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MLB London Series Review

The New York Yankees swept the Boston Red Sox in a successful European trip for MLB, but where does it go from here?

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The New York Yankees swept the Boston Red Sox over two games in London that MLB will be able to call a success. Approximately 120,000 baseball fans attended the London Stadium over the weekend, with them seeing plenty of action. The first game was won by the Yankees by a score of 17-13, the second game saw a smaller score, with the Yankees winning 12-8.

If MLB were going to succeed in London then they needed a good first game to get the London Series up and running, that is exactly what it got with arguably the game of the season thus far. There’s a lot to say for a first game that broke record after record. As well as being the first MLB regular season game played in Europe, it was also:

  • The second highest scoring game in the 2,000 game history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry
  • The first time both sides scored 6 runs in the opening inning of a game since 1989
  • The third longest game in MLB history, clocking in at 4 hours, 42 minutes (three minutes behind the record)
  • The first time 16 pitchers have been used in a Yankees-Red Sox game
  • Highest regular season attendance since 2003
  • Third game since 1912 when both starting pitchers have been removed before the end of the first inning
  • The first time Freddy Mercury has won a sprint race against Henry VIII, Winston Churchill and the Loch Ness Monster (probably)

There were many concerns leading up to the two-game series as to whether MLB would be able to pull this off. For a start, the London Stadium was an awkward location to be hosting a baseball game, there was over double the foul ball territory of either Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, the distance to centre field was also a short 385 feet, much shorter than either of the visitors’ stadiums, the artificial turf was also something that is uncommon for American baseball fields. Attendance was also a worry; how many people would show up? Baseball has been having an attendance crisis in America recently and there was no reason to suggest this wouldn’t cross the pond with the two sides. However, all worries seemed to be unsubstantiated, the London Stadium’s short field and large foul ball territory lead to high scoring and unpredictable play and the stadium was sold out both days. There have been some worries that whilst the game was sold out, the British public were not as keen. Reportedly, most of the crowd on both days were from the States. Whether this is a problem or not depends on perspective, if the aim was to get a very large number of European fans through the door, then it could be seen as a failure. However, if the aim was to bring baseball to London and get a large audience, then it wasn’t. In my opinion, the latter is closer to reality, the only worry would be if London can continue to pull baseball fans from across the pond to games, one would assume that the right teams will do this, which might in turn, have more European fans attending.

So, where does baseball in London go from here? American sports have looked to London to prove that they can appeal to an international audience. The NFL has been in London since 2007 and now hosts four games per year in the capital. The NBA joined the London party in 2011, though the European game will be moved to Paris in 2020. MLB has proven its international appeal in the past with games in Mexico, Japan, and Australia among others, but breaking through in London shows potential success in Europe, this will be a big part of MLB’s hopes to further expand worldwide in the coming years. The World Series (the end of year series for the MLB title) was called such as it was hoped that MLB would be able to break out and have teams across the world compete for the title, is this the start of the realisation of that dream?

What we know is that MLB will return to the London Stadium next year, when the St. Louis Cardinals play against the Chicago Cubs, both teams have a strong history and large fanbases, so MLB will be hoping that this year’s series wasn’t a fluke and that they can finally see a breakthrough on yet another continent.

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