The biggest rivalry in American sports will be a long way from home this weekend, when reigning World Series champions the Boston Red Sox face the New York Yankees over two games in London.
It’s the first time regular-season Major League Baseball (MLB) games will be played in Europe, with the London 2012 Olympic Stadium the chosen venue.
It’s almost a century since the famous Red Sox, Yankees rivalry began with “The Curse of the Bambino,” when one of the sport’s greatest ever players Babe Ruth was traded from Boston to New York.
Now, however, these two fabled teams have brought their story to the U.K., thanks to the mutual backing of their respective owners.
“It began with interest at the top, Hal Steinbrenner and John Henry are actually friends. They’ve been talking for a number of years about the possibility of bringing an event here,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred exclusively told CNBC.
“Obviously John Henry is involved in soccer in the U.K., but it was it was the confluence of their interest and Major League Baseball’s desire to make a splash in Europe that really brought the event together.”
The Olympic Stadium, now known as the London Stadium, is used to having multiple functions. It’s usually the permanent home of English Premier League soccer team West Ham United, but it hosted the 2017 World Athletics Championships and matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“We have been looking for an opportunity to make a big move into Europe and London had a facility that we thought we could turn into a Major League-quality ballpark,” said Manfred.
“You see we’ve done a pretty good job with that.”
The entire playing surface, which is usually either grass or a running track has been replaced with specially-imported artificial grass and even the dirt used to mark out the diamond has come from the U.S.
“I think the thing we learned from both the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) experience is that London is a great sporting city. It’s a city that loves a big event and we thought if we were going to take two of our most iconic franchises somewhere, London seemed like a good choice,” Manfred added.
More than 70% of tickets for the London Series have been sold to people living in Britain, with Manfred excited the sports core fans were caring enough to travel from America, and that there was such a large percentage of new fans keen to experience baseball first hand.