Fifteen years ago, the Yankees played two regular season games in Tokyo, Japan. Next weekend, the Yankees and Red Sox will play the first ever MLB games in London. Here are the details for the brief trip across the pond:
Venue: London Stadium
Saturday, June 29, 2019, 1:10 pm ET, FOX
Sunday, June 20, 2019, 10:10 am ET, ESPN
2004 Tokyo trip
Many fans will remember the only other time the Yankees have played a regular season game outside of North America: 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. The Yankees and then Devil Rays squared off for two games to open the season. This was, of course, monumental for the sport; however, it was also very important to one specific Yankee. Hideki Matsui signed to come over (details) ahead of the 2003 season, and he certainly got the warmest welcoming – especially after hitting a home run:
In honor of the Opening Series in Tokyo, here’s a clip from 3/31/04, when Hideki Matsui rocked the Tokyo Dome with a home run against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays: #MLB開幕戦pic.twitter.com/JhksSY9BUv
The Yankees dropped the first game of the series 8-3 but rebounded to trounce Tampa 12-1 the following day. Mastui ended up going 3-for-9 with the aforementioned home run and 3 RBI over the course of the two games. Another player who homered in Japan? Current MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Here is the starting lineup that was rolled out for both games:
The team arrived four days prior to Opening Day, and for many it was their first time out of the continent. Derek Jeter exclaimed, ”I didn’t know what to expect. But it’s kind of amazing — you go somewhere and people recognize you. It’s kind of overwhelming, considering how far away we are.”
Many took in the country as much as they could. Matsui, Jeter, and A-Rod joined Joe Torre in visiting the US Embassy. Joe Girardi was also there, as he had just joined the YES Network after he retired following the 2003 campaign. He went to visit a military base. The Yankees even played two exhibition games before Opening Day: one against the Yomiuri Giants (6-2 win) and the other against the Hanshin Tigers (11-7 loss).
What might be less known is that the Yankees actually have played other games outside of the continent. These were exhibition games that occurred after/before the 1955 season. The team was comprised of players such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, and Billy Martin, among others. They played games not only in Japan, but also Manilla, the Philippines, and Guam from October 11 to November 21. The manager at the time was Hall of Famer Casey Stengel, and he led the team to a 24-0-1 record. If you thought the jet lag in 2004 might have been bad, how about flying across the world in propeller planes?
Now, we are so close to the sport’s biggest rivalry heading across the pond. Given the Yankees’ presence, I would suspect (and hope) that the number of Yankees fans outnumbers the Red Sox. And hopefully, they will return with a great experience and a couple of Ws.