Cricket in America
American cricket reached its peak of popularity in the late 1890 and it's so called Golden Era lasted until the early 1900's. At that time, crowds reported at more than 25,000 came to see matches at the Merion Cricket Club, but those days are long gone. According to the faithful it was the First World War that dealt the American game a near mortal blow, but baseball didn't help much either.
Since 1924, popular interest in the game waned and it virtually disappeared from the American sporting landscape that is dominated by big business professional sports. It was teams around the country including the General Electric Cricket Club, the Fairmount Cricket Club in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, the British Officers Cricket Club who have Cope Field at Haverford as their home ground in the summer, several West Indian Cricket Clubs in New York, the Staten Island Cricket Club, since 1874, (probably the oldest continuously playing cricket club in America outside of Haverford having continued play throughout both World Wars), The Hollywood Cricket Club in Los Angeles and a few others that kept the game alive.
The 4th Annual Philadelphia Cricket Festival is part of what is considered by some to be an American renaissance of sorts. A renewed interest in the game, however, is not due to a rediscovery by Americans, but is largely due to the recent influx of immigrants from Commonwealth countries. Today, there are about 250 cricket clubs active throughout the country with a pool of about 10,000 players. Greater New York is said to have 75 teams, Miami 31, Philadelphia 16, Washington 18, Houston 10 with others spread about. Most clubs don't have their own grounds and play on matting wickets laid down in parks or baseball fields. The Merion Cricket Club, on Philadelphia's Main Line revived the game for which the club was founded in 1865, by re-introducing Spring and Fall "fixtures" in 1978 on its truly magnificent ground. The Marylebone Cricket Club team, which visited there in 1990, compared Merion's Great Lawn to Lords, the Center of Cricket in England. In the summer, lawn tennis and croquet take over at Merion which recently sent a team on a five-match tour of Hampshire and Surrey - winning their last encounter with The Law Society on the Lloyd's Registry Ground in Dulwich.
Cricket actually became part of American history quite early. Colonists in Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina played the game. William Byrd II of Virginia, in his secret diary written in short-hand, refers to an early morning game with family and friends played on the front lawn Westover, his impressive estate on the banks of the James River, on April 25, 1709.
Other historic references to cricket include games in Georgia in 1737 and in Baltimore in 1754, the same year Ben Franklin brought a printed copy of cricket rules of play home to the Colonies, almost one hundred years before the first book of baseball rules was published. But perhaps the most historic reference to cricket came during the 1776 debate in Independence Hall, when John Adams argued against the Chief Executive of the United States of America being called 'President' saying, "there are Presidents of cricket clubs."
The first recorded American cricket match per se was in New York in 1751, on the site of what is today the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan. A team called New York played the London XI 'according to the London method' probably a reference to the 1744 Code of the game which was more strict than the rules governing the contemporary game in England.
There is evidence that some of George Washington's troops played a game of "wickets" at Valley Forge in the summer of 1778.
Although an 'encounter' took place in Toronto in August of 1840, the world's first international match was between Canada and the United States at St. George's Cricket Club in Manhattan (East 31st near First Avenue) on the 24th and 25th of September, 1844. The series flourished and then died off. It has been revived in recent years with the 69th encounter, a two day affair, held on September 2nd and 3rd, 1995 on the beautiful grounds of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. Canada won comfortably by 128 runs. This competition for the K. A. Auty Trophy has been won by the U. S. 32 times, Canada 27 times and drawn 10 times.
While the distinction of being the first cricket club probably goes to the Union Cricket Club of Camden, New Jersey, started around 1840, the most important club in those days was the St. Georges CC which soon moved from Manhattan to better grounds across the Hudson in the Elysian Fields at Hoboken, New Jersey, known also as the site of the first baseball game. The coach and groundsman was the famous Sam Wright, whose sons, George and Harry were equally adept at baseball. Harry, in fact, went on to become the first manager of the first professional baseball team in the United States - the Cincinnati Redstockings. Both George and Harry Wright are in the baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York, as is a third cricket player, Henry Chadwick, who wrote the first Rules of Baseball published by Robin Carver in 1834. Ask a cricketers about baseball and they'll tell you it was derived from cricket. Others say it was copied from the English game of 'rounders'. Most Americans think the game was invented by Abner Doubleday who historians now admit had little or nothing to do with the game.
Cricket was played up and down the East Coast and in other locations around the country, but Philadelphia became the mecca of the game due to the stimulus provided by the influx of a number of Lancashire and Yorkshire hosiery and mill-workers in the 1840s. However, it was Jones Wister, an American, who is credited with being the "father" of Philadelphia cricket and it was probably the founding there of the four major cricket clubs that gave the game its biggest boost - Germantown CC, formerly the Manheim CC (1854), Philadelphia CC (1854), Merion CC (1865) and Belmont CC (1874-1913). It was these clubs, plus the 120 or so other cricket clubs in the Philadelphia area, that were the crucible of the game until the First World War.
Compiled from "Cricket in America" written by Amar Singh, Secretary and Chairman of the C. C. Morris Library Committee and a member of the Merion Cricket Club and "The Game of Cricket, (It Was in the States Before We Were States)" by J. Alfred Reeves, President, The British Officer's Cricket Club - Phildelphia.
Cricket Watchers Guide
How the Game is Played
Bowler vs. Striker
The Ball & Bowling
Ins & Outs of Scoring
Glossary of Cricket Terms
Cricket in America
North American Cricket Clubs
C.C. Morris Cricket Library
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