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Curry Kirkpatrick
September 02, 1968
When the celebrated Marylebone Cricket Club came to New York the busiest buff around was a bustling, bouncy Englishman who is the sport's self-ordained ambassador and its resident expert
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September 02, 1968

In Full Cry With Peckover

When the celebrated Marylebone Cricket Club came to New York the busiest buff around was a bustling, bouncy Englishman who is the sport's self-ordained ambassador and its resident expert

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The get-the-feel game was to be played in a public park in the Bronx, and they traveled through Manhattan streets that were practically deserted. " New York is a wonderful place on the weekend," Peckover said, bringing to mind the observation that it is too bad the New Yorkers who leave the city on Sundays aren't able to see how nice it is without them.

A man named Hall, a big West Indian, was batting in the park, and Peckover knew him. "Very good batsman, but a very temperamental fellow," he said. The bowler whom Hall was facing had stationed all of his fielders behind Hall (there is no foul territory in cricket; you can hit the ball in any direction). The area they were in is called "the slips." But Hall was pounding hits to the opposite end of the field. Peckover pointed out that the bowler was not moving his fielders there because it was a matter of pride. "He doesn't want to admit that Hall can take such liberties with his bowling. Ah, but wait. There he goes. He's moving them now. The fielders are changing. I believe the bowler is watering his wine."

Shortly afterward Hall made an out—or was dismissed—and Peckover jumped from the lawn chair, his fist in the air, his feet stomping the ground. "You know what that was? See that? That's a yorker. Hall thought it was a full toss. But it was a yorker. It fooled him. It really fooled him." Peckover was fairly bellowing now, wagging his head and waving his hands and then demonstrating how to hit a yorker. Peckover is highly excitable where cricket is concerned, or where anything is concerned, for that matter. He jumps around. He waves his hands, sweeping them fore and aft and up and down in long, billowing strokes, as though he were conducting the London Philharmonic.

He also has the habit of breaking the continuity of a discussion to focus on other things for a brief moment; nature, for example. In the midst of a lecture on the history of the Staten Island Cricket Club he paused, whispered, "beautiful butterfly" as one flitted past, then dived right back into dates, names and changes in ownership. In the park that day, as he analyzed batting and bowling styles, he suddenly looked up at an object drifting over the cricket ground and asked, "Is that a hummingbird?" Someone said, "No, that's a kite." For a split second Peckover looked puzzled, then abruptly abandoned the sky and resumed his demonstration of how to hit a yorker.

Afternoon cricket matches usually last five or six hours or until one team "appeals against the light," but Peckover decided to head for home before dark. "Look at that, now," he said as he walked up the hill on his way from the park. "The end of the day. The sun going down. The green grass and the white uniforms. This is the esthetic part of the game. What art! What beauty, eh? It is a haunting setting."

There are many theories of how the game of cricket began, but one of the most interesting holds that once upon a prehistoric time a monkey, instead of catching a coconut thrown at him playfully by another monkey, went to the opposite field on the other monkey and hit the coconut with a stick. A second story involves, of all people, Cuchulain, the legendary hero of Ireland. Cuchulain played a game in which he defended a hole in the ground into which his opponent tried to pitch a ball. At this kind of cricket Cuchulain defeated 150 Colts of Ulster. The score was:

Colts, b. Cuchulain...0

Cuchulain, not out...1

This little story does not do much for most of us, but it sends cricket enthusiasts rolling in the aisles.

Even Peckover was amused when he heard it the next day. But he came back quickly with some stories of his own. "Keats encountered a black eye playing cricket," he said suddenly, his eyes opening wide, wider and disappearing into his forehead. "Byron played in the first Eton-Harrow match. Remember how distinct a sound is the bat on the ball? Joyce wrote, 'The pick, pack, pock, puck: little drops of water in a fountain slowly falling in the brimming bowl.' "

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