Still, it was a great occasion. The only regrettable incident occurred at an exciting and totally unintelligible moment in the game, when the champions who were playing Puss-in-the-Corner hurled themselves on the ground like runaway boys when a policeman overtakes them. An American next to me so far forgot himself as to shout, 'This is better than the Birmingham Repertory Theatre." As this theatre is famous for its performances of my Back to Methuselah, I thought the remark unnecessary and in questionable taste. If any American can be so utterly benighted as to enjoy Puss-in-the-Corner more than my greatest play, he should, for the credit of his country, conceal that shameful preference instead of shouting it in the ear of Royalty and of the author.
But if an Englishman had shouted, "This is better than Lord's," I should have been disposed to agree with him. To go back to cricket after baseball is like going back to Shakespeare played in five acts with 15-minute intervals after seeing it played straight through in the correct Shakespearean way. Cricket is doomed by its "overs" as old-fashioned Shakespeare is by its acts. It is slow, stodgy and obvious. Baseball is swift, intense and (as to what it is all about) inscrutable.
Of course, many Englishmen may dislike it on that account. I once helped to establish a reformed country hotel where the villagers could get good beer for their money instead of the horrible stuff they were accustomed to. Far from appreciating my efforts, they complained bitterly that the process of getting drunk, which the bad beer prolonged cheaply and deliciously for hours, was precipitated by the good beer, which reduced them to insensibility in 30 minutes. Men of this stamp are capable of preferring a silent game which lasts from 10 to 6, and which consists mostly of changing over and going in and out of a pavilion, to an uproarious, impetuous, incessant, quick-firing whirlwind of a game that lasts no more than 90 minutes; that is, long enough to give you all the amusement you desire but not long enough to give you time to begin wondering which is the bigger fool of the two, the Apache who is whacking at a ball or you who are looking at him.
As I left the ground one of my courteous hosts expressed a hope that I would come again. When a man asks you to come and see baseball played twice it sets you asking yourself why you went to see it played once. That is an unanswerable question. It is a mad world.