Your Majesty: Baseball just isn't cricket

May 15, 1991

TO HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II:

Welcome to Baltimore, ma'am.

By night's end, you will have experienced your first baseball game and, no doubt, will have some unanswered questions.

Undoubtedly, you noticed the similarity between this sport and your cricket. In both a bat hits a ball and someone runs as long as he can without being touched by the ball off a base.

In cricket, you run back and forth; in baseball, around a diamond, sort of like your childhood game of rounders.

But in cricket, the games can go on for days and days and days. Every afternoon, the players, fans and pontificators take a tea break. If a cricket fan should yell out something denigrating about the opposing team -- a comment that would pass unnoticed at a baseball game -- those pontificators would immediately begin a commentary on the invasion of the British empire by the barbarians. Just wait until they see their first "wave" sweep over the cricket crowd. It would probably be more like a slow ripple, but still revolutionary.

Your days-long cricket matches take place under sunlight, a natural condition for such games, but clearly meaning that only members of the leisure class can be loyal fans. (In this country, such baseball fans congregate mainly at Wrigley Field on the north side of Chicago).

No, we play our games under the lights so folks who have to work during the day can come out and enjoy a game at night, maybe knock back a couple of beers, eat a few peanuts.

This working class orientation extends to the playing field where etiquette is not always out of Emily Post. Notice, for instance, the way the players scratch themselves, in full view of thousands.

One of our readers, a Miss Elizabeth Fletcher Hartley of Baltimore, suggests we explain that habit to you this way;

"It is atavistic for baseball players to scratch themselves in public because in the early days uniforms were made of itchy, coarse wool, which caused discomfort on hot summer days with concomitant results not unlike the sensation of jousting in a full suit of armor."

Tradition, your majesty. You have curtsying, we have scratching.

We fans of the Baltimore O's do have our own version of royalty, the Ripkens. Father Cal Sr. can be seen as something like the Queen Mum. He was once the top dog -- the team's manager -- but now is thought of fondly as a senior presence who brings a sense of tradition to the endeavor.

Cal Jr., that lanky shortstop, is the Prince of Wales, the heir apparent, who would uneasily wear the crown. He's tall and rich like your first-born Charles, and he's also hitched to a knockout blond. Brother Billy is clearly the second born -- a bit wilder, a bit crazier, a bit looser, but still obviously of noble birth -- sort of like that Andy fellow who used to keep the tabloids so busy.

And speaking of nobility, those of us down here at The Evening Sun were called to task by a couple of disgusted Anglophiles because of our misuse of your title. A Mrs. Michael Austin Lucas called us "ignorant tabloid American writers."

What had her upset was that we called you "Your Royal Highness," apparently a lesser title than the appropriate "Your Majesty." Samuel L. Green, an emeritus professor of art from Morgan State, said we "grossly, erroneously used" the wrong moniker.

Well, excuuuuuuussee me!

Hey, we made an error. You probably saw a few at the game. In baseball, they put such blunders right up on the scoreboard. Make this one read "E-Evening Sun" in the box score.

Actually, though, baseball fans don't put too much stock in such formality. You might have noticed that in Baltimore even our country's national anthem bows to the whims of the fans as the first syllable of the line "O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?" is turned into a rallying cry for the O's.

So, Your Highness, Your Royal Majesty, Ms. Queen, whatever, hope you enjoy the game. And if anyone back in England asks you what you thought of baseball, just tell them that the prime minister better not try to throw you any split-fingered fastballs because you can foul those off all night until he hangs a fat one right over the plate and tells it GOODBYE!

Come on back real soon, hon.

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