The Sinatra legend: how a skinny kid from Hoboken achieved cricketing greatness

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The Independent Online
From Max Rothstein Esq

Sir: In all the homage paid to the late Frank Sinatra, I am sorry that nobody has paid tribute to his abiding love of the English game of cricket.

I used to play second alto saxophone in the touring band led by Harry James during the days of World War Two. As we went everywhere by coach we had to devise our own amusements, and among other things we used to stop in the country now and again to play baseball or throw a ball around. If we met another band coming the other way, we would maybe stop and play them at baseball.

Well, here comes this skinny little kid from Hoboken to sing with the band and if that ain't enough, he teaches us to play the English game of cricket, which he picked up from some limey movie or other. He always has to be different, Frankie. To humour him, and because it ain't a bad game, we learn. It was always Frank's sadness that none of the other bands could give us a game, until once by sheer chance we encountered a travelling British symphony orchestra, somewhere on the road to Cincinatti. We amazed them by challenging them to cricket. We amazed them even more by beating them! But how we did that is another story.

Yours etc

From Cedric Price

Sir, I can vouch for the truth of the above. I was a British actor in Hollywood in the 1950s and Sinatra was desperate to join our expat cricket team. "Strictly for UK citizens, old boy," we told him. "Sorry and all that. It's our rules."

"Then that means only one thing," said Sinatra.

"That you're going to become a British subject?" we gasped. "Just to get a game of cricket?"

"Nah," he said. "It means you're going to change the rules."

The next day some Italian gentlemen came to see our president, and after a short, terse meeting during which some furniture seemed to get badly broken, he announced that the rules would be changed. Sinatra joined our cricket club after all.

Yours etc

From Sir Frederick Snell

Sir: I can vouch for the truth of the above. I spent a short period in Hollywood in the 1950s as a film studio conductor and sometimes played in the same team as Sinatra. He was not an unfriendly man, but I fear he may have been abnormally shy, as he would never take the field except in the company of a friend, normally a large Italian man in sunglasses, coat and a hat. To begin with, these Italians found it hard to get used to the game. I remember once the captain shouted at Sinatra to move round to gully. His Italian friend drew a gun, went over and said to the captain: "Nobody talks that way to our boss", and he was about to lay him out when Sinatra intervened.

Yours etc

From Mr Joe Romano

Sir: One more crack out of you about Sinatra's Italian friends and this column gets damaged. OK? OK - talk some more about cricket, but nothing else.

Yours etc

From Mr Percy Fudge

Sir: As a one-time cricketing colleague of Mr Sinatra in Hollywood I sometimes noticed that when he caught the ball - and he was a good catch - he would flick it from hand to hand, then from behind his back over his head and finally catch it under his knee. When I asked him why he did it, he said: "After years of handling a microphone. that's the only way I can catch anything."

Yours etc

From Max Rothstein

Sir: Me again. I forgot to tell you that I always remembered exactly where I was when I heard Kennedy was assassinated. I was standing next to Frank Sinatra in the slips playing in a Harry James Band reunion match, and word came out that the President had been killed. We were all stunned - except Frank, who just sort of muttered: "He had it coming. He should have played ball."

"Kennedy should have played cricket, d'you mean, Frank?" I said.

"Never mind what I mean," he said.

So I didn't. Nobody did, with his mean Italian friends all around...

From Mr Joe Romano

Sir: OK, I warned you. No Italian references, I said. But you wouldn't listen. Well, that's it. No more column today. Everyone go home. Nice and easy. That's it. We're closing down. Right now ...