Q & A: Peerless pitching .. and sportsmen with double lives

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Q. In baseball, has anyone ever pitched a perfect game of 81 strikes?

A. The questioner has a basic misunderstanding of the aim of the pitcher in baseball. Just as a bowler in cricket does not always bowl at the wicket, so a pitcher may aim to dismiss the batter by another method than to strike him out. A perfect game, therefore, is defined as one in which the pitcher does not allow a batter to reach base by either a hit or a walk. This has been achieved 12 times in the major leagues, most famously by Don Larsen for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

As for strike-outs, the most in a major league game is 20 by Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox. There was, however, a minor league player, Ron Necciai, who struck out 27 of the 31 batters he faced in a game for Bristol in a class D game. Possibly the greatest pitcher ever was Walter Johnson, who was reputed to have struck out all 27 in a high school game. - Jeff Hoyle, Kings Lynn.

A. There have been a few 'perfect' games pitched in Major League baseball (27 consecutive batters out). None, however, have involved 81 consecutive strikes. That would require 27 three-ball strike-outs, a wildly implausible eventuality. Six consecutive strike-outs are the record, and those involved far more than 18 pitches, as teasing the batter with 'balls' outside the strike zone (to say nothing of simple inaccuracy) is an essential part of any pitcher's strategy. The perfect games all involved outs of one pitch as well as outs of 10 or more pitches (including foul balls).

Arguably the greatest game ever pitched was in 1959 by Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired 27 consecutive Milwaukee (now Atlanta) Braves, but was forced to keep pitching due to the fact that the Pirates had also failed to score, despite 10 hits in the first nine innings. He retired all nine batters in innings 10-12, but lost the game in the 13th. The record keepers do not even credit him with a 'no-hitter' since the game was not completed in that fashion, and he remains a footnote to baseball statistical history. - Joe Boyd, London W2.

Q. In a Barclays League game on 28 February this year, Tranmere Rovers fielded a side with a combined total of 2,620 games for the club. Has any other team come close to this combined loyalty in one match?

A. On 5 April 1972, Leeds United beat Huddersfield Town at home 3-1 (Jones, Lorimer and E Gray were Leeds's goalscorers). The Leeds team's combined total of League games for the club surpasses Tranmere's total by 1,007 and with one player fewer. In brackets I have included the players' final League games total for the club. The team includes Leeds' top seven most- played players in the League, (top nine including all appearances): 1 Gary Sprake 379 (380), 2 Paul Madeley 238 (536), 3 Terry Cooper 236 (250), 4 Billy Bremner 437 (587), 5 Jackie Charlton 606 (629), 6 Norman Hunter 396 (540), 7 Peter Lorimer 244 (525), 8 Allan Clarke 99 (273), 9 Mick Jones 157 (220), 10 Johnny Giles 299 (383), 11 Eddie Gray 169 (454), 12 Paul Reaney 366 (557). Total: 3,626 (5,334).

Incidentally, in 1976 Leeds United fielded Bremner, Reaney and Hunter in the same team at a time when they had all played over 500 League games for the club. Can anyone find a team to match this loyalty? - Bob Dunning, Leeds.

Q. Has any team ever won the Football League after leading all season?

A. In 1960-61 Tottenham began the season with 11 consecutive victories - a record winning streak and the best ever start to a season. Of their first 16 games, 15 were won and a single game drawn. Spurs accumulated a record 31 victories and went on to win the FA Cup. - P Lederer, Bournemouth.

Q. As a lifelong West Ham fan, I remember Jim Standen, who played in goal in the mid-Sixties and also played first-class cricket for Worcestershire. I assume the Compton brothers are the most famous double performers. Who else can readers add to this list, and has there ever been a treble performer?

A. Your writer assumes that the Compton brothers were the most famous 'double performers'. They were possibly the best-known because of Denis's charisma but, in fact, neither of them was a full double international: Denis was only a wartime football international and Leslie never played cricket for England. Indeed, Leslie did not gain his two international football caps until 1950, when he was 38. I believe he also scored an own goal on the two occasions he played for England]

The last double international (football and cricket) was Arthur Milton (Arsenal/Gloucestershire), but the following should have more claim to fame as genuine all-rounders or 'treble performers'.

J W H T Douglas (1882-1930) captained England at cricket, won amateur football caps for England and won the Olympic middleweight boxing gold medal in 1908. He died attempting to save his father's life when he was shipwrecked.

Maurice Turnbull (1906-44) represented England at cricket (he played for Glamorgan), played rugby union for Wales, and kept goal for Wales at hockey. - C S J Coley, Cheltenham.

A. In 1975, two Leicestershire cricketers achieved fame with what are probably unique achievements.

At Lord's in the Benson and Hedges final, Graham Cross, who played for Leicester City in FA Cup finals in 1963 and 1969 (on each occasion a loser), obtained a winner's medal when Leicestershire beat Middlesex, although Crossy failed to trouble the scorers. He is probably the only man to have played in top finals at Wembley and Lord's.

In the final match of the same season, with Leicestershire needing to beat Derbyshire to be certain of the Championship, Chris Balderstone, whose two England cricket caps would have been many more had football not claimed his early years, was not out at the end of the second day. At close of play he dashed to a waiting car, changing into football kit en route to Doncaster, where he played in a Football League match, returning to Chesterfield to complete a fine century next morning, with Leicestershire going on to win the match and secure the Championship for the first and so far only time in their history. Surely Baldy is the only man to have played a Football League match during the course of a first-class cricket century. - Julian R Branston, Leicester.

A. The list of double performers is extensive. Geoff Hurst played for Essex; other than Standen, Worcestershire have also fielded Phil Neale, who captained them and Lincoln City, and Reg Foster, who played both sports at national level. Andy Ducat (Aston Villa, Arsenal and Fulham) played for England and Surrey for 18 years (he died at the crease at Lord's in 1942). The Compton brothers had FA Cup-winning colleagues who were also cricketers in Raich Carter (Derby County, Derbyshire) and Jack Dyson (Man City, Lancashire).

Other England cricketers to have played in the Football League include Laurie Fishlock, Wally Hammond, Bill Edrich, Brian Close, Willie Watson, Ken Taylor and Ian Botham. Viv Richards played in the qualifying rounds of the 1978 World Cup, and the 1966 Gloucestershire side included, as well as Arthur Milton, the following who were or had been professional footballers: Barrie Meyer, Ronnie Nicholls, Dave Smith, Syd Russell, Harold Jarman and Bob Etheridge.

The following have also represented England at both cricket and football: John Arnold (Oxford City, Southampton, Fulham; Hampshire), Leslie Gay (Old Brightonians; Cambridge University), William Gunn (Notts County; Nottinghamshire); Harold Hardinge (Sheffield Utd; Kent); Patsy Hendren (Man City, Coventry City; Middlesex), Hon Alfred Lyttelton (Old Etonians; Middlese), Harry Makepeace (Everton; Lancashire), John Sharp (Everton; Lancashire). - Neill Trebble, Bristol.


Q. Somerset have a Dutchman playing for them who could one day play cricket for England. Have any Europeans played for England? - J Reynolds, Taunton.

Q. OFI Crete are in the third round of the Uefa Cup. Is this a record for a team from one of the east Mediterranean islands? - Christopher Toms, Shrewsbury.

Q. Scotland won't be going to the World Cup finals and nor, probably, will England. But how many goalkeepers in the English and Scottish leagues have a chance of representing their countries next summer? - Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, London.

Q. I recently purchased two old prints of jockeys in a bric-a-brac shop. The jockeys' names are T Loates and Mornington Cannon. Does any reader have any information on them? - Patrick McCann, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Q. In the recent London derby match between Leyton Orient and Barnet, both sides featured a Barnett in their line-ups, and that both scored. Have there been other such coincidences? Have a pair of Bristols ever lined up for the City- Rovers derby, for example? In the same match, Orient also fielded a Hendon and a Putney. There were therefore four players on the pitch named after London boroughs? Is this unique? - A Lam, Nyon, Vaud, Switzerland.

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