Days of Grace (25 Jul 1998)

25 July 1998

Days of Grace

The Electronic Telegraph

IT IS 84 years to the day since Dr W G Grace scored 69 not out for Eltham against Grove Park at the age of 66 in his last cricket match.

Like Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth and Pele, the passage of time has served only to enhance his towering legend. Although it is a matter of record that English cricket grounds of the 1870s used to pin a notice outside the gates informing would-be spectators: "Admission 3d; If Dr W G plays, admission 6d", his feats and fable, majesty and mythology have become so entwined as to leave us no closer to the man behind the beard.

Dr Who?

Grace's most recent biographer appears to find sympathy with the prosecution view of Sir C P Snow who wrote of him: "W G Grace was by no conceivable standard a good man. He was a cheat on and off the cricket field." For the defence, however, speaks a Gloucestershire team-mate of the day: "He has the whole world as his stage, and his friends are as numerous as pebbles on the seashore."

One hundred and fifty years (plus seven days to be exact) after his birth, the real Dr W G will never be fully revealed unto us, and so we can but honour the prowess which brought him 54,896 career runs.

As to a fitting epitaph, Grace put it better than anyone when he said: "I don't like defensive shots - you can only get threes."

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

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