Wizard of the Wicket: Interesting Stories of an English Cricketing Idol, Dr. W. G. Grace, Daily Racing Form, 1919-11-11


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WIZARD OF THE WICKET t Interesting Stories of an English Cricketing Idol, Dr. W. G. Grace. The 3Iutit Wonderful Player at the British National Game, Especially With the Bat. That "Grand Old Man" of cricket, who, it is computed, mnde 80,000 runs and took 7,000 wickets, mostly in first-class matches, should have been first taught to play by his mother is not the least interesting fact in the life story of Dr. W. G. Grace. "Willie, Willie, havent I told you over and over again how to play that ball?" his mother is reported to have said when young Grace, after making a few runs for the Gentlemen of England against Oxford, was caught from a bad stroke and returned to the private .tent on the ground. At that time the doctor was only seventeen years of age, "but for twelve months he had been making big scores in representative and county matches. And no one was more proud of his achievements and those of his brother, K. 31., than their mother, who, whenever possible, attended the games in which her sons were playing. "I taught my sons to play. I used to bowl to them," she once confessed, and among the treasures which Grace most prized were the scrap-books in which his mother pasted newspaper reports about himself. This interesting glimpse of the youth of the worlds greatest cricketer is provided by "The Memorial Biography of Dr. W. G. Grace." The editors of the book. Lord llawke, lord Harris and Sir Home Gordon, Dart., have had as collaborators all the great cricketers who have played with Grace. The stories in the volume nre legion, but one of the most humorous suggestions in regard to the prowess of Grace was published in a comic paper when the doctor was only twenty-five years of ago. It read: "The Society for the Improvement of Tilings in General and the Diffusion of Perfect Equality, at a meeting to be held shortly, will submit the following propositions: "That W. G. Grace shall owe a couple of hundred or 0 before batting these to be reckoned against his side should he not wipe them off. "That his shoe spikes should be turned inwards. "That he shall be declared out whenever the umpire likes. "That he shall always be the eleventh player. "That he shall not be allowed to play at all." HOW THE DOCTOR TREATED HIS CRITICS. Veterans agree that Grace had a stubbly beard at seventeen, although later prints show him clean shaven.. "So it would appear that about 1870 or 1871 lie shaved for a while, and then allowed his salient characteristic to acquire the flowing nature so w;ell remembered later on." Yorkshire folk will appreciate a story told by Canon E. S. Carter. "After leaving Oxford," he says, "I took Holy Orders. I had my first curacy in Ealing and used to go to Lords whenever I could if Yorkshire were playing. One day I said to Tom Emniett: Tom, what do you think of this young W. G. Grace, who is making such scores V-He was then twenty years old. Tom replied: Its all very well against this south country bowling; let him come tip to Sheffield against me and George Freeman. A few days afterward Grace went to Sheffield to play for the South vs. North, and In the first innings lie scored 122 out of 173, with Emmett and Freeman bowling. Wlien Tom came to Lords, shortly afterward I said to him: Well, Tom, youve had Grace at Sheffield; what do you think of him now? Tom answered, quite seriously, 3Ir. Carter, I call him a non-such; he ought to be made to play with a littler bat. " It was Emmett who, when Grace made his 31S in eight hours ngaiii3t Yorkshire at Cheltenham, pathetically remarked at -the conclusion of the first days play: "Dang It all, its Grace before meat, Grace afterward and Grace all day, and I expect we shall have more Grace tomorrow." Another ecclesiastical admirer. Canon Dells, relates how Grace brought an eleven from Gloucestershire to play the 3Iarlborougli boys. In the train he made a bet that lie would get a hundred runs and also hit a ball into Sun Lane, a feat that had only once previously been accomplished. "I was in with him," says the Canon, "and a boy . called Kempe bowled him clean with as fine a ball as I ever saw, I think for only three runs, and therefore neither the century nor the big hit came off. He came to chapel in the evening and the lines were sung: "The scanty triumphs hath won, The broken vow "I believe it was generally thought I had done It of set purpose. It was absolutely accidental." One of Dr. Graces favorite tricks was to follow up liis own bowling so quickly that he often registered a c and b. In a minor match near Bristol Grace had contributed a long score, which lie followed up by capturing the majority of the opposing wickets. Not knowing the capacity of one of the fieldsmen, Grace shouted to him to leave the ball alone, and racing at top speed himself brought off a magnificent catch. The retiring batsman observed: "The next thing that man will do will be to wicketkeep. to his own .bowling." GROUNDSMAN WALKER KNEW HE KNEW. Dr. Grace was a favorite on the Notts ground at Trent Bridge, and among .ids greatest admirers was old Walker, the groundsman. Walker was always strict on the point of cricketers not having their preliminary practice near the pavilion, for fear they should "smash the winders." On one occasion Dr. Grace came out and set his practice pitch in the forbidden area. The local "pros" awaited events. Old Walker, however, said nothing. So it was suggested lie should "go shift" Grace. Walher shook his head. "No," he said, "yon see, e knows where es itting em. and you cant say that of the others." So the doctor was allowed to practice in peace. Grace and his brother, E. 31., could quarrel on occasions. "I was once batting for Surrey vs. Gloucestershire," says C. W. Hurls, the old Surrey amateur. "The doctor was bowling and his s brother, fielding at point, came creeping in until he looked as if lie could make a grab at my bat. Well, I just turn a ball and he was literally right . on to me. Hows -that for obstructing the field? he sang out. Obstruction lie blowed! bellowed Dr. Grace; why did you not catch the ball instead of trying to bamboozle the umpire. " The doctor never played for his average, but there t was an occasion in his later days when, playing for London County, he thought of it. It was tiie hist match of the season, and someone mentioned that : Murdoch averaged seventy and Poidevin ninety-ninel "And what do I average?" asked Grace. "If you i s . t : i made eighty-six not out today you would average 100," was the reply. "Very good," ejaculated Grace. He proceeded to bat admirably, and when his own score was eighty-six rteclared the innings closed. "Must beat those boys once more," was his chuckling comment. In spotting promising young players he had scarcely an equal, and anyone mentioned in the dispatches of Dr. Grace was sure of achieving honors. He knew by instinct and was quick to place the true value on the cricketer, though to others it -was not so evident. "In a certain London County match a club cricketer was playing for the first time. When Dr. Grace asked hlin where he would like to go in, he answered: Well, doctor, I dont mind, but Ive never made a "duck" in my life. " Dr. Grace looked at him as only he could look, and said: What, never made a blob in your life? Then last is- your place; you havent played long enough! " Tid Bits.

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1910s/drf1919111101/drf1919111101_6_1
Local Identifier: drf1919111101_6_1
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800