MLB London Series
Official program cover
|Date||June 29, 2019EDT / 18:10 BST (Saturday), 10:10 a.m. EDT / 15:10 BST (Sunday)– June 30, 2019 , 1:10 p.m.|
|City||London, United Kingdom|
|Umpires||Dana DeMuth (crew chief), Ángel Hernández, Ed Hickox, Carlos Torres|
BBC BT Sport
English: Fox (Saturday)
Spanish: Fox Deportes (Saturday)
ESPN Deportes (Sunday)
|TV announcers||United Kingdom:|
|Radio||English: ESPN, Boston Red Sox Radio Network, WFAN (AM)|
The MLB London Series is a two-year arrangement for Major League Baseball (MLB) to play a total of four regular season games at London Stadium in London, United Kingdom, in 2019 and 2020. Sponsored by Mitel, it was branded as Mitel & MLB Present London Series 2019. These were the first MLB games ever played in Europe.
The first games were played on June 29–30, 2019, with the Boston Red Sox hosting two games against the New York Yankees. The second set of games are scheduled for June 13–14, 2020, when the St. Louis Cardinals will host two games against the Chicago Cubs.
On May 8, 2018, MLB announced a two-year agreement to hold baseball games at London Stadium during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The inaugural series was played between the Red Sox and Yankees, longtime divisional rivals.
Outside of the contiguous United States and Canada, MLB has previously held regular season games in Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and has held spring training games in China, but has never held any games in Europe. The National Football League has similarly held regular-season games in London—primarily at Wembley Stadium—under the banner of the NFL London Games. The NFL has developed a large fanbase in the United Kingdom, and as of 2018, the games at Wembley had attracted an average attendance of 85,031. The NBA has similarly held games in London as part of its Global Games series.
Kelhem Salter, MLB's director of growth and strategy in the EMEA region, noted that Europe was a "key growth market" for the league, and that Londoners were "big event-goers" and frequently sell-out events held there. Unlike the other countries where MLB has held international games, baseball is not as popular and established in the United Kingdom. Salter explained that the league wanted to differentiate its efforts in London from those of other leagues, by emphasizing a "connection to culture and the culture of the specific cities that our teams represent" to engage with new fans. In May 2018, the league began a year-long cultural program entitled "The 108" (referring to the number of stitches on a standard baseball) to promote the London games, encompassing a series of zines profiling MLB teams, as well as "The 108 Sessions" — a series of live concert events at local venues featuring acts representing the teams' cities. The campaign is designed to "build a genuine dialogue and relationship with cultural scenes that reflect those of the MLB home cities."
The inaugural series was played between the Red Sox and Yankees, longtime divisional rivals, who had expressed specific interest in participating in the London games. Salter noted that the Yankees and Red Sox are among MLB's most iconic teams, and contrasted the NFL's reluctance to send its high-profile teams to London, as they would be too disruptive to their lucrative and comparatively limited schedules (with a 16-game regular season in comparison to MLB's 162-game regular season). Via their parent company Fenway Sports Group, the Red Sox are also co-owned with Premier League club Liverpool F.C.
|Boston Red Sox roster|
|New York Yankees roster|
Locating a venue with the correct dimensions required for a baseball field was difficult, especially as the majority of stadiums in the London region are primarily designed for soccer. MLB officials had evaluated multiple options (including cricket fields such as The Oval), before finalizing London Stadium as the site. The facility was originally constructed for the 2012 Summer Olympics; in late-2015, it was reported that MLB officials had measured the stadium's dimensions and considered it potentially suitable for baseball, and had negotiated the possibility of holding games there.
MLB developed a plan to adapt London Stadium for the games to make it resemble an MLB ballpark, via installation of a new baseball field as an overlay on top of the stadium's existing running track and soccer pitch, with a seating configuration to emulate the more "intimate" layout and fan experiences of MLB ballparks. Materials to construct the playing surface include approximately 142,000 square feet (13,200 m2) of FieldTurf, and clay for the pitcher's mound and home plate area sourced from Pennsylvania. As the facility's locker rooms are smaller and suited towards soccer, larger, MLB-style clubhouses were built within the stadium. Dimensions from home plate are 330 feet (100.6 m) to the foul poles and 385 feet (posted as 117.4 m) to center field, with a 16-foot (4.9 m) fence. The dimensions have been described as being potentially hitter-friendly. The two points in left center and right center where the temporary fences join the wall in center field area are slightly closer than center, marked as 382 feet (116.4 m). As the roof overhangs the home plate area, there is a ground rule that balls hitting the roof are considered dead.
On April 29, 2019, it was announced that ProgrammeMaster, a London-based sports publisher, had secured the rights to produce the official gameday programme. On May 24, 2019, it went on sale online, priced at £10.
In the United States, television rights for the series were split between Fox and ESPN respectively, with both games called by their lead commentary teams (led by Joe Buck and Matt Vasgersian, respectively). The first game aired as part of the afternoon (U.S. time) Fox Saturday Baseball, and the second aired in the morning.
In November 2018, it was reported that Major League Baseball was nearing a deal with the BBC to broadcast the two games, with a broadcasting agreement similar to that of the NFL's partnership with the broadcaster. The league currently has a television rights deal with BT Sport, most recently-renewed through 2021 to cover the London games. In May 2019, the BBC acquired digital rights to the London games for 2019 and 2020, with plans for a free-to-air television broadcast on the inaugural game. The two games were streamed live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.
Entertainment at the 2019 games included: the grounds crew performing "Y.M.C.A.", as is done at Yankee Stadium; a "Sweet Caroline" sing-along, as is done at Fenway Park; and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. "New York, New York", which is played after every game at Yankee Stadium, was heard after both Yankee wins, despite the games being considered home games for the Red Sox. Fans voted for Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, King Henry VIII, and the Loch Ness Monster to be the entrants in the mascot races. "The Freeze", a spandex-clad sprinter who races fans at Atlanta Braves games, also appeared.
At the June 29 game, the national anthems of both the United States of America and the United Kingdom were performed by The Kingdom Choir; the ceremonial first pitches were thrown by participants of the Invictus Games with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in attendance; the mascot race was won by Freddy Mercury; and The Freeze lost to a fan in their footrace.
|Year||Date||Away team||Score||Home team||City||Stadium||Attendance|
|2019||June 29||New York Yankees||17–13||Boston Red Sox||London||London Stadium||59,659|
|June 30||New York Yankees||12–8||Boston Red Sox||59,059|
|2020||June 13||Chicago Cubs||St. Louis Cardinals|
|June 14||Chicago Cubs||St. Louis Cardinals|
Both teams wore their home (white) jerseys in game one, in order for the Yankees to appear in their well-known pinstripes, despite being the visiting team. The Red Sox wore their home red alternate jerseys in game two, with the Yankees again wearing their famous pinstripes. In late June, MLB announced that both teams would be allowed to have 26 active players on their rosters during the series (one more than MLB normally allows), with the extra man being a position player. Both teams were also allowed to have 28 players travel to London, in case a roster move (such as due to injury) was required.
At 4 hours 42 minutes, the game was only three minutes shorter than the longest nine-inning game in MLB history (August 18, 2006, also between the Red Sox and Yankees). The 30 total runs scored were the second-most ever in a game between these two teams (31 were scored on August 21, 2009, a 20–11 New York win). The attendance of 59,659 was the most at an MLB game since September 28, 2003, when a crowd of 60,988 at Qualcomm Stadium saw the San Diego Padres lose to the visiting Colorado Rockies.
|WP: Chad Green (2–2) LP: Steven Wright (0–1)|
NYY: Hicks (6), Gardner (12), Judge (7)
BOS: Chavis 2 (14), Bradley Jr. (9)
Notes: Game duration 4:42
Boston had three first-inning home runs, the first time the team accomplished that feat since August 14, 1979. New York came from behind to take an 11–4 lead in the seventh inning, when they sent 14 batters to the plate. An eighth-inning homer by Didi Gregorius extended the Yankees' record of consecutive games with a home run to 31. The 50 total runs scored in the two-game series were the most ever in consecutive games between the Yankees and Red Sox.
|WP: Adam Ottavino (3–2) LP: Marcus Walden (6–1)|
NYY: Gregorius (3)
BOS: Bogaerts (16), Martinez (18), Vázquez (11)
Notes: Game duration 4:24
- MLB China Series
- MLB Japan Opening Series 2008
- MLB Japan All-Star Series
- MLB Taiwan All-Star Series
- NFL International Series
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