How depressing to read Ed Vulliamy’s curmudgeonly dismissal of the London Series ballgames. (Letters, 4 July). As someone who attended his first Major League game at Ebbets Field in 1952 (I was a fanatical supporter of the Jackie Robinson-era Brooklyn Dodgers) and after following the game all my life, I yield to no one in my baseball snobbery.
Vulliamy’s criticisms of the London Stadium layout have some justice, but what did he expect? Yankee Stadium? I thought the construction of the playing field in such a space in just 21 days a triumph of groundswork. The area outside the foul lines – the usual term is foul territory, rather than foul zones – was larger than normal. As for the sunset, in most ballparks, including Ebbets Field and before the overwhelming prevalence of night games, left field was usually the “sun field”, it being thought better to have the sun in the fielders’ eyes rather than the batters’.
What truly affected the games and mainly produced the high scores was not so much the sometimes sloppy fielding but the necessary placing of the outfield fences, affording no right- and left-centre field power alleys. The players, as they said beforehand, saw the Red Sox right-field bullpen as an easy target and they took advantage. Despite this, the middle innings of Sunday’s game were scoreless.
As for the crowd, of about 60,000, where I sat for Sunday’s game I noted people who were more of less knowledgable, and others who weren’t. The former in my hearing were very happy to explain various finer points of the game. A virtue of baseball is that, like cricket, it is a game one can watch and talk about at the same time.
One personal reason for deprecating Vulliamy’s take on the games: my younger son, Liam Carroll, is head coach of the Great Britain national baseball programme. He worked very hard with the Major League Baseballorganisers, knowing that the occasion would raise the profile of the game and encourage participation at a grassroots level.
He knows that baseball, despite its largely British origins, will never be more than a niche sport over here. I feel that any attitude that discourages enlargement of the niche is simply spoil-sportism.