Baseball: Oval turns diamond for the day: New York produce tale of the unexpected to beat the Red Sox

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BUT for the gasholders and the spires of Parliament, the 5,190 gathered here yesterday might have thought they had parachuted into downtown Cincinnati or St Louis.

The Oval had become a diamond and Harry Brind's squeegee machine (aka. the Whale) and a drying sun had allowed play finally to get under way on the second day of the French's Baseball Festival. 'We took about 1,200 gallons off the field yesterday,' Paul Brind, Harry's son, said as he glanced nervously out to the middle to ensure that the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox minor leaguers were not performing the kind of sacrilege upon the square that the Australian Rules players had when they were here.

While some in the crowd were mystified by the rituals of the game between Mets and Red Sox, the presence of Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Syd Lawrence in the pre-game home-run derby gave them something to chew on.

Lawrence showed up his England colleagues by clearing the fence more often than they did. 'It's not hard to make contact,' he said. 'In cricket we practise with a narrow bat to get used to hitting it off the middle.' He then strode off, grabbed the hand of a Mets official and demanded, 'Where's the contract?'

Stewart's failure drew criticism from some of the fans. 'His stance is all wrong,' said Andrew Boyd, one of a group of players from the Crawley Comets. 'He's swinging it like a cricket bat.'

In the sponsor's lounge, the American Ambassador, Raymond Seitz, was paying more attention to getting deep background on the Labour Party from Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, than he was to the game. But he broke off to talk about Major League Baseball's European sales pitch. 'At the end of the day a nation can only play so many sports,' he said, 'but baseball's qualities - it is not a violent game and not played against the clock - ought to appeal to the British.'

Lawrence's total of three home runs was beaten only by the Mets' first baseman, Alan Zinter, who hit four. But Zinter's day was not done. He came up in the eighth with the game tied 3-3 and the bases loaded. Cue another big swing? No, in fact it was a dribbling little bunt that induced an error at third and drove in the winning runs as the Mets went on to beat the Red Sox 8-3.

'There's nothing like the unexpected,' he said in explanation. 'That's the game.'

(Photograph omitted)