I read this week that Major League Baseball intends to send the Yankees and Red Sox to London for a two-game series next season. Makes sense. The marketers of the game are concerned that baseball is too languid for young fans here accustomed to instant gratification. Young Brits may regard a three and a half to four hour ball game as fast cricket.
The news that New York will play Boston in East London encouraged me to recall my only experience with baseball and an Englishman. On a July morning 20 years ago, somebody at the British Consulate called to ask me to attend a game at Fenway Park with the Duke of York.
“Sure,” I was tempted to say. “Will the Emperor of Ice Cream be joining us?”
But I didn’t say that, and it was a good thing, because it wasn’t a prank call.
A few hours later I was seated beside Prince Andrew in the exclusive seats up behind home plate. He had three or four guys in suits with him, and he was wearing a suit, and no crown or anything, but some people recognized him anyway. I know this, because when I left my seat for a few minutes, two women asked me if I could get them the prince’s autograph.
“Certainly not,” I said. I resisted the temptation to address them as hoi and polloi, or perhaps riff and raff.
Throughout the game, Prince Andrew asked me a lot of questions, one of which was, “Why are they wearing those gloves?” which tipped me off that nobody had ever played catch with the prince.
Still, I give him credit for poise and manners, because when a guy in the next row back leaned in between us and asked, “You enjoyin’ the game, prince?” he smiled and said, “Yes, very much, thank you.”
A couple of weeks after that game, I got a letter from Commander Charlotte Manley, OBE, Comptroller and Assistant Private Secretary to the Duke of York. She wrote that the Duke had asked her to thank me for making his evening at the ballpark so enjoyable. She also wrote that His Royal Highness was, “only sorry that the local fans did not see a win for their team.”
It was 1998, remember, so I wrote back to the OBE and so on to say His Royal Highness shouldn’t worry, because fans of this particular local team hadn’t seen a championship in 80 years, so they would not be disappointed or surprised by a loss that night.
I don’t know if she passed that news on to the Prince. I haven’t seen him since to ask.