Arts and Leisure

Boston Red Stockings in the UK: In 1874, it Just Wasn’t Cricket

International baseball? The idea is almost as old as the sport itself, as it’s long been seen as the holy grail of franchise owners to see everyone, from one end of the earth to the other, playing their game (and buying their swag.)

Boston Red Stockings play baseball in England against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia. Woodcut from Harper's Weekly.

Boston Red Stockings play baseball in England against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia. Woodcut from Harper’s Weekly.

The very first effort at making it happen dates all the way back to 1874, when the Boston Red Stockings and the Athletic Club of Philadelphia were dispatched to England – Liverpool, no less – to play the very first game of professional baseball outside of America.

The teams had arranged the travel as part of an exhibition that was to feature stops in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Sheffield and Dublin, with hopes for games in Paris and Scotland if the trip went well.

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.

The Liverpool game went according to plan, with Boston losing in 10 innings on July 30, 1874. Attendance, however, was weak. Attendance the next day was weaker, and so it went as the team finished its English dates, but returned home before finishing the schedule. While receptive and polite, the audiences judged the sport was inferior to cricket.

As the team owners had feared, the exhibitions were a financial bust, and baseball pulled in its horns and focused on growing the home audiences.

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