After seeing my first ball game or so I was inclined to suggest improvements; but now that I have attended more I am disposed to think that those in authority know more about it than I do, and that such blemishes as it appears to have are probably inevitable. For one thing, I thought that the outfield had too great an advantage. For another, not unassociated with that objection, I thought that the home-run hit was not sufficiently rewarded above the quite ordinary hit - "bunch-hit," is it? - that brings in a man or men. In the English game of "Rounders," the parent of baseball, a home-run hit either restores life to a man already out or provides the batting side with a life in reserve. To put a premium of this kind on so noble an achievement is surely not fantastic. So I thought. And yet I see now that the game must not be lengthened, or much of its character would go. It is its concentrated American fury that is its greatest charm. If a three-day cricket match were so packed with emotion we should all die of heart failure.

I thought, too, that it is illogical that a ground stroke behind the diamond should be a no-ball, and yet, should that ball be in the air and caught, the striker should be out. I thought it an odd example of lenience to allow the batsman as many strokes behind the catcher as he chanced to make. But the more baseball I see the more it enchants me as a spectacle, and these early questionings are forgotten.

Baseball and cricket cannot be compared, because they are as different as America and England; they can only be contrasted. Indeed, many of the differences between the peoples are reflected in the games; for cricket is leisurely and patient, whereas baseball is urgent and restless. Cricket can prosper without excitement, while excitement is baseball's life-blood, and so on: the catalogue could be indefinitely extended. But, though a comparison is futile, it may be interesting to note some of the divergences between the games. One of the chief is that baseball requires no specially prepared ground, whereas cricket demands turf in perfect order. Bad weather, again, is a more serious foe to the English than to the American game, for if the turf is soaked we cannot go on, and hence the number of drawn or unfinished matches in the course of a season. A two hours' game, such as baseball is, can, however, always be played off.

In baseball the pitcher's ball must reach the batter before it touches the ground; in cricket, if the ball did not touch the ground first and reach the batsman on the bound, no one would ever be out at all, for the other ball, the full-pitch as we call it, is, with a flat bat, too easy to hit, for our bowlers swerve very rarely: it is the contact with the ground which enables them to give the ball its extra spin or break. Full-pitches are therefore very uncommon. In cricket a bowler who delivered the ball with the action of a pitcher would be disqualified for "throwing": it is one of the laws of cricket that the bowler's elbow must not be bent.

In cricket (I mean in the first-class variety of the game) the decisions of the umpire are never questioned, either by players or public.

In baseball there are but two strokes for the batter: either the "swipe," or "slog," as we call it, where he uses all his might, or the "bunt," usually a sacrificial effort; in cricket there are scores of strokes, before the wicket, behind it, and at every angle to it. These the cricketer is able to make because the bat is flat and wide, and he holds it both vertically and at a slant, as occasion demands, and is allowed, at his own risk, to run out to meet the ball. In the early days of cricket, a hundred and fifty years ago, the bat was like a baseball club, but curved, and the only strokes then were much what the only baseball strokes are now - the full-strength hit and the stopping hit. So long as the pitcher delivers the ball in the air it is probable that the baseball club will remain as it is; but should the evolution of the game allow the pitcher to make use of the ground, then the introduction of a flattened club is probable. But let us not look ahead. All that we can be sure of is that, since baseball is American, it will change.

To resume the catalogue of contrast. In baseball the batsman must run for every fair hit; in cricket he may choose which hits to run for.

In baseball a man's desire is to hit the ball in the air beyond the fielders; in cricket, though a man would like to do this, his side is better served if he hits every ball along the ground.

In baseball no man can have more than a very small number of hits in a match; in cricket he can be batting for a whole day, and then again before the match is over. There are instances of batsmen making over 400 runs before being out.

Another difference between the games is that in cricket we use a new ball only at the beginning of a fresh inning (of which there cannot be more than four in a match) and when each 200 runs have been scored; and (this will astonish the American reader) when the ball is hit among the people it is returned. I have seen such rapid voluntary surrenders at baseball very seldom, and so much of a "fan" have I become that the spectacle has always been accompanied in my breast by pain and contempt. I had the gratification of receiving from the burly John McGraw an autograph ball as a souvenir of a visit to the Polo Ground. I put it in my pocket hurriedly, conscious of the risk I ran among a nation of ball- stealers in possessing such a trophy; and I got away with it. But I am sure that had it been a ball hit out of the ground by the mighty "Babe" Ruth, which - recovering it by some supernatural means - he had handed to me in public, I should not have emerged alive, or, if alive, not in the ball's company.

In cricket the wicket-keeper, who, like the baseball catcher, is protected, although he has no mask, is the most difficult man to obtain, because he has the hardest time and the least public approbation; in baseball the catcher is a hero and every boy aspires to his mitt.

In cricket no player makes more than three hundred pounds a season, unless it is his turn for his one and only benefit, when he may make a thousand pounds more. But most players do not reach such a level of success that a benefit is their lot. But baseballers earn enormous sums.

If a match could be arranged between eleven cricketers and eleven baseballers, the cricketers to be allowed to bowl and the baseballers to pitch, the cricketers to use their own bats and the baseballers their own clubs, I fancy that the cricketers would win; for the difficulty of hitting our bowling with a club would be greater than of hitting their pitching with a bat. But their wonderful fielding and far more accurate and swifter throwing than ours might just save them. Such throwing we see only very rarely, for good throwing is no longer insisted upon in cricket, much to the game's detriment. That old players should lose their shoulders is natural - and, of course, our players remain in first- class cricket for many years longer than ball champions - but there is no excuse for the young men who have taken advantage of a growing laxity in this matter. Chief of the few cricketers who throw with any of the terrible precision of a baseball field is Hobbs. It must be borne in mind, however, that cricket does not demand such constant throwing at full speed as baseball does; for in cricket, as I have said, the batsman may choose what hits he will run for, and if he chooses only the perfectly safe ones the fieldsmen are never at high pressure. There is also nothing in cricket quite to compare with base-stealing.

When it comes to catching, the percentage of missed catches is far higher at cricket than at baseball; but there are good reasons for this. One is that in baseball a glove is worn; another that in baseball all catches come to the fieldsmen with long or sufficient notice. The fieldsmen are all, except the catcher, in front of the batsmen; there is nothing to compare with the unexpected nimbleness that our point and slips have to display.

In the hypothetical contest that I have suggested, between baseballers and cricketers, if the conditions were nominally equal and the cricketers had to pitch like baseballers and the baseballers to use the English bat, why then the baseballers would win handsomely.

Baseball, I fancy, will not be acclimatised in England. We had our chance when London was full of American soldiers and we did not take it. But we were very grateful to them for playing the game in our midst, for the authorities were so considerate as to let them play on Sundays (which we are never allowed to do) and I was one of those who hoped that this might be the thin end of the wedge and Sunday cricket also be permitted. But no; when the war was over and the Americans left us, the old Sabbatarianism reasserted itself. If, however, we ever exchanged national games, and cricket were played in America and baseball in England, it is the English spectator who would have the better of the exchange. I am convinced that although we should quickly find baseball diverting, nothing would ever persuade an American crowd to be otherwise than bored by cricket.