While Anfield rocked and Liverpool blitzed Barcelona to reach the Champions League final, another sports team on the other side of the world stopped and watched.
The Boston Red Sox were in the middle of batting practice ahead of their game against the Baltimore Orioles. Bats and gloves went down. Their sister side were pulling off something spectacular and it had to be seen. After Divock Origi sent Liverpool to Madrid, manager Alex Cora told his players to take inspiration from what the Reds had just achieved.
The reigning World Series winners and the now kings of Europe, based 3,000 miles apart, have one key link. That is, barring the colour that gives the Boston side their name.
Liverpool celebrating after winning the Champions League with a victory against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid in early June
The Boston Red Sox capture their fourth World Series since ending the ‘Bambino Curse’ in 2004 and lift trophy in Los Angeles
The two sporting giants are owned by John W. Henry (right) and Fenway Sports Group, who bought Liverpool in 2010
It is owner John W. Henry and Fenway Sports Group.
But there is plenty shared between the two sides too. They are two historically successful teams who, until recently, struggled to match that past to present glories.
And their grounds are landmarks in their own rights. Fenway Park is one of baseball’s most famous stadiums.
Take the Green Monster, for example. It is a giant wall in left-field that is unique to Fenway. ‘You guys have Big Ben,’ Red Sox historian Gordon Edes told Sportsmail on a recent visit, ‘Paris has the Eiffel Tower. We have the Green Monster’.
It is comparable with the Kop at Anfield, a unique facet to a ground that defines a sports team.
Fenway Park, the long-term home of the Boston Red Sox, has been known as one of America’s greatest grounds for years
It matches with the Kop at Anfield, which is regarded as one of the cultural landmarks of Liverpool and English football
BOSTON RED SOX
World Series titles (9): 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018
Pennants (14): 1903, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018
Revenue in 2018: $516million (£404m)
Ground: Fenway Park (37,755 capacity)
Manager: Alex Cora
Key players: Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez
Back to Henry himself. He had a mixed reception to his time as owner of Liverpool – something that has dulled since they won their sixth Champions League. But he faced the same level of suspicion when he turned up at Fenway Park.
The 69-year-old had owned the Florida Marlins, a jobbing Major League Baseball side, for three years before selling up. They were nothing compared to the Red Sox, one of baseball’s grandest names.
Not that everything was fine at Fenway. The Curse of the Bambino – by which the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth and failed to win the World Series for 86 years – hung over the place.
There were also plans for the demolition of the historic ground with the intention of building a new stadium next door.
Instead, Henry put plans in place to renovate Fenway at the cost of around $300m – similar to how notions of leaving Anfield have been shelved under FSG.
Their Main Stand expansion went so well because Henry and Co have simply been there before.
The Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Robins facing off during the 1916 World Series at Fenway Park, which the Red Sox won
A general view of Fenway Park and the famous Green Monster, which used to be covered in advertising in the past
Now the advertising matches the general design of the Green Monster, which had seating installed on it by Henry’s regime
First Division titles (18): 1900-01, 1905-06, 1921-22, 1922-23, 1946-47, 1963–64, 1965–66, 1972–73, 1975–76, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1985–86, 1987–88, 1989–90
European Cup/Champions League (6): 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019
Other major honours: 18
Revenue (2017-18 season): £455m
Ground: Anfield (54,074 capacity)
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane
Henry knew the value of the Green Monster, for example. Instead of knocking it down, he kept it, and, for the first time in its 90-year history, added seats on top. People pay hundreds of dollars for tickets there.
Moneyball was also the in vogue topic at the time of his arrival. Henry was always obsessed with numbers, even before he made his money as a commodities trader.
Discussing a spell when he took over the family farm, his neighbour Rex Twist said: ‘Most farmers want to talk about their tractors. All John talked about was the market and prices.’
So Henry went and recruited sabermetrics pioneer Bill James to give his team a new statistical approach to recruitment.
That was copied on Merseyside when the initially maligned Michael Edwards was given a huge role in signings. His model did not work at first but has paid dividends in the last couple of years. Few would deny Liverpool’s recent market movements have been brilliant.
Just like Liverpool have on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, the Red Sox have also spent heavily when necessary. As Professor Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, Massechusetts pointed out in 2010: ‘[Henry] believes that the best way to achieve success at a sports franchise is to put a winning team on the field.’
Back across the pond, Henry walked into the Red Sox in 2002 and declared that his goal was ‘breaking the Curse of the Bambino’. He achieved it within just two years.
The Red Sox became the first team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win as they overcame the New York Yankees – their opponents in the London Series later this week – in the American League Championship Series.
A goal for Henry when he arrived at the Red Sox was to end the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ – which started after Babe Ruth’s sale
After an 86-year wait, the Red Sox finally captured the World Series with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004
It took two years of Fenway Sports Group’s ownership for the Red Sox to take the trophy – they have won it four times since
LINDA PIZZUTI HENRY
John W. Henry’s wife Linda is well-liked at both Fenway Park and Anfield.
At Fenway, they rave about the fact she has helped set up a rooftop garden near the top of the Green Monster that provides a chunk of the produce used in the executive facilities.
And as Liverpool celebrated their season with a lap of the pitch in May, she scored a goal in front of the Kop to fulfill a $10,000 charity bet with FSG co-owner Tom Werner.
They then beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 Series itself to capture the title for the first time since 1918.
Not that they stopped there. They took the World Series again in 2007, 2013 and 2018. There is an argument to be made that having come into the century as a cursed team, the Red Sox are now the baseball dynasty of the new millennium.
The connection in a sporting sense with Liverpool can be seen. They may have taken nearly a decade to win a major honour under their owners, yet the Champions League triumph feels like the start of something.
Even ahead of the final in Madrid, Henry made it clear he wanted more next season: ‘[The Champions League final] doesn’t make up for it but not winning the Premier League this year means it is an even larger goal next year.
‘Sort of like going back to the Champions League final this year was something that our team set their minds to. We will be set on winning [the league] next year.’
Back in Boston, there was a sense of irony that some of those behind the scenes at the club would be tied up with an event commemorating the Sale of the Century, Ruth’s exit to the Yankees, at the same time as the final.
The celebrations at Anfield as Liverpool picked up the Champions League trophy for the sixth time in their history
A banner is unfurled over the Green Monster as the Red Sox celebrated taking the World Series against last campaign
Several told Sportsmail they would rather have been watching Liverpool face Spurs.
In Boston, they’re preparing to welcome the Reds to Fenway Park in the summer when they take on Sevilla. It’s fair to say they’re excited for their arrival. New England now has as much enthusiasm for Liverpool as parts of the old world.
Henry himself sees the comparisons between the two sides: ‘When I think of how special Anfield is and how special Liverpool is, everywhere around the world everyone is talking about Liverpool, it is because of the fan base.
‘Similar to the Boston Red Sox. We have such an incredible fan base. Such a literate and passionate fan base that when you watch what goes on at Anfield it makes you want to root for this club.’
Liverpool played Roma in a pre-season game at Fenway Park in 2014 and will face Sevilla there on July 21 this summer
Jurgen Klopp nailed his colours to the mast when he sported a Red Sox cap on holiday in Mexico last week.
Not that he is an expert: ‘I don’t understand that game. I’m sorry.’
Courtesy of Henry, this has now become a tale of two sporting cities. Both Liverpool and the Red Sox are thriving under his stewardship. Not that Henry would want to take the credit.
A source close to Henry told the Guardian in 2010: ‘There is no way he would go into Liverpool saying: “Look at me, I’m a big shot and I am going to prove it by buying one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world.” This is not about his ego.’
Yet Henry deserves kudos. Thanks to him, both the Red Sox and Liverpool should be earmarked as one of the teams of the next decade.
Watch the MLB London Series: Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees live on BT Sport 1 on Saturday June 29th & Sunday 30th June. Visit bt.com/sport
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was even pictured in a Boston Red Sox cap while on holiday in Mexico last week