Baseball is very much riding along the coattails of the NFL in this country, following a surge in popularity in the UK in recent years.
In June, St Louis Cardinals will play the Chicago Cubs at the London Stadium in a two-game series in Stratford.
The MLB London series has become a regular fixture on the London sporting calendar since its launch in 2019, when the New York Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox, in the first official MLB game in Europe.
Now it’s the turn of the Cardinals and the Cubs who have 11 and three World Series Championships respectively. The two will compete at the former Olympic Stadium which will transform into an authentic ballpark.
This isn’t just any old matchup either, the Cardinals vs Cubs is a 130-year-old rivalry owing to the proximity of the two cities and the fact they are divisional rivals in the National League Central.
The division was created in 1994, by moving two teams from the National League West (the Cincinnati Reds and the Houston Astros) and three teams from the National League East (the Chicago Cubs, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the St. Louis Cardinals).
Since then the Cardinals have dominated, winning 12 of the last 26 division championships, plus three wild card wins. The Cubs have the second most division championships with six, as well as three wild card wins.
However, the ultimate prize, i.e. the World Series Championships, was claimed by the Houston Astros in 2022 (now of the American League West), defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 in a best-of-seven series.
The 2023 regular season begins on March 30 and both the Cardinals and the Cubs will be hoping to reach the postseason. Last year only the Cardinals made it to the playoffs, losing in the wild card round to eventual runners-up the Philadelphia Phillies.
Both teams boast some of the league’s best players including third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (both Cardinals) and outfielder Ian Happ (Cubs), all of whom were selected for the 2022 All-Star Game.
For context, Nolan Arenado of the Cardinals is the 9th best player on the MLB The Show video game (baseball’s equivalent to FIFA) with a 95 overall rating.
All the ingredients are there for a fiery matchup between two of baseball’s most respected teams. The Cardinals are second only to the New York Yankees with 11 World Series titles, their last coming in 2011 against the Texas Rangers.
As for the Chicago Cubs their last World Series title came in 2016, a historic occasion which saw the ‘North Siders’ end their 108-year World Series drought.
Although still in its infancy, the London Series is already starting to make its own history. In 2019, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox contested a two-game series and the first regular season game ever to be played in Europe. The Yankees won the first game 17–13, and the second 12–8. Such was the success of that game, the partnership has been extended to 2025 so you can expect more MLB action in Europe in the years to come.
Ahead of the series, the London Stadium will have a new baseball field overlay fitted onto the existing field and running track, as it did in 2019, with a seating configuration that will emulate the intimate feel of a classic American ballpark.
Fans can also expect the very best of baseball cuisine, with dishes inspired by the home cities of the two clubs – St. Louis and Chicago.
Special guests and musical entertainment are yet to be announced but in 2019, the ceremonial first pitches were thrown by participants of the Invictus Games with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in attendance.
We suspect they won’t be returning for this year’s iteration, which is a shame because they are going to miss one hell of a show. Be sure to avoid disappointment and book your seats now.
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