Cards, Cubs superfans hyped for London Series

Midwest rivals expected to draw big crowds in June

January 29th, 2020

If it works out the way Lecy Goranson hopes, she’ll be there with her dad at the London Series in June. The Cubs and Cardinals are bringing their longstanding Midwest matchup to the UK, and Goranson (who bleeds Cubbie blue) and her dad (a St. Louis supporter) would love to watch their teams battle among the Brits.

Oh, but this isn’t Goranson’s real dad we’re talking about here. It’s her father on TV, Dan Conner, played by John Goodman.

The stars of the ABC sitcom “The Conners,” a spin-off continuation of “Roseanne,” are among the many baseball fans with a vested interest in the second annual installment of the London Series, which takes place June 13-14 at London Stadium. Goranson, who plays Becky Conner on the show, already secured her tickets weeks ago but was not yet sure if Goodman’s schedule would allow him to attend, too.

“I’m hoping there’s going to be a TV father-daughter rivalry experience in London," she said.

Goodman is such a Cardinals fan, in fact, that he is the narrator of MLB Network’s documentary “Birds of a Different Game: The ‘80s Cardinals,” which debuted on Tuesday.

The potential for a “Conner London vacation” is but one of many stories that will make this series so special. The London Series is baseball’s continued effort to establish a European footprint. It’s a unique experience for the players and staffs, and it’s a rare chance for sports fans overseas to see big league baseball in the flesh. Last year’s inaugural London Series featured a pair of Yankees-Red Sox slugfests, with New York sweeping both games, by scores of 17-13 and 12-8, respectively.

In addition to giving Englanders a glimpse of America’s pastime, the games are also an opportunity for stateside supporters of the involved teams -- or simply travel-loving fans with no specific rooting interest -- to see MLB games in an unusual and unforgettable environment.

That’s why Goranson was quick to jump on one of the travel packages available through

“I know there’s going to be a lot of Cubs fans over there, because, whether I’m in New York or Los Angeles or wherever I am, we always come out,” said Goranson, who grew up in Evanston, Ill. “We have this way of taking over a place, so I know we’re going to be out in full force. We’re lovable and loyal. C’mon, everybody knows that. Especially Cardinals fans.”

Lecy Goranson and David Ross meet at a charity golf eventCourtesy of Lecy Goranson

Oh, rest assured. Cardinals fans will be there, too.

Fans including Joyce Pigge, a 74-year-old political science professor at Bethany College who will be making this trip as a gift to herself. She’s retiring in May after 50 years at the school, and just about everyone who has taken a class or worked alongside Pigge in those 50 years is aware of her baseball affiliation. The Mount Vernon, Ill., native proudly wears a Cardinals shirt on campus each Opening Day, and she has all kinds of Cardinal paraphernalia in her office.

“One of my immediate goals is to go see my Cardinals play more frequently,” she said. “When it came out that this series was going to be the next one [after the Red Sox and Yankees debuted the London Series last summer], I said, ‘I’m going, no doubt about it.’ I don’t quite know how to anticipate how it will be, except for the pride of walking around with your Cardinals stuff on in another country.”

Retirement gifts, graduation trips, birthday presents, family excursions (one baseball-loving brood that has booked its trip will have three generations of Cubs fans in the stands together). People go on a pilgrimage like this for a wide variety of reasons.

Ultimately, they are all bound by their love of baseball and their curiosity for what it will be like to watch it played in such an uncharacteristic setting.

“It will be a much different environment, and we’ll see how the Englanders look at baseball,” said Don Emde, a Godfrey, Ill., resident who is traveling with his wife, Emma, as part of a couples' trip. “I just hope the Cubs fans are a little more docile than they are over here -- especially when you’re at Wrigley!”

From left to right: Barb and Larry Bellm and Emma and Don Emde at Citizens Bank Park in 2018 on a Cardinals road tripCourtesy of Don Emde

Ah, the trash talk is bound to be cleared through customs and continue unabated at London Stadium. There’s going to be a lot of red, white and blue in the facility, and it won’t just be on the Union Jacks. It will be on the bodies of all the Cubs and Cardinals diehards who got their passports stamped in the name of baseball.

Of course, baseball isn’t the only reason to visit London, especially on the weekend of this particular series. The Cubs-Cardinals series just so happens to coincide with the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 94th birthday -- an event that will include a big parade from Buckingham Palace to the parade grounds at St. James’s Park.

“That is a huge thing,” Pigge said. “There will be hundreds of thousands of people in town for that. It’s something I’ve always wanted to experience.”

The ballpark experience is baseball’s sacred selling point. We go to games not just to root for our squads but to enliven our senses. We eat, we cheer, we bond, we jeer and we come away with memories that linger long after the final score.

Take all of the above and shift it overseas, with the chance to mingle with people from another country and perhaps even teach them a thing or two about the grand old game, and it takes the experience to another level.

Goranson knew she wanted to be a part of that experience from the beginning. She’s gone to countless Cubs games at ballparks across the nation, but it was a trip to the team’s Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., a couple years ago that opened her eyes to what it means to be a true traveling member of the tribe.

“It was like Cubs paradise,” she said. “You see all these Cubs fans who have been suffering through the long winters and then are suddenly in Arizona in perfect weather, drinking an Old Style by the pool while their kids swim, and I’d spend three weeks in Arizona, going from game to game and stadium to stadium to see the Cubs. It was just so full of joy. So that’s when I started realizing I had to step my game up.”

A road trip to London qualifies as an elevated level of fandom. And though she wasn’t quite sure if her TV dad’s schedule on another show, “The Righteous Gemstones,” would allow Goodman to accomplish the same to see his Cards, she hopes it’s in the cards.

“I know he has full intention of going,” she said. “I mean, why wouldn’t you?”