SI Vault
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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Some of the club members were applauding and urging on one of Staten Island's best batsmen, Baji Palkhiwala, an Indian. They were yelling "Baji, Baji." Peckover came running over. "My God, my God," he yelled, waving his arms, "come! Come see. This man is bowling a perfect, genuine, googly ball! From my end of the field you can see it quite clearly. A real, honest-to-goodness googly!" A googly is cricket's knuckle-ball; it breaks in the opposite direction from that which the batsman expects. Well, it is more complicated than that, but that is enough to know.

Peckover went back to the googly, and an Englishman who had been engaged earlier in a violent conversation with Peckover came over. His name was Don Roger. He said he had been kidding when he told Peckover that cricket was a dying game, so why did Peckover get so angry? "I was only having some fun with him," Roger said, "but he acted like a wild man. Truthfully, though, I don't like the game anymore. I used to play, and I would stand out there in the field and think about all the things I could be doing elsewhere. A bloody waste of time." It was obvious that he had taken his life into his hands with that earlier remark to Peckover, but his candor was admirable.

A small boy on a bike rode past. "See those refs out there in the white coats?" he said. "What are they, butchers?" "No, he's the butcher," said Roger, pointing at his friend Dr. Snider. Everyone was having a good laugh over that one when an Italian custodian of the park walked over. "You think I watch this game if I don't work here?" he said. "You crazy. I go see the Yankees if I don't work here." Roger said that cricket was a good Italian game. The custodian said that cricket was a good Italian game, his rear end. Something like that. "I never understand this cricket. It's nuts. Boccie," he said. "Boccie, that's a good Italian game."

Toward the end of the match, when it was becoming apparent that Staten Island was forcing a draw with the MCC, there was a dispute about the time left until the finish. All the watches showed past 7 o'clock, the finishing time that had been agreed upon, yet the match was still going full blast. Arshad Khan, the Staten Island captain, ran onto the field, arguing with the umpires. "Why isn't it over?" asked Dr. Snider's wife. "Arshad looks furious. If he gets any madder he might pull stumps. He's done it before." If Eddie Stanky ever runs out and pries up home plate with a crowbar, he will be pulling a wicket.

"Why isn't it over?" Dr. Snider's wife asked again. Dr. Snider said the umpire's watch was the deciding factor. "What?" roared Peckover. "Why that's preposterous! What if the umpire has a Woolworth's watch on?" He was very serious. "This is utterly ridiculous." Later it was discovered that a Staten Island batsman had taken some extra time in the middle of the match and Captain Silk had requested added time at the end to make up for it. Actually the MCC could have claimed a victory because of the opposing batsman's transgressions. But peace was imposed, and the match ended in a draw.

The Times covered the match artfully, with a fair-sized feature story the next day and two pictures. But on arriving at a field in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn for the final match of the MCC tour, Peckover expressed to Captain Silk his displeasure with the article. "You were most magnanimous in your praise of baseball," he told Silk. "And I thought you came out quite all right, if the truth be known."

Silk agreed. Of course, he had been quoted in the paper as saying that baseball had "moments of great excitement punctuated by popcorn."

Unlike the Staten Island ground, Red Hook was not particularly suitable for cricket. The field was uneven and rocky, the grass uncut and ankle-high in most spots. Beer cans and other debris were strewn about, and a cinder track circled the ground, cutting into the playing field. The boundary on one side was a concrete bleacher. Football goalposts were in the line of well-struck hits, and people kept walking across the field during play.

The cricket ground was tucked in, not very charmingly, among trucking warehouses, Port Authority shipyards, some abandoned cargo hangars, a small custard-colored paint factory and towering garbage incinerators. This was the neighborhood where young Alphonse Capone used to play hopscotch. "That's right, yeah," said a passing ice-cream man. "That was the old days. He came outa here. You know what? I heard he had a real good brain. Say, what is this stupid game, anyway?"

The opposition this day was an All-Star team made up entirely of West Indians. The crowd was West Indian also. It was a happy, animated crowd, well versed in the nuances of cricket and of having a good time. Some had brought guitars and drums and they played calypso much of the afternoon. "Hey mon, hey mon," they would yell gleefully, time and again.

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