The day of the great Cup Match is finally here and as the town of Hamilton looked like Philadelphia on a Sunday, I thought I would hie me to St. George’s and have my first look at the manly art of cricket.
As I had operated the electric “score board” (from the best vantage point) in a major league baseball park in Washington D.C. for several years in my youth – this game should be a cinch to analyze.
Ducking my head into a Bermuda “Kiddie Car” (labelled Taxi) I rolled through the oleander-lined roads to the big event.
And what a sight it was! Wellington Park looked like a country fair designed by Dali with costumes by Matisse. An enormous crowd moved endlessly around. It seemed that everybody was trying to outdo everyone else in colorful Bermudian costumes., especially the hats – these were every shape and colour from old tin cans to contraptions five feet wide trimmed with flowers. Even clowns and goats were in evidence.
Every form of tent, shack, or canvas awning up on poles, completely surrounded a large green field. Under these shelters were thousands of people, consuming everything from chicken dinners to “minerals” which proved to be coca cola and bottled waters of such ilk. And hot dogs! (Now I felt in my own territory.) Behind these booths were colorful groups around tables on which games of chance were progressing. “Crown & Anchor” I found was one – though it is still meaningless to me.
It seemed to me that only a small fraction of the vast assemblage was watching the game.
“What is the score?” I asked. “124 for 5,” I was informed. That sounded like good odds – like the daily double at Belmont Manor Race Track.
Turning my attention to the field, I easily located the home plate because a man with a sort of paddle in his hand was awaiting the pitch. Behind him was the catcher who, having no mask, had apparently some protection from a small piece of fence stuck in the ground. Off to the side was a man in a long white night gown, or butcher suit, and straw hat, unquestionably the umpire. But why wasn’t he behind the plate?
The game was on, and I applied my attention to the pitcher who, strangely, is out close to second base – he started running toward the pitcher’s box with a jump and a run (or a run and a jump) and heaved the ball overhand, as if it were a hand grenade, at a batter’s feet. The batter nonchalantly stuck his paddle in the way and the ball rolled sluggishly to one side. A bunt perhaps. This went on and on. Practically nothing was happening, as far as I could see. Then suddenly the batter evidently found one to his liking and whaled it out into the field. He then trotted (not ran) down to the pitcher’s box while another fellow with a bat in his hand, who had been loafing around down there, came trotting up to the home plate. That was a run I discovered, but what was the other fellow doing? He didn’t hit anything.
This jogging back and fourth went on for an hour or so until finally the man at the plate socked one way out to what would be the score board – a white board fence – and a lone fielder rushed for it. He and the ball hit the fence at about the same time. The fence promptly fell over on the outfielder and the ball.
After being extricated from under the sign board, the player and the ball were not together, so I was told that this was something like a home run – only nobody ran. You get four (or six runs), if the ball tolls out of the field or is knocked over the bleachers in good old Babe Ruth fashion. I then looked to the position of the fielders. I found them all clustered about behind the batter, catcher and those sticks, which by this time I have learned are called “wickets.” Why don’t the fielders go out there to get the ball when the man hits it? That answer is simple – if he hits a good one they would never catch it. Now and then I’d overhear remarks such as “It’s one off the leg,” “square leg” or “four around leg,” none of which made sense to me.
Presently, all players began strolling off the field.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“They are just going out for tea, of course.”
Imagine the Dodgers or the Giants stopping at the seventh inning and going out for tea! I can see the pop bottles flying! I wandered over to the clubhouse where apparently all the elite were assembled. it wasn’t exactly Ascot, but there were certainly plenty of originality. I dug up that grocery bills would go unpaid for tow months on account of all this finery.
The boys with the paddles came out again and play was resumed at its lovely leisurely pace. Suddenly the game stopped again and all the players gathered in a group at one end of the field.
“Ah! I know that,” I said to a neighbour. “It’s a huddle as we have in football. Of course, you have football in England, don’t you?”
“My dear chap,” was the answer. “Football is the British Isles, cricket is the Empire.”
As nothing more happened for another hour, I decided that I had learned all the fine points of cricket and so I departed.
I hear that at the end of the game “Stumps” are pulled, which I suppose means that enthusiastic spectators tear down those little wickets for souvenirs, as is done with the goal posts after a Yale-Princeton game.
There is an expression, “It isn’t cricket,” but I guess it is.