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U3A Writing: Baseball In Africa

…In the months of preparation it was found that though we could borrow some wooden stands it was doubtful if there would be anything like enough for the numbers expected to attend. It was therefore decided to build a stand behind the diamond. One of the farmer members allowed a brick-maker from his farm to find a suitable ant-hill from which the bricks could be made….

John Ricketts recalls the day when an American baseball team played a game in Africa.

From 1954 – 1957 I was on the committee of the QueQue Sports Club. The committee consisted of people voted in by the whole body of members plus two representatives form each of the sports bodies. At the time we had baseball, bowls, cricket hockey rugby and table tennis that I can remember and possibly others that I have forgotten. We had no soccer because that was played by the Africans and was predominantly a black sport. Que Que Sports club was a white club at the time though there were a few Asian members. I was on the Committee representing the hockey section.

At one of the committee meetings, one of the baseball representatives announced that an American baseball team was to visit the country and that QueQue had been chosen as one of the three international matches. It was a great honour for, as far as I know, it was the first international fixture ever to be played in the town. They asked for the help of the club to entertain the Americans and listed their requirements. The one which raised eyebrows was the request to play the match on the cricket pitch because it was bigger and better than the baseball pitch. After some discussion over the heads of the cricket representatives who feared their wicket it was agreed.

In the months of preparation it was found that though we could borrow some wooden stands it was doubtful if there would be anything like enough for the numbers expected to attend. It was therefore decided to build a stand behind the diamond. One of the farmer members allowed a brick-maker from his farm to find a suitable ant-hill from which the bricks could be made. The bricks were shaped and made and brought to the site. We watched the stand take shape but soon we began to worry about the slow progress. Would it be finished in time for the game? Eventually the work was finished and the whole lot was covered in cement. The day before the match it was declared ready.

That evening I was given a stick with which to measure the width of the seats, a set of stencils and a tin of black paint to number each of the spaces. I had reserved a seat for myself right in the middle, behind the catcher where I would be able to see all the play. Between the stand and the diamond there was a fence of chicken wire.

The Rhodesian team was outclassed by the tourists but the game was interesting. It was amazing to see how the ball moved in the air from the pitcher to the bat. The timing and power of the batter were also awesome.

By the end of the last innings everyone agreed that it had been a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon. The snag appeared as the spectators got up from their numbered seats and found that they had the number of their seats still. The paint, put on so late the day before had not dried properly. For some reason everybody blamed me.

The day was finished with a dance and a braaifleische and eventually even the cricketers were satisfied, Little or no damage had been done to the wicket.


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