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On June 29 and 30, 2019, a new era dawned for baseball — in London.

The first Major League rivalry games, featuring the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the 2018 World Series winners, took place during London Series 19 at London Stadium in the East End.

The number 19 represents 2019.

Tickets went on sale late last year. They were incredibly expensive, starting at over £100 apiece. Not surprisingly, we decided to watch it from home:

London Stadium was built for the capital’s 2012 Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies took place there. For the games themselves, it was the athletics stadium, the scene of so many marvellous medal-winning achievements for both Olympians and Paralympians.

Today, the stadium is West Ham United’s home ground.

A lot of hard work by thousands of men and women behind the scenes to temporarily transform a football (soccer) pitch into a baseball field. This was also an international effort. The turf came from France. Other parts of the field came from Canada. The various elements can, everyone hopes, be stored away for next summer’s London Series.

This is what the stadium looked like:

The venue attracted fans from all over Europe — and the United States:

The stadium was nearly filled to capacity — 60,000 — on both days. It was a joy to watch at home:

Despite the breathtaking stadium, its design and location had a strange effect for batters, pitchers and those in the field. Foul territory was double that of a normal ballpark. There was a certain drag on the balls once in air. This produced a lot of home runs, pitches that didn’t go quite to plan and a lot more running by those in the outfield. The commentators said that scientists attended both games to study exactly why this was happening, as the drag is much different to the usual.

The sunlight was also a major problem. The stadium had a huge black screen on the wall behind second base. That was so the batter could see an aiming point. Yet, as the commentators showed us on both days of play, from certain angles, the sun rendered that white, too.

On Saturday, the first game opened with the national anthems of both the UK and the US:

Then, it was time to play ball!

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex — Prince Harry and Meghan — threw the first pitch. They’re avowed Yankees fans, as you can probably tell from their attire:

This was the lineup:

Incredibly, at the end of the first inning, the score was 6-6!

Saturday’s final score was an unusual 17-13. The Yankees had won:

A fireworks display took place afterwards:

This was a first not only for the Yankees, but any MLB team:

Sunday’s action took place in the afternoon.

BoSox fans were hopeful, especially with their lead of 4-2 by the second inning. This chap had a hat in each camp, so to speak. Worth watching:

Fans were told on both days that they could keep any balls that reached the stands. This happened a lot:

Then, at the top of the 7th, doom struck. Three BoSox pitchers in that inning could not stave off the Yankees:

Boston’s Alex Cora already knew that he will have to dramatically improve his bullpen when trading for the 2020 season starts in July. He needs much stronger pitchers overall.

Cora has already told his star batters that they will have to play more offensively when on the field. Mookie Betts has been taking that advice on board and is beginning to play more aggressively, anticipating opponents’ moves and strategies.

Sunday’s final score was another rout for the BoSox, unfortunately:

Next year, our other favourite rivalry will battle it out in London Series 20:

Representatives from the Chicago Cubs and the St Louis Cardinals came here to watch this year’s games.

They can hardly wait for 2020! Nor can we!

Special thanks go to MLB, Mitel and other sponsors for making the London Series possible. THANK YOU!

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Anyone who has watched a Red Sox game at Boston’s legendary Fenway Park will have seen the iconic Citgo sign in the background.

It’s particularly thrilling when someone hits a home run and, as the ball nears the sign, fans yell out ‘See it go!’

The sign is on a building belonging to Boston University. The university intends to sell that property, potentially leaving the sign in limbo.

New owners might take it down or have it moved elsewhere. Despite efforts in 1983, Citgo sign fans have been unable to persuade the Boston Landmarks Commission to grant it landmark status, thereby protecting and ensuring its future.

A petition to grant preservation status now has more than 5,000 signatures. That healthy response has resulted in the Boston Landmarks Commission to vote unanimously to examine the possibility of granting it landmark status. On July 14, 2016, the Boston Preservation Alliance explained:

This is just the first step to designating the sign an official Boston Landmark. Within a few months, another vote by the Landmarks Commission is required, and the Mayor and City Council will need to approve official designation.

You can read more at the Alliance’s website and find out more about this American icon.

Never mind that Citgo has been owned by Venezuela’s PDVSA — specifically, PDV America, Inc. — for many years. Citgo started life as Cities Service Company in 1910. It was a highly successful corporation that supplied gas and electricity to small public utilities, furnished 100-octane aviation gasoline to bomber jets in England during the Second World War and had many petrol stations across America. The photo at right shows one of them. The sign was a trefoil shape, white with green trim and lettering.

PDVSA did not enter the picture until 1986, with a 50% share in the company, by which time Cities Service had been rebranded as Citgo. In 1990, the Venezuelan state oil company took full ownership through its American subsidiary.

Returning to Boston and the topic at hand, millions of us around the world hope that the Boston Landmarks Commission, the City Council and the Mayor ensure that the Citgo sign remains in situ for many generations to come.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

My two favourite baseball teams are the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.

And if you know the Cubs, you can certainly think of a team not too far west which is their nemesis.

As the champion from each league — American and National — face off in the World Series, this year, the Red Sox (American) brought down the St Louis Cardinals (National) in style.

Heh. I bet Cubbies fans enjoyed watching that Series, hoping for a repeat of 2004 when the Red Sox beat the favoured Cards, winners of 100 games that season, to take that World Series. That was wild-card Boston’s first World Series Championship since 1918.

This year, the Cards won only two out of the six World Series games played, losing the last game 6-1 to the BoSox. And who can forget the Red Sox’s dismal 2012 season? Few expected such a turnaround one year later.  Needless to say champagne was in order!

MLB.com reports:

Considering that the Red Sox finished in last place in 2012 and hardly anyone predicted they would win the World Series this year, fans are beaming with excitement about the accomplishments of this group.

Victory was even sweeter, because the Red Sox won on home turf at Fenway Park in the heart of Boston:

making Fenway Park the host of a World Series clincher for the first time since 1918.

To celebrate, the city will hold a parade on Saturday, November 2, starting at Fenway Park at 10 a.m. Millions of fans — the Red Sox Nation — are expected to attend.

The last time the Red Sox were World Series champions was in 2007, when they defeated the Colorado Rockies four games to nil.

Congratulations, Red Sox! Well done, once again!

Every baseball fan loves Albert Pujols.

Maybe I’ve taken a step too far there, even though we in the mousehole are diehard Cubs and Red Sox fans.

For those who aren’t familiar with baseball, the rivalry between the National League Chicago Cubs and the St Louis Cardinals is as heartfelt as that between the American League Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.  Once you’ve chosen your team, they’re yours for life.

We think when we know the players’ stats, who’s playing whom and what the league standings are that we have the full picture.  But, as Phil Johnson — a pastor at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church and Pyromaniacs blogger — tells us, there’s more than meets the eye.

As you can see from the photo, Albert Pujols plays for the St Louis Cardinals.  Like Phil Johnson, who, amazingly, converted from the Cards to the Cubs, we’ve cheered him on Channel 5 baseball (sadly, defunct for the past three seasons) except when he’s played the Cubs!  Pujols is one of the best batters in living memory.

Mr Johnson recently reviewed a new book about this fine player.  It’s called Pujols: More than the Game, by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth.  In it he discovered what Albert Pujols does when he reaches first base:

[Pujols] would ask them, “What do you think is going to happen to you when you die?” or “If you died today, where do you think you’re going to go?” (p. 141)

I’m not sure if he still does that, but it’s a fine way of evangelising!

Mr Johnson adds:

Most athletes effusively thank God when they win, and many profess some kind of faith in Christ. Albert Pujols is a serious Christian.

I’ve spoken at a few Baseball Chapel meetings, and while there are many truly committed believers in Major League Baseball, there are even more who treat religion like a good-luck charm or attend those chapels before important games for purely superstitious reasons. Pujols is not of that type:

Pujols’ Christian walk and leadership are best characterized by passion and consistency. “Sometimes he really gets going, and once something hits him, you can tell he’s just passionate about it,” [pitcher Kyle] Mclellan said. “I think he tries to keep quiet, and then something will come up and he just can’t help it anymore. Sometimes when we are on the road, the chapel leader for the other team is busy or there’s not a lot of time for chapel. But Albert will be chomping at the bit, saying, ‘I’ll lead it. Let’s go. I’ll give everybody the Word.'” (p. 91).

Lamb and Ellsworth don’t idealize Pujols’ faith, though. He has a temper, and he has been known to shoot off his mouth. The book candidly chronicles some of these episodes (one of the best examples of this is pp. 150-53). The book also includes a chapter on steroid abuse and Pujols’ response to that scandal.

As to his career this season, which has just begun, we discover:

Yesterday [March 31] was the season opener for the Cardinals. They lost (at home) 5-3 in eleven innings to the Padres. May that be a harbinger of things to come this season for the team. But I hope Pujols has another career season (except when the Cardinals play the Cubs). And the reason I can say that right out loud is that if he shines again and the Cardinals want to keep him, it will cost them a trainload of money.

By the way, in yesterday’s opener, Pujols tied a major league record by grounding into three double plays. And that’s an achievement every Cubs fan can applaud.

We need more athletes like Albert Pujols — on and off the field.  I hope he has another outstanding season … Now, if only he could be part of the Cubs’ lineup.

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