8th June 2017
Is politics a logical next step after a successful career in sports? Former athletes, Lord Coe, Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Chris Chataway and Kate Hoey have certainly all achieved. We looked at the careers of three exceptional, past cricketers too to gauge potential success. Results were mixed! It’s almost an insult to classify CB Fry as ‘just’ a […]
6th April 2017
Martin Sheridan’s obituary in the New York Times described him as ‘one of the greatest athletes the United States has ever known’. Martin Sheridan was actually born and brought up in County Mayo, Ireland. The USA was very quick – and sensible – to claim him as one of their own, soon after he stepped […]
16th March 2017
John Wisden founded the most iconic cricket annual in 1864: the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Its publication is eagerly awaited every year. Steeped in Wisdens as we are, we thought we’d take a closer look at the man himself. John Wisden was born in Brighton in 1826. His father died when he was a boy and Wisden […]
Is politics a logical next step after a successful career in sports? Former athletes, Lord Coe, Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Chris Chataway and Kate Hoey have certainly all achieved. We looked at the careers of three exceptional, past cricketers too to gauge potential success. Results were mixed!
It’s almost an insult to classify CB Fry as ‘just’ a cricketer. He was one of the most consummate all-round sportsmen Britain has ever produced. A brilliant scholar too, he won 12 blues in different sports at Oxford and earned the nicknames, ‘Almighty’ and ‘Lord Oxford’. He was a talented golfer, rugby player, swimmer, tennis player, javelin thrower, sculler and boxer. He played football for Southampton too.
England cricket can be grateful that Fry decided to focus his sports career on cricket. Captain of Sussex and England, England never lost a Test match when CB was at the helm. CB Fry was at his peak in 1901 when he totalled 3,147 runs, an average of over 78 runs per innings. He scored 13 100s and created a record of 6 centuries in 6 consecutive innings in little more than 14 days. England were still looking for him to captain their side when he decided to retire at 49 in 1921.
Fry’s foray into politics was not quite so successful. He failed 3 times to become a Liberal MP. In 1934 he was charmed by Hitler in a meeting with him and Ribbentrop. Reportedly Fry tried to persuade Hitler and Ribbentrop that the Nazis should take up Test cricket. Possibly Fry’s greatest political hope was the offer of the vacant throne of Albania in 1920s. He was offered it while at the League of Nations as secretary to India’s then delegate, one RS Ranjitsinhji. Unfortunately in order to accept, he needed to have an income of £10,000 p.a. and Fry was notoriously short of money throughout his life. Hence no Charles III of Albania in the history books!
Another captain of Sussex and England dipped his toe into politics too, one Ted Dexter. An aggressive, swashbuckling cricketer – again, among many other accomplishments – Dexter decided to enter politics in 1964. England captain at the time, Dexter declared himself unavailable for the 1964-65 South Africa tour because he expected to become an MP in the 1964 election.
He became the Conservative candidate for Cardiff South East, pitting himself against the then Shadow chancellor, one James Callaghan. Callaghan had been the sitting candidate since the constituency was created in 1950. Cardiff South East was then a community of principally dockers and factory workers. Dexter, or Lord Ted as he was nicknamed early on for his aloof self-confidence, did not appeal massively to his potential consituents. His comment that Labour-voting households “could be identified by their grubby lace curtains and unwashed milk bottles on the doorstep” was not a vote winner either.
At the election, Callaghan increased his majority from 868 to just under 8,000. Luckily Dexter was able to return to his day job and joined the South Africa tour as vice captain after all. He made 344 runs in 7 Test innings, an average of 57.
We have to turn to the great Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan for a more established political foothold. Khan made his debut for Pakistan when he was 18 in 1971 at Birmingham during their England tour. He then played for them from 1976 – 1992, captaining the side during that period too. As captain, he led Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s first and only victory in that competition. Imran Khan retired in 1992 as one of Pakistan’s most successful players. He scored 3,807 runs and took 362 wickets in Test cricket.
In 1996 Imran Khan founded the Pakistan Movement of Justice Party, the PTI and became the party’s leader. Over the last twenty years he has ridden the turbulent waves of Pakistan politics to take his party to become the 2nd largest party in the National Assembly in 2013. Since then his political influence has continued to ebb and flow with the twists and turns of his country’s politics. He has, in any case, achieved significantly, but these sportsmen make it clear to us that politics is an even greater minefield to success than becoming an international sportsman or woman. Given the chance, we know which career path we’d choose!
Martin Sheridan was actually born and brought up in County Mayo, Ireland. The USA was very quick – and sensible – to claim him as one of their own, soon after he stepped upon their shores! Sheridan was born in Bohola, County Mayo in 1881. He stayed in Ireland until he was 18. Then he followed his older brother, Richard, to New York. There Martin Sheridan became a physical trainer and then a policeman.
Martin Sheridan was 6’3″ and 194 lbs, a fair old size at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was also extremely strong and athletically talented. He specialised in throwing and jumping, competitively. Over the course of his competitive life he won 12 US Championships and over 30 Canadian titles. Those were the national titles…Sheridan won 5 gold Olympic medals over the course of 3 Olympics: 1904 in St Louis, Missouri; 1906 in Athens and 1908 in London for discus and shot put. He won two silver medals for the Standing High Jump and Standing Long Jump. The man was virtually unbeatable over a 14 year period, during which he established 16 world records.
Sheridan had by this time officially become American but, understandably, Ireland has always laid claim to him too. They quickly gave him the accolade of having won more Olympic medals than any other Irish athlete. When he returned to Ireland after the 1908 London Olympics, he imagined he would ‘slip into’ Ireland quietly to see his family. Instead, as his train drew into Swinford Station, people thronged the platforms and the town’s band played ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’.
Sheridan returned to New York and policing after his athletics career. He was always held in huge esteem. He saved four children and their parents from certain death in a burning building. He also was the New York Governor’s personal bodyguard whenever the governor was in town. Sadly, strong and mighty as he was, Martin Sheridan’s life was cut short by the 1918 flu epidemic. He was one of its earliest casualties in 1918.
John Wisden was born in Brighton in 1826. His father died when he was a boy and Wisden went to live with Sussex wicketkeeper, Tom Box. Wisden’s talent as a cricketer was obvious from early on. By the age of 18, he had made his debut for Sussex versus Kent. He took 6 wickets in the first innings; 3 in the 2nd innings.
John Wisden soon became one of the star cricketers in the mid-19th century. He was tiny. He was 5’6″ tall and weighed 44 kilos. Somehow, however, he had ‘the power’: he was an exceptionally effective fast bowler and was deemed to be one of the best all-rounders of his time. In 1850 he played for the North versus the South at Lord’s. He claimed all 10 wickets in the second innings, all of which were clean bowled – a unique feat still in first class cricket! In the same year John Wisden took 340 wickets in 38 matches. Wisden’s nickname soon became ‘Little Wonder’ after the winner of the 1840 Epsom Derby.
Again in 1850 Wisden began to branch out from just playing cricket. He was a cricket coach at Harrow School from 1852-55. He also began making and selling cricket equipment and in 1855 he set up a cricket and cigar shop with Fred Lillywhite. In 1864 Wisden retired from cricket. Coincidentally…or not, that was also the year that his first Almanack appeared.
John Wisden’s Cricketer’s Almanack soon eclipsed its rivals due to its scrupulously accurate statistics and editorial independence. The first Wisden in 1864 was, however, a fairly eclectic mix of facts and figures. The almanack was 112 pages thick. It provided cricket scorecards and statistics…along with racing winners, the rules of quoits, the dates of the Crusades and an account of Charles I’s trial!
In 1872 Wisden set up his sports goods shop, John Wisden & Co in Cranbourn Street near Leicester Square. You can still see its plaque on the building today. Wisden died in 1884, by which time his Almanack had seen off its competition and was firmly established as cricket’s book of record. Wisden was buried in Brompton Cemetery in London. To commemorate Wisden’s 50th anniversary in 1913, the Almanack dispensed with its annual selection of its ‘Cricketers of the Year’. Instead it chose to create a ‘special portrait’ of a prominent individual. In this case it was its founder: John Wisden
Sportspages Christmas Catalogue, part 2 has arrived…And hot on its heels will be Christmas itself! It’s a great chance to buy something really special for a sports lover. Alternatively you can cleverly point one of your friends and relations at something you would particularly like yourself. Have a look at the catalogue here:
We’ve highlighted one of the gems from the catalogue in honour of the fact that it is the Varsity Match at Twickenham today. This year we’re sponsoring Oxford University rugby team, so we have to be biased: go, Oxford!
Arnold Palmer was rightfully crowned the ‘King’ of golf for his huge contribution to glamourising and popularising the sport throughout his career. He won 7 Major titles and had 62 PGA Tour wins and he was the first golf player to make $1 million dollars from the sport. He was a true champion and showman: a perfect combination to please the crowds.
We’ve been browsing through one of his books: ‘Go for Broke’, a memoir of his playing days, packed with bits of Arnold Palmer’s philosophy on golf and entertaining insights into his personal and professional life. He details his childhood. His father was groundskeeper and finally golf pro to the Latrobe golf club in Pennsylvania. It sounds like a perfect training ground for the infant golfer. Deacon, Arnold Palmer’s father, was a stickler for the rules, however. So young Arnold was only very rarely allowed on the Green. He had to make do with practicing in the scrubby woodland, abutting the Green. He would practice for hours, hitting pine cones against trees; aiming the ball for a particular bush. He is sure that gave him his confidence to play in the rough but conversely meant that he felt that putting was his weakest part of his game for many years.
As we all know, Arnold Palmer was the first golf player to capitalise on the tangential business of endorsements in sport. ‘Go for Broke’ gives a great window on how his great friend, Mark McCormack – then a young lawyer, who became a super-agent – built him up and brokered deals. In those 1950s and 1960s days of smoking innocence, Palmer was endorsed by several tobacco companies over the years. By 1964, however, Arnold Palmer had realised he didn’t actually like the taste of the cigarettes he smoked. A doctor advised him to give up smoking after a bout of bad sinusitis. Palmer decided to apply his full self control to the task and completely stopped smoking.
Presumably McCormack was concerned that Arnold was missing a trick. The two found themselves at dinner with the director of advertising for the cigarette company, sponsoring the Bing Crosby tournament that year. McCormack had never smoked, but when Palmer continually refused to pick up a cigarette, McCormack did instead, saying ‘Everybody else in the world is stopping, so I think I’ll start smoking’. As Arnold tried to hold strong, someone said of the brand, ‘Arnold would never have quit smoking in the first place if he’d ever had a good cigarette to smoke…’ Palmer’s attempt to hold his resolve was futile. McCormack was clearly a business force of nature and Palmer soon found himself saying, ‘Well maybe just one cigarette wouldn’t hurt, seeing as how this is a special occasion and all.’ before returning to smoking for several years to come! Luckily continuing to smoke did not hinder the ‘King’ in any way and probably helped his earnings considerably. In the meantime he continued to entertain and captivate millions with his great presence, swashbuckling skill, achievements and style. Today’s top golfers will certainly be playing in his name and memory this weekend at the 41st Ryder Cup.
The 5th Ashes game in 1938 took place at the Oval from 20-24 August. England needed to win the test match to draw the series – one match had already been abandoned. Len Hutton opened…and continued batting for 13 hours 20 minutes during 8 batting sessions. His score of 364 broke test match cricket records. In particular he surpassed the batting record of Australia’s then captain and cricketing legend, Don Bradman. Bradman had scored 334 at Leeds in the 1930 Ashes.
Hutton’s record-breaking score took England to an unassailable win of 903-7. He mused on the experience in later years. He remembered how he had started to relax on the Monday afternoon, having batted for 8 hours or more. He lifted a ball over mid-on’s head. England’s captain, Wally Hammond immediately popped up on the pavilion balcony. He made it very clear that Hutton was to keep his head and his shots down. Hutton dutifully pressed on. By Monday evening Hutton had become understandably tired from his long stint at the crease. Leyland advised him to have a port and a pint of guinness to help him sleep. The teetotaller Hutton did as suggested. He later reckoned he would have needed 5 or 6 pints to knock him out that night. He was haunted by the face of fiercesome, Australian bowler, Bill O’ Reilly, who he knew he’d have to face the next day. O’Reilly was an aggressive bowler, who ran in as if he’d like to eat batsmen for breakfast.
O’Reilly did indeed bowl Hutton on the Tuesday…but not before Hutton had destroyed all previous cricket records by scoring 364. In the meantime no.s 5 & 6, Eddie Paynter and Denis Compton had spent nearly two days padded up in the pavilion, waiting to go on. Eddie Paynter bet Compton £1.00 that they wouldn’t score more than 10 between them. Paynter was out for a duck. Compton was bowled for 1. The fall of that wicket was particularly galling to Compton. He was bowled by Australia’s Mervyn Waite…and that was Waite’s only wicket in his whole Test career!
Who will light the flame at the Olympics in Brazil tomorrow? The big money is on the ‘King of Football’, possibly Brazil’s greatest national treasure, Pelé. The International Olympics Committee has already, and quite rightly, honoured Pelé twice this year. In June Thomas Bach, IOC president, awarded Pelé the Medal of the Olympic Order, the Games’ highest honour. On the 22nd July, the Olympic torch was passed to Pelé in the town of Santos at the Pelé museum. Santos was, of course, where the great footballer’s career began.
In 1999 the IOC named Pelé its athlete of the century. He has been officially declared ‘Best Football Player of the 20th Century’ several times. Sadly for him, however, he was never able to play football in the Olympics themselves. His international, professional career began in spectacular fashion at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. As a 17 year old boy he scored two of the winning goals against home team, Sweden, in the World Cup Finals. At that time only amateur sportsmen were allowed to take part in the Olympics. Professional sportsmen were only admitted to the Games in 1986. So Pelé was prevented from ever being an ‘Olympian’ footballer- he jokes that that’s why Brazil has never won there!
When Thomas Bach presented Pelé with his Medal of the Olympic Order he said of the Brazilian, “In everything he does, both on and off the field, he exemplifies the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.” Although he may not have played in the Olympics, Pelé has been involved in the Olympic movement massively over the years. We know for a fact that he was an ‘Honored guest’ at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, because we have recently acquired his accreditation pass for those games, a cracking piece of sports memorabilia and sport history. There he watched his great friend, Muhammad Ali, light the torch with dignity and great ceremony. It will be fitting and equally symbolic to watch the great Brazilian footballer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, doing the same at the Opening Ceremony in Brazil 2016.
We were very sad to learn belatedly of the death of John Gaustad in June this year. John Gaustad was the visionary bookseller, who set up a treasure trove of sports books in Caxton Walk, off Charing Cross Road in London. It became a legendary book shop for sports fans, especially football fans. Gastaud called it Sportspages.
When New Zealand born Gaustad founded Sportspages in 1985, he developed the world of sports books writing and collecting hugely. So many sports books collectors we deal with today still have fond memories of spending hours at the Caxton Walk Sportspages. Our very own Magnus Bowles spent many a happy hour there, browsing, reading… and then finally buying!
Matthew Engel’s obituary for John Gaustad in the Guardian gives a great sense of the man and the impact of his passion for sports books: . We sadly never met him and inherited the legendary name when the Sportspages shop closed down in 2005. We still receive calls from its original customers, checking to see if we might be one and the same. Our Sportspages is slightly different of course with much more emphasis on sports books and memorabilia from days gone by and a much broader focus on all sports. We hope, however, John Gaustad would be pleased with Sportspages’ reincarnation: we can only aspire to many of his achievements, such as Muhammad Ali coming to do a signing at the Caxton Walk bookshop, but we certainly share the same passion for the breadth and depth of sports books and memorabilia. We hope too that we do some justice to supporting his fantastic legacy in the sports book industry.