Sunday, 1 October 1972

Mississippi`s first cricket match - HMS Battler Oct 1942

October 1942 - Mississippi`s first cricket match:

Last summer Commander F.M.R. Stephenson, RN, an elder brother of Lt. Col. J. W. A. Stephenson, overcoming innumerable difficulties, introduced cricket to a town in Mississippi. It was certainly the first time the game had been played in this American town and probably the first match to be played in the State Of Mississippi.

The game was made possible by the extraordinary generosity of some of the officials of a shipbuilding firm. The chairman very kindly had some bats made, also stumps and bails. The first bat to be produced was of such a size that it would have taken WG Grace, Don Bradman, Marshal Timoshenko and half of the Russian army combined to have even lifted it, let alone made a stroke. However, after some modifications, three lovely one-piece bats were produced and with the use of a baseball, some "nets" were possible. The president of the firm very kindly wired Spaldings of New York to fly down three bats and three proper cricket balls for the actual match itself and the manager director of another firm in town made half a dozen pairs of pads, a pair of wicket-keeping gloves and some batting gloves. No mean feat when one realises what a complicated article a pad is to construct. In this connection it was amusing for Commander Stephenson to be told by the maker that he was getting on well with the 22 pads which were required! He had been told that the game consisted of two teams of eleven men - and he took it for granted that each player required a pad!

It was a glorious day for the match and in order to try to catch an English atmosphere it had been arranged for a marquee to be rigged on the ground and draped with flags; also to have some comfortable armchairs for the ladies and ice-cream, tea and coca-cola by the gallon (this is America's most popular TT drink). The only snag was the pitch. It was impossible to procure any very suitable turf, but there were bits here and there and the remainder of the pitch consisted of mud, sand and anything else that could be found. What Gover or any other fast bowler would have done on it one dreads to think. Commander Stephenson tried to get some umpires coats, but unfortunately the painters out there do not wear our long style coats and the local doctor had packed his operating coats preparatory to leaving the locality. Match cards and telegraph board were generously provided by the firm.

The match was Officers v Ships Company and the former were severely defeated. The doctor shaped very well and kept wicket beautifully - at least a dozen balls flew off the pitch straight over his head but he never 'stood back' at all. The bowling was poor and Petty Officer Gilbert thoroughly enjoyed himself until he very generously retired.
There were about a hundred American ladies present - all beautifully dressed - and some two hundred men. During the Officers innings Stephenson sat at a loudspeaker and tried to explain to the spectators what it was all about - also that it was not baseball and therefore barracking was taboo. They were model spectators and seemed very interested, but ninety percent, thought that it was on the slow side and could never supplant baseball. On the other hand, at the game of soccer which was staged the spectators raved about it and thought it was a wonderfully skilful display. They went into raptures when anyone headed the ball.
I am guessing that this took place in September / October 1942 but I don't know for sure. If you know anything else about this (date / location etc) I would love to hear from you!