Major League Baseball’s (MLB) second London Series of 2019 has come to a close. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals won Game 2 of the London Series, 7-5, on Saturday (April 26). The Cubs won the first game 9-1.
The total attendance for Games 1 and 2 at the home of West Ham United in the English Professional Soccer Premier League (EPL) was 110,227 (an average of 55,114). However, the majority of these fans were Americans living in the United Kingdom. This is a testament to the lack of interest in MLB in the UK.
Baseball has always been a fringe sport in the UK. England’s upset victory over Colombia in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March didn’t exactly spark national interest. Most of the players who competed as part of Team GB in the tournament were American minor leaguers with British parents.
Baseball was played in England in the 1930s but quickly faded. John Moores, who had made a fortune in soccer betting (pools), created a few baseball teams and organized competitions so that pools customers could bet during the summer months when soccer was not in session, but the sport was not very popular.
Since the 1980s, British terrestrial broadcasters Channel 4 and Channel 5 have been showing MLB games, but interest in the sport hasn’t grown significantly. Even the baseball leagues organized by the English Baseball Federation are “their own league,” except in the southeastern part of the country, which is dominated by Americans.
Nevertheless, MLB considers the U.K. an important outpost for baseball’s European expansion. Essentially, the organization believes it can build interest in baseball among Americans living in the UK.
But there’s an even more important reason. Baseball, the national sport of the United States, has its origins in England. When the inaugural London Series took place four years ago, the MLB website featured an interesting article. The headline read, “Baseball returns home with the London Series,” a rather shocking declaration given that the “home of baseball” has always been the United States.
The article was based on research by American author David Block. In his book Pastime Lost, Block provided newspaper accounts of the British Crown Prince and Earl of Middlesex playing baseball at Walton-on-Thames in 1749. He also discovered that the phrase “baseball” appeared in a British children’s book, A Little Pretty Pocket-book, published in 1744.
Importantly, Block also found that Jane Austen, the English novelist best known for her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, referenced “baseball” in her novel Northanger Abbey. Block emphasized that the sport of baseball was popular in England as early as the 18th century, and that baseball has its origins there.
But for a long time, baseball was considered an American invention. And for good reason. For economic reasons, the British wanted the South to win the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. They needed the cheap cotton produced in the American South through the labor of black slaves.
At the time, baseball was slowly developing in the northern United States, largely due to immigrants from the British colony of Ireland. Because of this, there was a lot of anti-British sentiment in the North, which had a large Irish-American population.
This was one reason for the decline of cricket, a British sport, in the United States after the Civil War. Baseball teams in the northern United States lured players from cricket teams with “money” to join their teams. Naturally, cricket teams disappeared one by one due to lack of players.
Then, in 1905, Albert Spalding, a former baseball player, administrator, and sporting goods company owner, began a project to find the origins of baseball. In 1907, he concluded that General Abner Doubleday, a Civil War hero, was the founder of the game, and he declared Cooperstown, New York, a town close to Doubleday’s birthplace, as the game’s shrine. This is how the Baseball Hall of Fame came to be located in Cooperstown.
However, American historians later pointed out that General Doubleday had nothing to do with baseball, and that a project to find the origins of baseball, led by Spaulding, found no evidence that Doubleday even played the game.
The reason baseball’s origins became such a “fabricated myth” was due to American patriotism. Americans had a hard time accepting that baseball, which was considered the most American sport of the time, had its origins in England, and Spaulding tapped into that sentiment better than anyone.
But in the 21st century, MLB needs Britain’s help more than ever to offset the challenges of a rapidly shrinking domestic baseball market. No longer viewing baseball as an American invention, the organization has shifted to the position that it should be a British invention and an American rediscovery. In effect, we’ve given up on being a “baseball nation. So in the lead-up to the inaugural London Series in 2019, MLB emphasized the British and American baseball connections.카지노
Chief among them were two Englishmen, Henry Chadwick and Harry Wright. Chadwick, a prominent cricket journalist who later turned to baseball, invented the box score, which played a key role in baseball’s development as a sport of record in its early days. Wright also founded the Cincinnati Reds (now the Reds) in 1869, the first professional baseball team.
The problem was that baseball hadn’t yet captured the hearts and minds of the British. When American professional baseball players came to London in 1889, the then Prince of Wales, who would later become Edward VII, said, “Baseball is an interesting and fine game, but cricket is superior to it.”
Unlike in 1889, Britons today are more inclined to think that baseball is a much more dynamic game than cricket. However, despite the success of the two London series, baseball remains an “American sport” for the British.