SI Vault
 
CRICKET FOR THE BASEBALL FAN
Paul Gallico
February 14, 1955
An eminent American sportswriter now living abroad takes on the task of explaining Britain's national game so that it can be understood by an American bleacherite. His conclusion: "Hell, it's suicidal!"
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 14, 1955

Cricket For The Baseball Fan

An eminent American sportswriter now living abroad takes on the task of explaining Britain's national game so that it can be understood by an American bleacherite. His conclusion: "Hell, it's suicidal!"

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

LONDON

There is always a tendency in human nature to decry the other fellow's game, particularly when it is the national pastime of a foreign country and played almost exclusively by the people living there.

Few games have been kidded as much, at least by Americans, as the Briton's cricket, that odd ball-and-bat match that takes three days to play, in which runs are scored by the dozens and Centuries, and batting stands of one hundred are not uncommon. And the break for tea is considered the most deliciously funny business this side of a comic valentine.

But I can tell you a little something about this pastime. I am one of the few American ex-sportswriters ever to have taken part in a real, big-time cricket match and survived to write about it. And I am prepared to testify that this is a rough, tough, as well as highly scientific sport and quite one of the best games ever devised for the exercise and enjoyment of the player as well as the spectator.

I got into it as a gag. I was lucky to emerge from it with my life. You think cricket is a game for sissies? B-r-r-r-r-other! Field the position called Silly Mid-on, and see how sissy the game looks from that spot. Silly, eh? Hell, it's suicidal! I know. I played there. Your position is no more than 10 yards away from a batter clouting a ball that is harder than a baseball with an erratically shaped bat. It's a little like standing in front of a .45 waiting to see the bullet come out. My problem was whether my reactions would be fast enough to enable me to duck a real hot liner. The British don't duck. Wearing no gloves, they stop the ball, meat hand.

I do not wish to take up too much of your time recounting how I got myself into this mess. When I saw an ad in the personals of the Times of London to the effect that the authors and the National Book League were to meet in their annual game, it looked like copy to me. I was writing a column at the time. The game, I figured, would probably be one of those clown acts we pull off on our side of the water from time to time when the Baseball Writers play the Girls Team from the chorus of Oklahoma! at softball, with a keg of beer at first base and another at home plate. So I wangled myself an invitation.

Friends, I couldn't have been more wrong. All I did was walk into an annual grudge battle. Both teams were loaded with ringers. Anybody who could write—"O see the prety kat," or sign a dinner check in his own hand was considered an author; any cricketer, pro or amateur, who could lift a book off a table automatically became a member of the National Book League. There were a couple of legitimate authors, such as the late Chester Wilmot, who were good cricketers on the side, but most of the players were of the caliber of my friend Ian Peebles. All this guy Peebles had ever done was bowl against Australia in the Test Matches.

Cricket looks haphazard to the uninitiated and in fact in one sense it is. I don't suppose that outside of basketball anyone has ever really invented a game all ready-set with rules and implements. Instead, they rather happen or grow slowly as the result of terrain, kids fooling around at play, national characteristics, older traditions and personal temperament. And once a game is set by custom and tradition the British never seem to change the rules at all.

And yet, oddly there is both rhyme and reason to it, arrived at probably by sheer accident when the boys were mucking about on the village green centuries ago.

AN ABSORBING DUEL

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5
Related Topics
  ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS
Ian Peebles 1 0 0
London 393 0 2
Paul Gallico 11 0 0
Marylebone Cricket Club 3 0 0
Babe Ruth 322 0 7