Sir Arthur remained very active in sport. He boxed with first-rate amateurs of his day. He knew many of the celebrated fighters of his time—John L. Sullivan, Tommy Burns, Bombardier Wells, Georges Carpentier and Jimmy Wilde. But Conan Doyle was never a literary man awed by famous sports figures. He was a fine athlete awed by literary men.
In this period he was deep in first-class cricket, an occasionally effective batsman and a steady and reliable bowler, finally reaching his peak with The Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord's. (Earlier, when Sherlock Holmes was riding the first wave of popularity in 1891, Doyle was not even around to enjoy the success. He was touring Holland with a British cricket team.)
Doyle occasionally made a modest mention of his cricket achievements. He wrote, with undue self-disparagement, that he was always on the fringe of really top-ranking competition, "a second-rater in all things." In matches against Kent and Derbyshire and Warwickshire he averaged 32 runs. He enjoyed his gleams of success with the spiritual home of cricket, The Marylebone Cricket Club, particularly on the day he got three consecutive clean-bowled wickets (the hat trick) against the Gentlemen of Warwick. He got a century in his first game at Lord's for the club—i.e., Marylebone—against Kent. He once had the good fortune to capture the wicket of W. G. Grace, "the greatest of all cricketers." But Grace got a speedy revenge by bowling him out. "There was nothing more childlike and bland," Doyle wrote of Grace, "than that slow, tossed-up bowling of his, and nothing more subtle and treacherous." It was no joke for Doyle to be bowled out, even if he was bowled out by the top cricketer in history. "One feels rather cheap," he wrote, "when one walks from the pitch to the pavilion, longing to kick oneself for one's own foolishness all the way."
"There does not seem to be anyone who has a complete record of Doyle's cricketing achievements," reports a London authority who looked into the matter recently. "On his 40th birthday  he wrote in his diary, I played cricket today, made 53 out of 106 made by the whole side, and bowled out 10 of my opponents.' His opponents were either 'a London Club' or 'a dragoon regiment at Norwich.' He bowled out his 10 opponents when playing both these clubs.
"Doyle did take seven wickets for 61 runs for the MCC against Cambridge on August 30 and 31, 1899, and it was considered the finest playing of his career. There seems to be no record of Doyle clean-bowling W. G. Grace. However, in a match at Crystal Palace on August 23, 24 and 25, 1900, Doyle had Grace caught at the wicket. Grace was playing for London County. This means that Doyle was bowling"—and Grace, in effect, fouled out to the catcher.
By this time, Doyle would probably never have written another Sherlock Holmes story had it not been for sport. He went on a golfing holiday at the Royal Links Hotel in Norfolk with the journalist Fletcher Robinson. (Nobody has since heard of Fletcher Robinson, but Doyle, characteristically, regarded him as a significant literary figure.) While there Doyle heard the story that gave him the idea for The Hound of the Baskervilles, and in 1901 his great detective was back on the literary scene. Doyle carefully set the tale before Holmes' "death," but it was no use. The pressure was too great and he finally acceded and brought Sherlock Holmes back to life officially.
In the later Sherlock Holmes stories Doyle continued to introduce sports into the action, as he had done earlier. At the same time he was writing his second fight novel, The Croxley Master: A Great Tale of the Prize Ring, which was set in the relatively recent past. A young medical assistant in a mining town—much like Conan Doyle before he went into practice for himself—is underpaid by the physician with whom he is training and insulted by the top-ranking roughneck among the miners. At last he lets fly a straight drive to the roughneck's chin, discovering an unexpected pleasure in so doing. After the fight he learns he has felled a professional prizefighter. Shady characters drop by, suggesting that there was money to be made in the ring. All this contributes to the young man's dilemma of a dual existence as he conceals his ring career and goes on to fight the middleweight champion of North England. Conan Doyle was intensely serious about this book. He believes that the love of sport was a factor in English history—"it lies very deeply in the springs of our nature," he wrote. (With some reservations, he was willing to include Americans in this judgment.) When the heavyweight championship fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries was being promoted, Irving Lewis, the managing editor of the New York Morning Telegraph, cabled Doyle an invitation to referee, saying that the best class of American sporting men knew Doyle's work, his splendid stories of the ring and "your admiration of the great sport of boxing." Conan Doyle wanted to accept, and did so tentatively, but some of his family objected on the grounds that he would be killed in the race riots that were expected to follow the fight.
His stronger reason for refusing was that he was producing his prizefight play, an adaptation of Rodney Stone. He wanted to make it a gigantic stage spectacle, almost as elaborate as the movie extravaganzas that came much later. The play had huge crowd scenes, more than 40 speaking parts and a third act consisting of the championship fight itself. The play had almost the air of a sporting event; London papers sent prizefighters to review it. And it might have succeeded had not the expenses been so heavy that it barely broke even with the house sold out. After four months Doyle reluctantly closed it.
Road racing now absorbed him. In 1911 Prince Henry, the Kaiser's only brother, was promoting the Prince Hein-rich Automobilfahrt—50 German drivers of the Imperial Automobile against 40 drivers of the Royal Automobile, 150 miles a day, the course through Germany for the first half, and then from Southampton through Oxford, Leamington, Edinburgh, Windermere, Shrewsbury, Cheltenham and London. Penalties were assessed for breakdowns, accidents and other troubles and each car carried an officer of the army or navy of the other country to verify performance. Doyle and his wife—he had remarried after his first wife's death—had drawn Count Carmer, Rittmeister of the Breslau Cuirassiers (the highest ranking of the German military observers), to ride with them in their 16-hp Lorraine-Dietrich. Doyle's first impression of the Count was that he was inhumanly stiff-necked and haughty.
Most of the German cars were 70-and 80-hp Benzes and Mercedes. Prince Henry himself was driving a new white Benz. Doyle did not complain, except to mention the inhospitable reception in some German towns, or the reverse, when overenthusiastic crowds pelted the drivers with flowers. "Even a small bunch of flowers received in the face when you are traveling at a high speed may become a dangerous missile," he wrote later, adding with asperity that he had personally seen huge German racing machines force a small English-driven car off the road. In any event, Count Carmer so thawed out during the race as to become virtually a British partisan.