San Fernando Valley

The Valley as cricket mecca


ESPN Los Angeles discovers the Woodley Park cricket field in the Sepulveda Dam Basin, "a Shangri-La to cricketers around the world."

This is indeed a hallowed ground.

"We've had funerals with full-on bagpipes," cricket historian David Sentance said. "There are famous cricketers buried here. Of course, we don't make much noise about it. We certainly don't put plaques up. We don't want to make this place a cemetery."


Cricket has a rich history in Southern California. The sport has been played there since the 1890s, but it wasn't until the 1930s that an elderly character actor named Sir Aubrey Smith formed the Hollywood Cricket Club with Frankenstein himself, Boris Karloff.

Karloff once wrote, "I feel quite safe in prefacing my remarks by the simple statement that cricket is the finest game in the world."

The Hollywood Cricket Club, which featured some of Hollywood's leading actors, such as Lawrence Oliver and David Niven, was able to secure land at Griffith Park near Burbank, Calif. The grounds featured four fields and a grand pavilion. But in the 1970s, equestrians who had used other areas around the field decided they wanted the ground to train.

The Southern California Cricket Association and other members of the cricket community joined forces and fought for a spot to call their own.

"Fortunately, the West Indian community was well positioned at the time," Sentance said. "For over five years, there was a lot of political groundwork."

In 1977, the SCCA secured land in the Sepulveda Basin. "It was a bare piece of land," Sentance said. "Over a four-year period, all the cricketers planted the trees and started putting in pitches."

Amar Shah, the writer and producer who did the piece, is "currently developing a romantic comedy screenplay set in the world of cricket."

Photo: John Lazar for ESPN Los Angeles

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