Only Sox and Pinstripes – New York, Boston, Stratford

Making his Bat Flips and Nerds debut, it’s Les McCaughan. Who can be found on twitter @Lez_Mets, usually in despair over his out-of-lineup-order Mets.

After years of wondering if it ever could, should or would happen, not only is it happening but it’s Yankees @ Red Sox happening.

In June 2019 MLB will present their inaugural London Series, Major League Baseball has arguably given us its biggest rivalry to be played right here in the United Kingdom. Aside from having your own team playing in Stratford next year (in my case the Mets), we probably couldn’t have asked for a bigger commitment to London than what Rob Manfred, John Henry and the Steinbrenner’s presented to the media this past Tuesday. This is especially big for Boston, who from a competitive standpoint have given up two very important home dates to their biggest rival. All this news dropped just one day after PJ Conlon — a pitcher born in Belfast — made his Big League debut for the Mets in Cincinnati, the first player from that part of the world to appear in the Majors in over 70 years.

Hopefully if the London Series becomes a regular event, we won’t have to wait as long again. Maybe the next British or Irish player to hit the Majors could be someone who started playing right here in the United Kingdom or Ireland?

Those of us that enjoy baseball will be sure to try and get a ticket for London next year, the vast majority of spectators may be totally new to baseball and undoubtedly seeing their first live MLB game, so why should the UK sporting public even care?

First you will be seeing the best of the best plying their trade for two of the most iconic franchises in world sport, let alone baseball that goes back to the very beginnings of the American League. With the Red Sox representing the hard working down to earth folk of Boston, to the stark contrast of the bright lights, big city corporate Wall Street image of an unending pinstriped dynasty. Playing in a rivalry that has been anything from simmering to red hot in the last hundred plus years.

Boston dominated pre WW1, winning the very first World Series in 1903 over Pittsburgh before going on to win 4 more. The Red Sox looked likely to continue the domination, until the one event that would alter the destiny of both teams for the rest of the 20th Century. It happened when Boston would trade a certain George Herman ”Babe” Ruth to New York for £25,000 cash to help Red Sox owner Harry Frazee fund a Broadway Musical. Right there and then, the “Curse of the Bambino” began!

For the next 50 years the Yankees would go from Ruth to Lou Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle and dominate the baseball world, winning a record 27 World Series Championships. All the while the Boston Red Sox — even with players like the “Greatest Hitter that ever lived” Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Bobby Doerr — would go from one disaster to the next, from losing the 1975 Series to blowing 14 game lead over the Yankees in 1978.

Probably Boston’s biggest heartbreak came in 1986 when with just one out needed to win it all, Mookie Wilson of the Mets hit a dribbler up the first base line, only for the Sox First Baseman Bill Buckner to inexplicably let the ball get past him. This would ultimately lead to a Mets comeback and force a Game 7, which the Mets would eventually go on to win.

During this time it was mostly a Cold War between the two clubs, before things got really personal with the first head to head Playoff Series in 1999 and again in 2003. We witnessed the pretty unseemly — but weirdly funny — sight of Boston’s Pedro Martinez almost hip tossing Yankees bench coach, the late great Don Zimmer during a bench clearing brawl in Game 3. The series would eventually be capped off by an epic Game 7 walk off home run by current Yankee manager Aaron Boone, delivering what we now know to be one final stab at Red Sox Nation from the curse of Babe Ruth.

Just 12 months later in one dramatic Red October, Boston broke the curse the only way it seemed fitting. By becoming the first and only team in Postseason history to come back from trailing a Series 3-0 to win four straight including the final two games at Yankee Stadium. After winning the American League Pennant, the Red Sox would go on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals four straight and win their first World Series since 1918. Boston would ultimately go on to win two more, which means the Red Sox have more World Series this century than New York.

So that is the level and significance of Major League Baseball’s commitment to the London Series, it’s Liverpool v Manchester Utd, Arsenal v Spurs even England v Scotland, it’s all of that and it’s more. As Hall of Fame Manager Casey Stengel once said “You Can Look It Up”.

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