When the Red Sox and the Yankees take the field at London Stadium it will not be the first time a baseball team from Boston competes across the pond. In 1874, the Boston Red Stockings and the Athletic Club of Philadelphia traveled to the United Kingdom to tour around the country and play the first professional baseball games outside of the United States.
According to the New England Historical Society, “The baseball teams were also scheduled to play an exhibition of cricket against local cricket clubs. The whole trip had been engineered by Red Stockings manager Harry Wright, whose father was a cricket player. Harry played both sports well, and gave his teammates cricket lessons on the trip overseas on the ocean liner.”
Red Stockings pitcher and future sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding was sent to England and arrived on January 17 to negotiate the tour with local cricket clubs. He was received well by the Marylebone and Surrey Cricket Clubs, and scheduled baseball games to be played at their grounds between Philadelphia and Boston, and cricket games to be played against them. Eric Miklich notes that “During his time in England he organized the first game of baseball played in England on February 27, 1874. (Secretary of Surrey CC Charles) Allcock pitched for one side and Spalding the other with Alcock’s nine gaining a victory in the six-inning game.” The original tour plans also included stops in Scotland and Paris.
The teams arrive on July 27, 1874. They played in Liverpool, Manchester, London, and finished in Dublin Ireland before arriving back in Philadelphia on September 9. Because of small crowds, they did not go to Scotland and Paris as planned. Highlights of the trip included a 24-7 Red Stockings victory in front of 5,000 spectators at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, and the Americans going undefeated in cricket against their English counterparts.
The tour was not a financial success, and the Brits “judged the sport was inferior to cricket.” As the game continued to grow in America, it remained an afterthought in the UK, as cricket did in the US.
While we can’t count on seeing Mookie Betts or Aaron Judge picking up a wicket this weekend, it is great that after 145 years American baseball teams are returning to the game’s ancestral home to compete in a regular season game.
Eric Miklich, “1874 World Baseball Tour”, 19c Baseball, http://www.19cbaseball.com/tours-1874-world-base-ball-tour.html
“Boston Red Stockings in the UK: In 1874 It Wasn’t Just Cricket”, New England Historical Society, http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/boston-red-stockings-uk-1874-just-wasnt-cricket/
John Bauer, “Summer 1874: New Game in the Old Country: U.S. teams tour England,” SABR, https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/summer-1874-new-game-old-country-us-teams-tour-england