Four years after the first London Series, “America’s pastime” has returned to Britain with another MLB rivalry. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals crossed the Atlantic after the COVID-19 outbreak delayed their 2020 meeting. The Midwest rivals split the two-game series in front of the two highest crowds of the season. MLB’s European expansion continued in sunny Stratford with more than 110,000 fans over two days. Chicago and St. Louis, 334 miles apart on Route 66, were business rivals before becoming sporting rivals for more than 130 years. ‘I’d rather fly across an ocean than go to St Louis’ T-shirts worn by Cubs fans in their first international game. Both teams have lost this season, but a winning trip to London may have given them the boost they needed to earn a wildcard in the play-off. West Ham’s home ground became America’s largest baseball stadium in 18 days.
On Saturday, 54,662 American tourists, expatriates and British supporters gathered, and 55,565 for the second game. James Anderson and Nathan Lyon threw the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday as the Ashes continued in London on Wednesday. It’s not simple. 50 Cent and Conor McGregor failed. Anderson said his daughter showed him a video of the 10 worst ceremonial pitches while traveling from Manchester. “It didn’t fill me with confidence,” laughed the England bowler. I am ill-prepared. I’m anxious.” Australian off-spinner Lyon believed he would be like 50 Cent. They needn’t have worried. Both attempts went over the plate.
Anderson commented, “I’m absolutely abuzz with this”, when he joined the BBC commentary. “There was definitely adrenaline there.” On Sunday, World Series winners Dexter Fowler and Albert Pujols signed “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the seventh inning, as St. Louis fan John Goodman led the tradition. Bill Murray, another Cubs fan, waved to fans and threw his cap into the crowd on Saturday. Saturday’s game was lopsided, unlike London’s opener, which ended 17-13. Chicago’s Ian Happ was “very aware” the walls had moved 7 feet starting in 2019, when the Yankees and Red Sox scored 50 points in two games. No problem. He hit the first home run of the game, clearing the 16-foot fence 392 feet from the plate, then another on his next at bat.
The Cubs won 9-1 with a two-run homer from Dansby Swanson. St. Louis, last in the National League Central, faced a tough second game against the Cubs’ Marcus Stroman. Cubs coach David Ross encouraged British fans to “come and see the ‘Stro’ Show, it’s going to be fun”. He thrives in the spotlight. Ross continued, “He’s going to be a big star on the stage.” E20 was expected to be hot and tickets started at £59. Sunday was warmer than Saturday. Chicago and Stroman started hot, leading 4-0 after one inning. St. Louis came back in the lead 7-4, with Stroman starting in the fourth inning due to a blister on the index finger of his throwing hand. Willson Contreras hit four against his previous team as the Cardinals won 7-5.