As the New York Yankees head overseas this weekend, ESNY looks back at how their compatriots did in similar situations.
The New York Yankees are bringing a whole new definition to “27-time world champion” this weekend.
New York is set to partake in a two-game London Series against the Boston Red Sox. The AL East’s division leaders will face their bitter rivals on Saturday (1:10 p.m. ET, FOX) and Sunday (10:00 a.m. ET, ESPN) at London Stadium.
As a local legend sings after every Bronx tilt, if you can make it here in New York, you can make it anywhere. That’s been especially true when it comes to the area’s sports teams, who have been all around the globe in their pursuits of glory.
1996: Lost Magic (Nets)
While in their New Jersey incarnation, the Nets partook in the first unofficial NBA game overseas. Italy’s Palasport di San Siro played host to their 148-121 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns in 1984. The Nets got back on the plane for a real game in 1996, when they battled the Orlando Magic in a pair at the Tokyo Dome.
While the Yankees and Mets would earn splits at The Big Egg, the Nets enjoyed no such luck. Orlando was in the midst of their first games without Shaquille O’Neal, but that played no matter in Tokyo. Six Orlando players reached double figures in the first game, paced by Penny Hardaway’s 23 in a 108-95 win. The Nets kept things closer in the second game, as a double-double from Jayson Williams (12 points, 18 rebounds) helped them nearly erase a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Another Hardaway explosion to the tune of 29 points ended any hopes of a salvage, as the Magic earned an 86-82 win.
2000: New Century, New Continent (Mets)
The New York Mets had previously played in MLB’s first regular-season games outside the United States and Canada, dropping two of three to the San Diego Padres in a 1996 visit to Mexico City. Another series against the Chicago Cubs opened a new century of baseball, as the teams met for a pair at the Tokyo Dome to open the 2000 season. The couple marked the first MLB regular season games played outside of North American borders.
The Mets were unable to get to Jon Lieber in the first game. The right-hander went seven innings, allowing only Darryl Hamilton‘s sacrifice fly that scored Rey Ordonez in the bottom of the third inning. Mets starter Mike Hampton walked nine over five innings in contrast.
The teams switched home/away designations for game two, which afforded the Japanese faithful two extra innings. Mets starter Rick Reed needed just 90 pitches to throw eight frames, allowing only a run-scoring double play in the fifth. The Mets previously built a small lead on Todd Zeile‘s run scored via a Rickey Henderson sacrifice in the same inning. In the 11th, Benny Agbayani was the hero for the Mets, crushing a grand slam off of Danny Young to provide the winning margin at 5-1.
That home run was the lone MLB grand slam hit in Japan until this season when Seattle’s Domingo Santana hit one in March’s opening set. It was the first sign of Japanese heroics for Agbayani. The outfielder would end his professional career through six seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines, winning the 2005 Japan Series alongside former Mets manager Bobby Valentine.
2004: Godzilla Comes Home (Yankees)
The lone pinstriped international outing came in Tokyo as the 2004 season’s opener. Though the Yankees were the designated “visitors” in a two-game set with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, they wore their traditional pinstriped home set (a process that will repeat itself in London). Among the headlines for the opening series was the return of Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, who previously established himself as one of Japan’s most famous sluggers. The Yankees also reunited with 1990’s hero Tino Martinez, who was beginning a single season with Tampa Bay.
Less than a year after Martinez hit two home runs off Andy Pettitte as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, the first baseman haunted his former compatriots once more at the Tokyo Dome. His two-run blast off Felix Heredia in the seventh was the final touch of an 8-3 Devil Ray victory in the first game. Yankee power opened the game via a duplicate two-run blast from Jason Giambi.
Tampa Bay seemed poised for a sweep after an Aubrey Huff RBI-single gave them a first-inning lead, but the Yankees salvaged the trip with a dozen unanswered runs. Matsui appropriately played a big part through an RBI single that tied the game in the third. He would later solidify the Yankee lead with a two-run homer in the fifth, delighting the local audience. Jorge Posada drove six on what was a New York morning, while Kevin Brown threw seven innings in his first Yankee start.
2007: Pitch (Not So) Perfect (Giants)
The NFL obsession with international affairs began with a 2007 London matchup between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins. A previous blue trip abroad was a 1994 preseason game in Berlin, where the Giants took on the San Diego Chargers at Olympiastadion.
Held at the second incarnation of Wembley Stadium, the game between the Giants and a winless Miami squad was sloppy due to incessant rain. Players also struggled to adapt to the foreign field, which had been tailored for a different kind of football.
The Giants nonetheless made the most of their visit. They built up a 13-0 lead in the first through a pair of field goals from Scotland native Lawrence Tynes and a 10-yard scoring run from Eli Manning. A stout defensive effort held off a late Miami rally, as the Giants earned a 13-10 victory. It was their sixth in a row, clinching their first such streak since the aforementioned 1994 season.
2008: Double Czech (Rangers)
Entering this 21st century of travel, the New York Rangers were easily the most experienced team in the area when it came to studying abroad. In 1959, they went on a 23-game, six-country tour of Europe against the Boston Bruins, winning it 11-9-3. The 1970s and 1980s were dominated by exhibitions against Russian squads. 1993 featured a pair of preseason English wins over Toronto, while a similar victory in 2006 came over Florida in Puerto Rico.
The games finally counted in 2008, when the Rangers opened their season against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic’s O2 Arena. Americans took center stage in duplicate 2-1 victories. In the first game, Brandon Dubinsky’s power-play goal offset a tying score from Martin St. Louis. Scott Gomez did the honors the next day, as he and Wade Redden erased a small Tampa lead to help the Rangers complete the sweep.
Prior to their wins over the Lightning, the Rangers partook in the inaugural Victoria Cup, which pitted them against a pair of Russian champions in Switzerland. Ryan Callahan scored the winning goal with 20 seconds left against Metallurg Magnitogorsk to give the Rangers a 4-3 victory. The Chicago Blackhawks lost to Swiss squad SC Bern the year after before the event was discontinued.
2011: Jurassic Spark (Nets)
The final days of the New Jersey Nets were anything but memorable. A 2011 visit to London proved to be a welcome exception.
The Nets battled their divisional rivals from Toronto at O2 Arena. The two teams entered the March meetings with a combined 34 wins, and the Nets were nursing a five-game losing streak, one of seven such streaks they’d endure in that season. But they took the first part thanks to a 38-22 advantage in the fourth quarter, the catalyst in a 116-103 win. Kris Humphries paced New Jersey with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Game two was an instant British classic, as the teams were tied after 48 minutes. Penalty kicks were out of the question, but three overtimes surely sufficed. The Raptors had the lead in each of the extra sessions’ final minute, but the Nets overcame the odds each time. A three from Sasha Vujacic capped off the first overtime’s scoring, while Travis Outlaw got the ball to Deron Williams and his jumper in the second. Outlaw would go on to sink the clinchers from the foul line, sent there by a James Johnson foul, sealing a 137-136 victory. The win would kickstart what became a season-long five-game winning streak for the Nets.
2011: Not So Swede (Rangers)
A return to trip to Europe didn’t end so well for the Rangers. Visiting the land of (Henrik) Lundqvist, the Rangers took on interconference foes from SoCal in Sweden to open the 2011-12 campaign. In the first game against the Los Angeles Kings, Callahan and Marian Gaborik put in Ranger goals, but Mike Richards tied it in the late stages of the third frame. The former Flyer also had the primary assist on Jack Johnson‘s overtime winner, giving the Kings a 3-2 win.
The Rangers nearly earned redemption less than 24 hours later at the Ericsson Globe, as Brad Richards forced a deadlock with the Anaheim Ducks with the late stages of the third period. Lundqvist wound up making 27 stops while his teammates mustered only 15 shots in return. In an ensuing shootout, Bobby Ryan scored the only goal necessary, as Jonas Hiller stopped four New York counters in the 2-1 Anaheim win. The second game featured a jaw-dropping 19 penalties, including a dozen in the first period alone.
2013: Detroit Rocked City (Knicks)
Sending the New York Knicks over to another country seems like grounds for an international incident. The 2013 edition, however, was actually worth seeing.
That season marked the Knicks’ first division title since 1994. Part of that tour went through O2 to take on the Detroit Pistons. The Knicks took an early lead and never looked back. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 26 points, while Tyson Chandler earned 14 rebounds as the Knicks took a 102-87 decision that was never truly in doubt.
2014: Another Happy Landing (Nets)
Rebooted through a new Brooklyn theme, the Nets returned to O2 for a single game against the Atlanta Hawks. Much like their prior visit, the win kickstarted another winning streak, though this one changed the course of the Nets’ season.
Ex-Hawk Joe Johnson put in a game-high 29 points, while Andray Blatche came off the bench for 20 points and 14 rebounds. The Nets used a 13-point edge in the third quarter to their advantage, beating the Hawks 127-110.
After the win, the Nets finished the year 29-16. They would go on to defeat the Raptors in the playoffs, capturing their first series win since 2007.
Since this recent London trip, the Nets have since played a 2017 pair in Mexico City, defeating Oklahoma City and falling to Miami.
2015: Think It’s Gonna Be a Long, Long Time (Knicks)
The Nets were able to use visits to O2 Arena to reverse their fortunes twice. Their blue and orange rivals were able to do the same, albeit in uglier fashion.
A 95-79 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was the last part of a 16-game losing streak for the 5-36 Knicks. Anthony scored 25 points, nearly a third of the Knicks’ tally, but it wasn’t enough to contain the resurgent Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t at the height of his powers yet (16 points), but Milwaukee enjoyed 22 bench points from OJ Mayo.
The Knicks returned home to Manhattan and won three in a row…their longest winning streak of a 17-65 season.
2015: Run Ration (Jets)
Much like their baseball counterparts, the Jets had experienced defeat at the Tokyo Dome, dropping a 30-14 decision to Tampa Bay in the penultimate American Bowl exhibition in 2003. They had also ventured to Toronto in 2009, taking a 19-13 decision from their hosts from Buffalo. A dozen years later, they were able to duplicate what the Giants did: defeat the Dolphins at Wembley.
With several American football editions under its belt, the Wembley field was in much better shape, but another strong first half doomed Miami. The pace was dictated by running back Chris Ivory, who picked up a career-high 166 yards. His touchdown on the first possession kickstarted a 13-0 Jets run to open the game. Miami narrowed the gap on an eight-yard touchdown grab for Jake Stoneburner, but the Jets more or less put the game away on a 10-yard Ryan Fitzpatrick scoring throw to Eric Decker with 33 seconds left in the first half.
Zac Stacy capped the scoring in the second half for the Jets, who got to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill five times: twice via interception and three through sack (two by Muhammad Wilkerson).
2016: Landon Calling (Giants)
It was only appropriate that Twickenham Stadium’s first taste of NFL action was a defensive struggle between the Giants and Los Angeles Rams. After all, the stadium is best known for its rugby showdowns.
The Giants were on the wrong end of things in the early going. Los Angeles jumped out to an early 10-0 lead after scores on their first two possessions, but after Robbie Gould narrowed the gap with a field goal, Landon Collins permanently shifted momentum. The safety stole a second-quarter pass from Case Keenum and took it back 44 yards for a tying score. Another Collins takeaway, Keenum’s second stolen throw of the afternoon, set up the Giants’ winner, a one-yard punch by Rashad Jennings. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked up his own pair of picks, each coming in Giants territory, to wrap the win up.
The London visit started a four-game streak of earning at least one interception for Collins. The Giants won each of those games, as the victory over the Rams was part of a six-game winning streak that propelled the Giants to their first playoff berth since 2012.
2018: Swede Revenge (Devils)
Like their rivals across the river, the New Jersey Devils partook in exhibition games against Russian squads prior to making their own trip. To open their most recent season, the Devils squared off against the Edmonton Oilers in Sweden’s Scandinavium.
Former Oiler Taylor Hall was kept off the board for New Jersey, but his teammates picked up the slack. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac put in two goals each, and Stefan Noesen put in one more, and the Devils earned a 5-2 victory to open their year.
2019: Half-Blood Wince (Knicks)
The British deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for their work over the past few NBA seasons. This influx of Knicks basketball could well be interpreted as an act of war.
A 101-100 loss to the goofy but competent by comparison Washington Wizards was the fifth loss in what became an 18-game losing streak. The Knicks had a chance to escape the island nation with a win, leading by 12 as things reached the final quarter. 11 points later, however, they were in a familiar place: the wrong end.
Washington took over in the late stages of the fourth, but the Knicks were able to muster a late lead with three seconds to go after Noah Vonleh scored on a short jumper. But a late Thomas Bryant basket as time expired resigned the Knicks to their losing fate.