This is one of my “just humour me” posts.

Most sports thrive on history.  Cricket’s history is as interesting as you want it to be; just pick up a book and read.  My own lifetime has seen all kinds of twists and turns, and while I have barely watched a ball of Test cricket since Sky bought the game, I’m happy enough with what’s in my head.

In America history is everything.  Baseball is positively drenched in history, and, perhaps typically, the over-sweetening deflects from the really interesting business of who did what, when, and how well.  In the past everyone was a hero, a legend, and a triumphant product of the great game.

We do the same over here to an extent.  The past is rightly glorified, but only the stars and the characters get remembered.  As it should be perhaps – what will people say about Aaron Hughes in 50 years time? (not a criticism!) – but it does tend to mislead, or leave great gaps for those with enquiring minds.

I have in my possession a scorebook from 1949, published by the Cleveland Indians baseball club. It was sent to me by a friend in America.  I didn’t ask for it but nor did I ask for the rest of the stuff he sent: loads of Sonny Rollins music, a few books, and a few old baseball artefacts. The scorebook is really interesting:


That’s a game between the Indians and the St Louis Browns in 1950.  Players from the past, but caught in action, so to speak.  Weirdly, I know these players:  Mickey Vernon was a pretty good first baseman, little power but took a walk; Larry Doby a young Negro Leaguer whose superstar career was, at this point, entirely ahead of him.  Had he been born ten years earlier he wouldn’t have been able to play in the majors because of the colour of his skin; as it was he went on to be a huge star.  Luke Easter wasn’t so lucky: the colour line was lifted at the end of his career, so the public only got to see him thwacking balls well out of the ground for a few years while he was in his thirties.  What might have been?  Al Rosen was a slick fielding third baseman, Ray Boone (is it?), part of the Ike-Ray-Bob-Brett-Aaron lineage that played for most of the last century; Bobby Avila a massively underrated Mexican second baseman… wonderful team, and here they are, as new.

In football we haven’t got this information.  People can talk about the greats, but the devil is in the detail and we have little of that.  Fulham is served well enough in that we have the amazing Dennis Turner Complete Record, but even that can only go so far.  Martin Plumb’s books bring a very specific era to life with great verve, but again, there are massive gaps.  At some point we need to get enough people with enough memories in one place, to piece a few of the less obvious jigsaws together before its too late.   Nobody will lack for information about the present era, but the past needs capturing.  How can this be done?   I want to know about the players, but more, I want to know what it was like to watch a game in the 40s, in the 50s, and in the 60s.

We have clues.  The books are excellent, and you hear snippets on the message boards.   But probably we need video:

Pretty good, eh?  That’s the same pitch we see Danny Murphy and his team speeding around today.   Think about that.  Beautiful isn’t it?

Here’s another game:

Magic, eh?

Watch that clip, then this:

Feel it.   Amazing.   Haunting.  History isn’t boring; history is two years ago and forty two years ago.   It’s all important.

We need more of this.  Footage must be available.  Must be.  This is what I was on about the other day.  We don’t need cheap t-shirts, tracksuits and leisurewear, we need goals and tackles and men in black and white charging around that field by the Thames that we know so well.

17 thoughts on “History

  1. Have you had a look at the Pathe News site? There’s odd snippets on there for cup finals, big internationals etc.

    Also there’s the Mitchell & Kenyon DVDs of short documentaries from 1902 to 1905. All wonderful including the early sports films including football.

    I’ve actually seen Fatty Foulke in goal for Sheffield United. Moving. The crowd scenes are almost more interesting. All male with moustaches and flat caps (bowlers in the stands, of course). Everyone looked the same but some older than others. If you’ve not seen these I strongly recommend them.

  2. This is a historic document for many reasons. The Indians at the time were the closest to a multi-ethnic lineup you could find. Doby and Easter were still fairly rare African Americans — the Red Sox didn’t sign their first black player until 1959. There weren’t a lot of Mexicans in the majors in those days, and Al Rosen was a rare Jewish power hitter. Ike was not part of the Boone family lineage — nor was Dan’l for that matter. The Boone you have there is Ray — a player of some quality as I remember from my youth.

    I’ve found several books dealing with soccer heroes of the day — I had a great little book talking about the Compton brothers that peaked my interest in both football and cricket, but there’s nothing that I’ve found that’s anything like the Baseball Encyclopedia.

    Eddie Lowe’s recent death is a good example of what you’re talking about. It’s hard to believe that a player who had played the 2nd highest number of baseball or basketball games in a team uniform would be so universally forgotten as was Mr. Lowe.

  3. I’ll have a look at the Pathe site, Tony – thanks for the tip.

    Don, was Ike Boone not one of them? I’ll be damned. Put up some huge Pacific Coast numbers and is of about the right age to be Ray’s dad, so I put 2+2 together…

    I have a couple of books a bit like the baseball encyclopedia, but they only do team totals. So you get a player’s complete record with each team, but not year-by-year, which is what would really interest me.

    The press association has this information, incidentally, but charges a fortune to get hold of it. I asked years ago.

  4. Did you ever see the Cottage Chronicles books published about 10 years ago, I think by Ashwater Press who do the Martin Plumb and other FFC books.

    Out of print now I think. Essentially facsimiles of the programmes from our first 2 League seasons. Thick well bound and expensive, reading them it really was like living those seasons.

    You had the period adverts and could consider the matches almost as they seemed to happen. The articles would discuss the last match and look forward to the next. You read news of players coming and going, getting injured, being picked for trials, testimonials etc.

    Triumph and disappointment. Could we be promoted?

    Great stuff.

  5. We are very lucky in following cricket that we have each and every test scorecard documented. I recently found the 1990 Playfair which covered the 1989 Ashes. Consider this team. Chris Broad, Kim Barnett, Derek Pringle (even Phil Newport -the poor sod got 2-153) – all bringing back memories of that wonderful diversion of yesteryear; the summer holidays.

    GA Gooch
    BC Broad
    KJ Barnett
    AJ Lamb
    *DI Gower
    RA Smith
    DR Pringle
    PJ Newport
    +RC Russell
    PAJ DeFreitas
    NA Foster

    Jack Russell batting 9, and Daffy 10. On paper, it seems remarkable that we were trounced so convincingly!!!

  6. Rose tinted specs.

    Gooch Gower and Russell were great players but Russell was only a great keeper not a great batsman and Gower needed to be in the mood.

    Broad, Lamb, Foster and Smith were reliable types but below world class whilst the rest were of County standard.

    A typical English test team of the period. A third world class, a third decent players who at their best were test quality but whose average performance wasn’t quite good enough and a third county players getting a few tests on the Buggins turn principle.

    We have throughout my life time only ever had a mediocre test team notwithstanding occasional highs.

  7. Doby broke the color barrier in the American League, it should be noted. He gets mentioned a lot less often than Jackie Robinson, but as separate as the two leagues were in those days, he really deserves every bit as much credit.

  8. Smith was on the verge of becoming (temporarily) great around that time and for some reason I recall Lamb being quite good (though there is a strong chance I’m mistaken there). I was just saying to Rich how the real fun came in 1993 – we really were shocking that summer. I enjoyed Atherton’s autobiography – at the beginning of one Test in ’93 hardly anyone knew each other so they had to have a ‘freshman mixer’ so everyone could get acquainted.

    All of this backs up Rich’s point about how great it is to relive these things. Rose tinted spectacles indeed!

  9. Until about 5 years ago every County had about 3 players who had played between 1 and 5 tests for England.

    Every summer a couple would be touted by the press, get picked, fail and never be seen again. Same for tours. These guys never got a second chance.

    Then there were the guys who ended up with 30 or 40 caps but got dropped 5 or 6 times in their careers. When they got recalled they’d have a good test, a few OK ones, fail a few times and get dropped for a year or two before the cycle started again.

    We really do do things better now even if the results are no better.

  10. i think the use of statistics lends more history to baseball. With every at-bat tracked for all of eternity, sites such as the excellent baseball-reference.com can allow us access to any player from any age. I have never seen such a site that compares for the english leagues

    Such an undertaking would be exhaustive, and possibly not even as aesthetically pleasing. Things such as fouls conceded, fouls drawn, assists, not numbers easily tracked. Plus baseball is more than most sports about individual greatness. One swing of the bat and its a homerun. Great players can be measured much more easily in baseball, even if the tools to evaluate them change. Not so much in football.

  11. By the way, those video clips from the ’60s are excellent. I love everything about them. Love the old-school advertising hoardings, love the simple uniforms, love the 2-3-5 that both teams are playing…

    OK, I don’t love the fact that “Haynes” was spelled “Haines” in the first one though.

  12. Great stuff Rich. You’re dead right about having decent classic footage available in the club shop. After Tony prompted us again via TiFF I completed the retail survey as well. Hopefully some of that will sink in.

    I particularly enjoyed Kenneth Wolstenholme’s intro with the Riverside stand behind him. I’d never seen those flags in action, almost more evocative than the actual football. Occasional shouts of “Come On Fulham!” and the clacking of rattles, lovely stuff. Great goal by Steve Earle too.

  13. Meant to add, I’ve got a DVD copy of the Bobby Charlton Scrapbook which featured Johnny Haynes. A bit of a chat with both men (hosted by Dickie Davies) and footage of three Fulham games.

  14. I have an old baseball encyclopedia, circa 1998 or so. Used to call it the Grail before my baseball interest waned. Fascinating piece of history and reference tool.

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