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Volume 26 No. 62
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MLB London Series Deemed A Success, With Pair Of Sellouts

London Stadium provided surprisingly engaged crowds for MLB's first-ever games played in Europe
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Yankees swept the Red Sox in MLB's inaugural London Series over the weekend, and both games at London Stadium "were sellouts, with Saturday's attendance of 59,659 the highest for a regular-season MLB game" since '03, according to James Gheerbrant of the LONDON TIMES. Players and managers were "unanimous in their praise for the occasion." Yankees SS Didi Gregorius said, "The atmosphere was crazy. It was like a soccer match, but for baseball" (LONDON TIMES, 7/1). Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the London Series was "great for baseball" and the "atmosphere was amazing." Cora: "What we witnessed here was great. The atmosphere, the passion. It was fun. I hope it happens more than twice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/1). Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, "To see the reaction from the venue, the energy in the building was non-stop, both days. It never let up." In London, Ben Coles writes the weekend was "unquestionably a successful debut, with the 100,000-plus fans in attendance all thoroughly entertained" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/1). ESPN.com's Coley Harvey wrote the London Series "accomplished exactly what baseball wanted" (ESPN.com, 6/30). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote MLB "will be happy with the result for the first-ever baseball game played in Europe" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/30). Yankees CF Brett Gardner: “Beautiful venue, the fans are great, and it's been a lot of fun” (“GMA,” ABC, 6/30).

CROWD CONTROL: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote the crowd on Saturday was "boisterous the entire game" (USATODAY.com, 6/29). In N.Y., Joel Sherman noted fans "brought enthusiasm, balanced cheering and endurance" (N.Y. POST, 6/30). In Boston, Peter Abraham wrote Saturday's crowd "cheered at the appropriate times, sang along to 'Sweet Caroline' and hung in there until the seventh inning" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). In London, Jack Rathborn wrote London Stadium provided a "surprisingly engaged crowd, stuffed with hardcore fans." A "cacophony of noise greeted every hit." Those in attendance "endured the baking conditions" of Saturday's "marathon shoot-out, even belting out 'Take me out to the ball game,' confirming baseball's ascension to sports fanatics in London and beyond" (London INDEPENDENT, 6/30). ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian said, “It was a lot of fun to be here, to watch and see how the crowd reacted to the game because it’s a brand new sport for the locals in most cases” (“Yankees-Red Sox,” ESPN, 6/30). Fox' Joe Buck: "Any sense that this is a stadium filled with people that know nothing about the game of baseball is erroneous. ... I get the sense that there are a lot more baseball fans here than people thought would be here" (“Yankees-Red Sox,” Fox, 6/29). On Long Island, Erik Boland noted the crowd was "about 60-40 Boston to New York fans" (NEWSDAY, 6/30). Concession stands "ran out of bottled water, hot dogs and cheese for nachos by the third inning." Souvenir stands "closed by the eighth" (ESPN.com, 6/29).

THE BEST DEFENSE? In Boston, Julian McWilliams noted Saturday's game took four hours and 42 minutes to play and "featured a 58-minute first inning, with neither starter surviving the inning." The game, which the Yankees eventually won 17-13, had a "combined 14 relievers" (BOSTONGLOBE.com, 6/30). In N.Y., James Wagner wrote the crowd at Saturday's game was "treated to an extreme version of contemporary baseball: a long game with a steady stream of pitchers and home runs" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond writes the London Series "delivered a bizarre, supercharged interpretation of baseball that pulverized the British capital with more offense than any soccer pitch has ever seen and moved faster than cricket, but not by much." The Yankees and Red Sox "engaged in something best described as arcade baseball" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/1). The N.Y. TIMES' James Wagner writes the series "featured over nine hours of baseball, 50 runs and 65 hits -- modern baseball pushed to its outer limits" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/1). NBC’s Willie Geist said Game 1 was "not a game for anyone who loves a good pitching duel" (“Sunday Today with Willie Geist,” NBC, 6/30). ESPN’s Jeff Passan: "We showed them 2019 baseball. This is the year of the home run." ESPN’s Ryan Howard said, “For the fans in London, it was entertaining. For us here in America who know and have been around the game, we understand that's not prototypical baseball" (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 6/30).

MORE HYPE, PLEASE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Diamond noted the scene around London over the weekend "offered little indication of baseball's presence, with plenty of native Londoners on the streets claiming no knowledge of the games' existence at all." But a "degree of ignorance doesn't necessarily mean a lack of overall interest" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/1). Some fans said that the games were "not marketed much around London." But The N.Y. TIMES' Wagner wrote despite "some quirks, the two-game Yankees-Red Sox series in London made its mark." MLB officials said that 70% of the tickets were bought within the U.K. and 20% in the U.S. But fans said that the stands "felt like a 50-50 split with the British and American fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/1). In N.Y., Kristie Ackert wrote London Stadium was "split between curious Londoners and passionate American fans who made the trip across the pond" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). As late as 5:00pm local time on Saturday, one hour before game time, StubHub was "selling a pair of tickets as low" as $82 each (BOSTON HERALD, 6/30).

ROYAL TREATMENT: Saturday's pregame ceremony featured Prince Harry and his wife, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, "on the field for the ceremonial first pitch." In Boston, Julian McWilliams wrote London Stadium was "filled and it had the makings of a playoff atmosphere" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). The AP's Gregory Katz noted Harry and Meghan were joined on the field by 10 participants in the Invictus Games, an "international project started by Harry to give wounded military men and women a chance to compete." Harry "did not address the crowd" or "risk throwing the first pitch" (AP, 6/29). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Ackert wrote Saturday's "pregame was grand" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30).