Q & A: Yesterday's hero no more . . . and others behind bars

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Who was the first British-born player to play professional baseball?

Henry Chadwick, born in Exeter in 1824, had a great influence on the development of baseball rules. As a member of the New York Cricket Club and Manhattan's National Base Ball Club during the 1850s, he played and reported on both games during their infancy in the US.

Interestingly, he wrote in 1868 that the professional ball player had no reason to feel ashamed of his position, 'except when he gives way to the temptations offered by betting 'rings' and the gambling fraternity', adding that if a player kept 'in the honest path of the English cricket professional, he need not blush for his position'. - John M Jenkins, Bow Street, Dyfed.

I appreciate that cricket requires one umpire square of the wicket, but why does it matter which side he stands?

Square leg is where the umpire is best able to avoid interfering with play. He needs to stand away from fielders and far enough out to avoid a pull or hook shot hit straight at him.

Few things are more infuriating for a cover point fielder than to have the umpire standing square on the offside. This is permissable if the sun is in the umpire's eyes when he stands at square leg. It is also tolerated if the umpire forgets to cross over to square leg after a right-hander and left-hander batting together have scored a single or three. - Andrew Hinds, Tunbridge Wells.

The Laws of Cricket state under Law 3.10 Position of Umpires that 'The Umpires shall stand where they can best see any act upon which their decision may be required. Subject to this over-riding consideration the Umpire . . . at the Striker's end may elect to stand on the off instead of the leg side of the pitch, provided he informs the Captain of the fielding side and the Striker of his intention to do so.'

Applying the above Law to my own experience of club cricket as a player, and, inevitably, as an occasional umpire, it is best to stand on the on side, a) to avoid interfering with a normally larger number of fielders on the off side, and b) to see that the number of fielders behind the popping crease on the on side at the time of delivery does not exceed two.

Occasionally it is necessary to stand on the off side, but it is an umpire's dream to call 'No ball' for the infringement at b) above] - Ken Walter, Dartford, Kent.

It does not. Like much else in sport, and life, it is just a fashion. Apologists will say that the batsman's heels can be seen better if the umpire stands on the leg side. - Sqn Ldr D Lawrence RAF, A Man S, HQ BAOR, BFPO 140.

Are any animals raced other than horses, dogs and camels?

Cheetahs were raced at London's White City stadium just before the Second World War, on the whim of some cricket-loving Indian VIP. This is all I know on the subject. I was hoping another reader might by now have supplied some information, such as the nature of the running tracks. Were the beasts caged? And what did they chase? A hare? Or perhaps a man? I should like to have heard the race-reader announce over the tannoy, 'The man is running.' - John S Procter, Epsom.

Has football inspired any feature films other than The Arsenal Stadium Mystery and Escape to Victory?

Yes, although the word film is used loosely. In 1979 Yesterday's Hero was released on to a blameless public. Ian McShane played a washed-up George Best figure persuaded by football club- owning pop star Paul Nicholas to turn out for a lowly third-rate club, managed by Adam Faith. Honest. Despite drinking scotch at half-time he inspires the team to Wembley, but not before some would-be heart-warming schlock about an orphan (I think), and the audience has been punished with Nicholas singing some naff drivel that may be the theme.

The Wembley climax uses stock footage from a League Cup Final (remember those) featuring Southampton and Nottingham Forest intercut with tubby actors on Hackney Marshes pretending to be real footballers. Because the crowd were obviously waving Forest banners the film-makers are forced to alter the script to make the opponents of McShane's team Leicester Forest] - Harvey Eddington, London SE22.

Although fewer films have been made about football than horse racing or boxing, they come from a wider range of countries - as diverse as Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Tunisia and Yugoslavia, to name only a few.

Some of the more intriguing titles are: The Klapzuba Football Eleven; The Football Parson; Women Who Have Run Offside; Comrade President the Centre- Forward; The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty; Excuse Me - Are You Watching Football?; and Fish, Football & Girls.

Since The Winning Goal, made in 1920, there have been about 90 films inspired by football of which perhaps the best known is Gregory's Girl, the Bill Forsyth film made in 1984. - Cristina Newell, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks.

Aside from documentary features such as Goal] World Cup 1966 and G'Ole (1982), football has been central to a number of films, mostly uninspired and mostly British.

Richard Harris played an ageing Israeli (]) football star in Bloomfield (1969); and Yesterday's Hero (1979) had Ian McShane as a one-time football ace, turned 35, on the booze, who makes a comeback during the last 10 minutes of the FA Cup Final. The best player on the school team in Gregory's Girl (1980) is Dorothy, an attractive blonde with a tremendous boot, and Those Glory Glory Days (1983) told of football-mad teenage girl supporters.

The American Vietnam War movie, The Boys In Company C (1977) climaxed with a football match between a team of US recruits and a local South Vietnamese one, before the GIs go off to take on the Vietcong, and Pele starred in Young Giants (1983), helping to organise a poor kids' football team.

Wim Wenders' The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (1972) was not about football, but used a sporting metaphor as a starting point to express the angst of everyday life. Stubby (1974) related how a six-year-old football prodigy was selected for Sweden's national senior team in the World Cup. - Ronald Bergan, St Albans.

Football has been the subtle inspiration for many top box-office feature films. Here are some of those films and the inspiration behind them: Presumed Innocent (Gary Lineker), Great Expectations (Manchester United), Missing (Bryan Robson), Lonely are the Brave (Wimbledon FC supporters), The Body Snatchers (Kenny Dalglish), My Left Foot (Stuart Pearce), Goldfinger (Ron Atkinson), Bad Timing (Paul Gascoigne), White Mischief (Vinnie Jones), A Day at the Races (Francis Lee and Mick Channon). - Martin D Jones, London SW19.

Footballers are supposed to go off and run pubs when they retire. But can anyone tell me of any ex-players who have?

Billy Lucas (Wolves), The Black Horse, Newport, Gwent. - Harry Brussalis, Newport, Gwent.

Terry Hibbitt (Newcastle United), The Diamond Inn, Ponteland, Northumberland. - Peter Rowell, Ponteland.

Larry Lloyd (Nottingham Forest), The Stage Door, Nottingham. - Nigel Mill, Nottingham.

John Sims (Derby County), The Post Horn, Torquay. - Ashley Bear, The Hague.

Gerry Ryan (Brighton), The Witch, Lindfield, West Sussex. - Gavin Mortimer, Lindfield, West Sussex.

Dixie Dean (Everton), The Dublin Packet, Chester. - Carl Parker, London N8.

Jim Holton (Coventry City), The Old Stag, Coventry. - A M Chustecki, Alvechurch, Worcs.

Kevin Beattie (Ipswich), The Town House, Ipswich; Alan Brazil (Ipswich), The Black Adder, Ipswich; Alan Sunderland (Ipswich), The Halberd Inn, Ipswich. - Peter Sadler, Ipswich.

John Radford (Arsenal), The Greyhound, Thaxted, Essex. - Tim Connolly, London SE23.


Why are 'Test' matches so called? - N Williamson, York.

Why do golfers only wear gloves on their left hand? - Donald M Dunk, West Wickham, Kent.

When did English footballers start hugging each other after scoring a goal? - B M Madden, Borehamwood, Herts.

Which sports person's signature is the most valued? And which one has signed the most autographs? - Kevin Maguire, Batley, West Yorks.

What do goalkeepers put into the small bags that they take on to the pitch and leave in the back of the net during the game? - Billy Frugal, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks.

Has anyone ever scored a true maximum in snooker of 155? This is possible if a break starts with a free ball, a colour is taken as a red, a colour is potted, and then the table is cleared as usual. - John Everett, Darlington.

Do Plymouth Argyle have any historical connection with the Celtic parts of these islands? Why the name Argyle, and why play in green? - John Luke, London E13.

I believe Wembley once staged a football match the day after a show jumping event had been held there and the pitch consequently left in an appalling condition. Which match was it? And how was it that horses were ever allowed on to the hallowed turf? - Colin Forbes, London W3.

Who was the last white man to play cricket for the West Indies? - Ian Porter, Chichester.