On their first tour of USA in 1879, the Gentlemen of Ireland were
tied 1-1 in the two matches against the Gentlemen of Philadelphia, the
strongest side in USA at that time. The visitors lost twice to
Philadelphia in 1888. In September and October of 1892, Ireland
visited USA for the third time, playing seven keenly contested matches
in Boston, Lowell, New York, Baltimore and, in a clear indication of
where the sport was most popular, three matches against the Gentlemen
The visitors attracted tremendous media attention wherever they went
and the stands were packed despite the late September chill.
In DreamCricket.com's possession are hand-colored photographic
images from the match at Germantown Cricket Club that are proof of the
game's popularity - perhaps the first photos of cricket played in USA.
Until then, most illustrations were hand-drawn.
Gentlemen of Ireland vs Gentlemen of Philadelphia at Germantown Cricket Club, Manheim.
As had become de rigueur for international matches,
spectator interest and media focus was centered on the match at the
Livingston Field in Staten Island, home of the Staten Island Cricket
Club, a ground that exists even today (the Randolph Walker Park); and
the three matches in Philadelphia, which were played at the Germantown
Cricket Club - a venue that was named a National Historic Landmark in
Commenting on the first match at Philadelphia (the fourth in the
series), Charles Blancke wrote in the Harper's: "If the reader has
never witnessed an international match, I would advise him the first
opportunity to visit the grounds of the Germantown Cricket Club at
Manheim, when such a game is in progress. No fair-minded man who has
been privileged to witness an international cricket match at Manheim
will deny that the game possesses certain elements of fascination."
Pic (Right): The rich watch the matches from their well appointed coaches
Blancke was eloquent in his description of the atmosphere: "Imagine
a matchless square of velvety grass upon which the picked champions of
two countries have met to defent the dignity of their national cricket.
"Around the arena are congregated several thousands of eager,
enthusiastic spectators, comprising people from almost every walk and
rank of life, from the native-born millionaire on his perfectly
appointed coach to the humble artisan who has sacrificed a day's wages
in order to witness his favorite game."
The ground had opened its clubhouse the previous year when Lord
Hawke's English side came visiting. The clubhouse, which still stands
today, was designed and built in 1891 by the internationally acclaimed
architectural firm McKim, Mead and White. When you look at the
pictures of the Germantown Cricket Club ground, it is easy to see why
it was, and according to those that play in Philadelphia, still
remains, the most appropriate venue for test cricket in the country.
Blancke wrote: "A stately club-house keeping silent guard over
others less imposing in size but daintier in appearance, clusters of
trees placed just where they will most enhance the scene, a graceful
grand stand filled with the elite of the country, and a cultivated
landscape dotted with charming villas, complete a picture of almost
unrivalled variety and brightness."
Germantown Cricket Club built a wicket that was fit for Test cricket. The clubhouse and the ground still exist today.
Describing the feverish excitement throughout the series, Blancke
wrote: "The interest displayed in these matches by the sport-loving
community of Philadelphia is general. For weeks previous to the visit
of a foreign team every scrap of information relative to the members
thereof is eagerly sought after."
Writing that the crowd of several thousands was eminently orderly,
Blancke spent some time discussing the women in attendance. "Some
affect the game because they are members of the ladies' auxiliary
branch of the local cricket club; others have gained a smattering of
the technical terms of the game, and like to air their knowledge with
cries of "beautifully cut.""
The Germantown Cricket Club ground featured a scoreboard that few cricket grounds in USA can boast of even today.
The following paragraph is as accurate now as it was a century ago.
"The visits of foreign elevens serve a double purpose: they tend to
popularize the sport, and they enable us to guage the progress made by
our cricketers from year to year. An international tournament between
the picked men of America, Australia, and England would arouse
unparalleled enthusiasm among our cricketers. Such a series would
enable us to find out exactly how we compare with the great elevens of
the world, and even if we should be defeated, the opportunity afforded
us to study the methods of the foreign experts would be incalculable
advantage to us."
Then as now, a lot of effort went into organizing cricket matches.
"Few people can imagine the amount of forethought necessary to the
successful management of such a match," Blancke wrote. There are a
thousand and one things to be looked after that would probably never
strike the mind of the average man, who is generally content to enjoy
the provisions made for his comfort without giving himself any special
concern as to the manner in which they were brought about."
The series itself proceeded in a predictable fashion and the toughest competition was in Philadelphia.
In the first match against a Boston XV, the Irish team fielded
twelve players but the travel-weary cricketers failed to fire against
Boston's strong bowling duo - the Boston Globe journalist Ralph
Cracknell who got 3 for 24 in the first innings and John Chambers who
got 5 for 39. With a score of just 84, there was no chance of a
comeback. In the second innings, Cracknell once again cracked the whip
(7 for 18) and Chambers played second in command (4 for 23). Boston
needed just 6 runs to win in the second innings which they managed
without a loss.
In the second match against a combined side of Boston and Lowell,
Ireland had a better tally posting 156 despite the hardships caused by
Cracknell and Chambers. But Archibald Penny of Ireland found form
extracting 7 Bostonian wickets and causing a middle order collapse.
Boston and Lowell were gone for 74 and forced to follow-on whereupon
George Green took 8 for 32 and causing the hosts to go down for 115.
Needing 34 to win, Ireland were made to struggle by Cracknell (4 for
16) and Chambers (2 for 17) but the visitors finished the chase with 5
wickets to spare.
From Boston, the Irish team proceeded to New York where they played
against an All New York side at the Livingston Field on Staten Island
for a 3 day match. Henry Tyers scored 91 against the confident Irish
helping New York post a respectable 225 in the first innings. William
Thompson of the NJ Athletic Club, 4 for 39, breached the confidence of
the visitors and they were gone for 187 despite Blayney Hamilton's
heroic 80. In the second innings, USA all-rounder John Lambkin got 58
and featured in a solid partnership with Tyers (29). After Tyers fell,
the New Yorkers collapsed with the score reading 164 but setting a
respectable targer of 203. Ernest Thompson (41) and Blayney Hamilton
(39), both of Dublin University, took the lead with Francis Kilkelly
contributing 37 lower down as Ireland reached 203 in a tight finish and
amidst failing light.
won two in a row, the Irish cricketers proceeded to Manheim to play
three matches against the strongest side in America - the Gentlemen of
Philadelphia (GOP) featuring the likes of GS Patterson, Henry Baily and
America's greatest cricketer ever - John 'Bart' King. In
Philadelphia, the Irish won one, lost one and drew the final match.
Pic (right): The clubhouse at Germantown Cricket Club - AL Church - 1893
In the first match on 23rd September 1892, Ireland chose to bat
after winning the toss. Bart King and Baily knocked the top order out
with lightning speed but Archibald Penny restored some order with his
59 not out but with nobody giving company, Ireland could muster 175.
(See the illustration freezing the scoreboard - the first such
illustration still available).
In their chase, GOP suffered at the hands of Blayney Hamilton and
John Hynes conceding a nice first inning lead of 52. Ireland added 239
in their second innings and chasing 291 was not easy despite the solid
start given by GS Patterson (56) and a similar effort by H Crawford
Coates (also 56). The hosts managed 164 allowing the Irish a win by
Riding on a high, Ireland took a road-trip to Baltimore where they
handed the hosts an innings defeat before heading back to Philadelphia.
In the second match against Philadelphia, the home team started
poorly and fought brilliantly to get to 157. It was now up to Bart
King and Baily and they did not disappoint with 8 wickets between them
as they uprooted Ireland for 122. In the second innings, Walter Scott
(53) struck form and featured in a fifty run opening partnership with
Edward Clark (29) as GOP capitalized on that start and made 181.
Chasing 216, Ireland was up for the task as Blayney Hamilton continued
his form as he and Montiford Gavin withstood King and built up a 49 run
partnership. Wicket keeper William Vint and Archibald Penny sweated
stood like a rock in a ninth wicket partnership that nearly denied
Philadelphia a victory. But after Vint (33) fell to Clark, King
triggered the celebrations as he removed the last man in and
Philadelphia won against the visitors by 23 runs.
The third match against Philadelphia, the last in the series,
stuttered to a draw but Philadelphians had already proved that they
were among the top teams in the world. In the two decades that
followed, Bart King continued to take Philadelphia to never-befor