLB fans will take for the future UK based MLB games.
Elswit describes a moment during the first game where the English broadcaster painted a tense picture, late in the 17-13 game. He exclaimed, “All of the marbles are in the middle of the table. I had no idea what he was saying while simultaneously knew exactly what he meant, it was something special,” Elswit remarked.
Christopher Mirabile, an American who worked and played for MLB Australian league told Verge Magazine introducing the rivalry of the Yankees and Red Sox was vital in jump-starting the popularity of the league in London.
“The story of baseball was an important inclusion to this presentation. Less of just a match and more so even an opportunity to educate and showcase the legacy of baseball and both these important franchises,” said Mirabile.
So what’s next for baseball in London, and Europe as a whole? What needs to happen for it to succeed and grow? Some believe a British born star in the MLB would be monumental, and maybe necessary, for London to take baseball as a sport of its own. But is it feasible?
“Difficult to say, talent doesn’t have a nationality,” says Michael Fiorentino, “I think it’s all about the youth level you need to get kids excited to watch and play at a young age.”
Mirabile told Verge that if a Cuban born player can go through everything they have to play in MLB than of course, a British born player could make that jump.
“The trouble is the outlets available to British youth are minimal,” says Mirabile “Without the introduction to the game at a younger age I believe it would be difficult to create the desire for someone to take themselves to the next level through the training it takes to become a pro ballplayer.”
Only time will tell what kind of longevity is in store for the MLB and the game of baseball as a whole in London, but perhaps this series was a positive first step in the right direction.
Baseball fans can only hope that the 2020 London Series between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals can have the same energy and playoff atmosphere as this year’s inaugural games.
So what is next after London? 2021 Paris? 2022 Rome? 2023 Berlin? Only time will tell what MLB’s big-picture plans are for Europe.