Flannels on the Sward


I bought this enveloped at a recent International Stamp show in Hartford, CT and found it interesting as this was posted during WWII. All mail was opened/examined as you can see in the picture and also that it was from a Cricket ball manufacturer who may have sent an invoice for goods shipped to this once famous landmark. An article I found on the web (copied from a newspaper) is given below in full, makes for interesting reading.


    Alex Taylor, of Alex Taylor & Co., the sporting-goods store at 22 East 42nd Street, is just entering his 50th year on that deplorable thoroughfare, and we paid him a visit the other day. He is a small-boned, gentle-faced man of 71 and, despite the contamination to which he has been exposed for so long, has the benign air of a golfing country parson. Naturally, we asked him what changes he’d noted during a half century in his surroundings and, naturally, he replied that he’d noted a good many. As far as sports equipment is concerned, we gathered that he considers every change an improvement, but as for 42nd Street he feels that a steady and woeful deterioration has taken place, much more than enough to discount the building of the present Grand Central Station.

  “Back in ‘97, I started as a clerk at a sporting-goods store called
Johnson & Stoughtenburgh,” Mr. Taylor said. “The shop was at 55
West 42nd, near the corner of Sixth, where Stern’s is now. Jim Wakeley’s saloon was right next door. John L. Sullivan spent most of his time at Jim’s in those days. He was a bloated, bad-tempered, heavy-jowled man, and he never got tired of talking of his prowess. When he was sober, which was seldom, he’d praise Corbett, but when he was drunk, he’d say Corbett had given him a dirty deal. In 1901, I bought a half interest in the firm, making it Johnson & Taylor, and in 1908 I bought out Johnson and moved to 16 E. 42nd. After the old Hotel Belmont was torn down, the eastern wall of my shop was exposed, and I had a big sign painted on it, urging people to say “Zzunk!” instead of swearing when they got mad.  It caught on for a while, too. We’d watch people come up out of the subway, trip on the top step, and say, “Oh, zzunk!” We moved to this building in 1921, and we like it here, but the neighborhood is not what it was. All the hotels are gone - the Belmont, the Grand Union, the Bristol, the Manhattan - and a lot of cheap little stores have opened up on a
month-to-month basis. It’s brassy, it’s noisy, and over by Times Square -“
Mr. Taylor shook his head.

   In 1897, Mr. Taylor told us, the best sporting goods invariably
came from England, but for the past 25 years, American-made golf clubs, tennis rackets and so on have been considered as good as anybody else’s. “Different sports tend to rise and fall in popularity,” Mr. Taylor
said. “Back in ‘97, basketball was just beginning to catch on, lacrosse
and fencing were very popular, and golf and tennis, which had been rich men’s games, were beginning to be played by everybody. Now lacrosse and fencing are fairly unimportant, while skiing, to which nobody paid very much attention in the old days, is one of our major sports. Styles in equipment change, too. Tennis rackets used to be more rectangular in shape, and footballs were dumpy.

Since 1912, when their measurements were first standardized, they have lost a bit more than an inch around the waist. Shoe skates were practically unknown in 1897 and golfing irons were all hand-forged, with wooden shafts. The rubber-wound golf ball hadn’t been invented, so we used “gutty” balls, made of gutta percha. The gutta was easier to putt with, being heavy and dead and consequently more true on the green than a modern ball, but you couldn’t get much distance with it. Baseballs were also dead. They got a cork center in 1909, which speeded them up a trifle. It was the switch from American to Australian yarn in 1920 that made them really fast. Baseball bats, on the other hand, haven’t changed at all. I have a new magnesium bat in my office here, but I doubt if it’ll ever take the place of wood. Just doesn’t feel right.”

  The cost of sporting goods has, in general, gone up about 300 percent
since Mr. Taylor went into business. The number of people participating in sports has gone up even more strikingly. The percentage on that would run into four figures. The peculiar and, in some cases, dangerously successful marriage of women to sports has had much to do with this, though by around 1900 the weaker sex was already tentatively fondling Indian clubs, and going for a brisk spin on a bicycle. As we were leaving, Mr. Taylor showed us one of his old catalogues, in which a Ladies’ Standard Bicyle Suit was advertised - “constructed of good weight Navy blue twill flannel goods, blouse and divided skirt with diamond center-piece, or blouse with knickers and short skirt, complete, $6.” A rather racy item.


Some of the local ball makers Duke & Son, Stuart Surridge, John Wisden, Gray Nicholls, Twort & Sons and Ives all eventually merged to become Tonbridge sports industries. Situated along the river next to the bridge. 

Looks like the book review by qz.com & http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/08/cricket-is-catching-on-in-America-where-it-was-popular-a-century-ago/378683/

is bringing in some results. August has seen the highest sales so far, thanks for the review.

Looks like the current review for my book in http://qz.com/search/cricket has resulted in a few sales.

This is the difficulty faced by self-published books, even with great reviews, if there is no promotion & no one is aware of the book, it does not sell, simple as that. Even average books with traditional publishing sells thousands of copies due to mass marketing/coverage & placement in retail stores. I would be happy with sales of even 5000 worldwide. That is a miniscule number considering that it is the 2nd most popular sport in the world!

Another factor working against me is that CreateSpace, the self-publishing unit of Amazon has blocked my title from distribution to Libraries as I  purchased my own ISBNs. If I had used their ISBN, then the Libraries across the country would be able to order it - notice the ‘control’ by Amazon!

Book Reviewed by Library Journal

Another great review…can’t say the same thing for sales :)

July 2014 review in Book Verdict by 

More a monograph than a traditional reference source, this work focuses on the history of cricket in eastern Canada and the original American colonies from the 1700s to the late 1800s. Little is written about either Latin America or other parts of the United States although there are short chapters on Hawaii and Mexico. Likewise, not much is included about 20th-century cricket. However, self-publisher Patel’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the sport are in evidence throughout his text. In an articulate and absorbing style, the author, a fan of the game, details convincingly the sport’s beginnings in America’s colonial era, its growth over the next hundred years, and its eventual decline at the end of the 19th century. His descriptions of key figures, games, and moments lovingly capture the sport’s essence. Many pages contain fascinating artifacts such as scorecards, pictures, diagrams, and announcements, giving the work authenticity. The bibliography has a solid selection of texts but generally lists magazines, journals, and periodicals without specific citations. The lengthy index primarily lists names and places. Perhaps the most satisfying part of the book is Patel’s attempt to explain cricket’s failure to catch on in America. One can sense his exasperation and disappointment that baseball rather than cricket evolved into the nation’s pastime. After reading this informative introductory history of the sport, many may agree with him. VERDICT Although a bit short on statistics, this title is an engaging work on the first two centuries of cricket in North America, and one that general readers who want to learn more about the sport will enjoy.

Certificate received for the copy of my book I had donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame, this was the only way I was going to get in :)

Certificate received for the copy of my book I had donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame, this was the only way I was going to get in :)

Review of my book (finally) by ‘The Cricket Statistician.’

Book reviewed by Roger Heavens in the summer 2014 issue of ‘The Cricket Statistician’ published by ‘The Journal of the Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians.’ Verdict – 8 (out of 10)

Although it needs a good edit to remove a number of duplicated items and correct various typos, this is one of the most interesting and thoughtful books that I have reviewed over the years. Mr. Patel was born in India, where cricket is played on every street corner (as I witnessed for myself on a recent trip to Mumbai), and on emigrating to America was disappointed to find little happening in that regard. I cannot imagine anything worse for a cricket fanatic, which is what Mr. Patel certainly is! He set about researching the history of the game on the American continent, and this book is the result.

The main text of the book deals with the origins of the game in Canada and the United States and cites most of the known early references, though in greater detail than most historical texts, plus many more which only an author residing in the USA is likely to find. There are a few gaps, but not many, and these are more than made up for by the new research. The beginning of the book deals in considerable detail with the differences between ‘cricket’ and ‘wicket.’ The latter was taken up enthusiastically by cricket historian Rowland Bowen as a forerunner to cricket; Mr. Patel, however, provides evidence that the game, although with many similarities, was a different sport. Many historians have claimed they are (probably) the same but it seems from the evidence quoted they were not, as they were played side by side for many years. The author, wisely, does not commit himself on this point, leaving the reader to decide. He tells me that his ongoing quest is ‘where and when did Wicket originate’ and is wondering if anyone in England has looked into the matter. Could you, or anyone you know, help him with this query?

His thoughts as to why cricket did not take off in America are also sensibly noncommittal, because it is difficult to pinpoint a specific reason. The game was on the cusp of becoming the most important ball game in the country but a combination of events, including independence, the civil war, and the marketing of baseball (certainly a British game, a point – known to most sports enthusiasts for at least 100 years but ignored by Americans – confirmed by the book) as the national game, all but destroyed it. Of course, cricket is still played, mainly in the Philadelphia area, and the Canada v USA series is the oldest continuing international fixture in the world. The book also considers the current status of the game in North America.

The latter part of the book deals with cricket in South America. Most of the information, which is somewhat limited, is provided by the various cricket associations of those countries, but in some cases there is new information that either supersedes or adds to the listing provided by Martin Wilson in his useful booklet First Cricket in…(Christopher Saunders 2009). The main additions are Costa Rica (1870), Peru (1859) and Uruguay (1842) and I can add Columbia (1882) from my research for the next volume of Scores and Biographies. Chilean Cricket on page 322 does not give itself enough historical credit as the reference to 1829 should actually be to 1818 (see page 54 of Wilson’s book). On the other hand, research at Lord’s show that Mexican cricket began in 1827, and not 1837 as indicated by Wilson (see page 66). There seems to me more scope to improve the information on South America. Guyana and Falkland Isles spring to mind, as they are or were British territories, and not all countries are covered. Anybody interested in cricket in the Americas should buy a copy of this volume. There is great potential for a follow-up book, which I hope Mr. Patel will produce in due course.

So far 10 people have signed up, 9 more than the last time…I guess I better do some homework and read up on my book!
A recent article in the ‘Guardian’ talked about how ESPN is now getting into live telecast of Cricket matches here in the US based on the growing demographics. At the end of the day, it is always the numbers that dictate the trend. No doubt there is plenty of viewership, it just has to brought into the mainstream more frequently.

So far 10 people have signed up, 9 more than the last time…I guess I better do some homework and read up on my book!

A recent article in the ‘Guardian’ talked about how ESPN is now getting into live telecast of Cricket matches here in the US based on the growing demographics. At the end of the day, it is always the numbers that dictate the trend. No doubt there is plenty of viewership, it just has to brought into the mainstream more frequently.





"Flannels on the Sward" by Jayesh Patel

It’s out there for the world to see now. My views & thoughts behind the writing, mistakes or a flash of wisdom, writing style & presentation etc. is all there in black & white (full color version from next month). Since I have done the editing/proofing to save $4000, I am sure there are a few errors, but my overriding concern/interest is to know what ‘your’ opinion is about the presentation of facts/writing style/pictures etc.

I do want feedback so I can assimilate & adapt ideas/comments & of course - criticism. 

Hello Jayesh - I read the NPR article on wicket ball. I live in westfield ma (western part of state near springfield) and I wrote a book about baseball history in westfield ma and dedicated an entire chapter to wicket ball as it was the game of choice in this area. In fact one particular match was quite controversial. This was published in 2004 and at that time little to nothing was known about the game. I believe my one chapter was the only dedicated source at the time.

Apologies for the late reply, have not been on tumblr lately. Wish I had made contact with you before, could have used more Wicket material. If you have provided John with the info then I should have that same info too. There is a ‘Pops’ Maxfield who does vintage baseball recreation in CT, he may know Brian Sheehy. Where can I find your book?