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Peter Della Penna
June 23, 2014
Teams: United States of America
Tony Verity, a former USA player and longtime administrator who served as the first executive secretary of the USA Cricket Association when the organization was founded in 1963, has died in California at the age of 83.
Verity is credited as a co-founder of University Cricket Club, one of the most dominant club teams of the 1960s, 70s and 80s in the Southern California Cricket Association during an era in which they had nine players go on to represent the USA national team, including six players for USA at the inaugural ICC Trophy tournament for Associates in 1979.
"He [Verity] showed a prototype in running University Cricket Club in that it was run based on mutual respect," US cricket historian David Sentence told ESPNcricinfo. "He set a platform where the best players in Southern California wanted to come for 35 or 40 years. University Cricket Club was totally multi-cultural. It was based on talent.
"It was the most American run team of any team I've seen in the United States in terms of talent will rise to the top. Everyone gravitated to Tony because he just enjoyed hosting you, putting you in the team and afterwards sitting and talking about the game in an intelligent manner."
Born Maurice Anthony Verity on April 21, 1931 in Leeds, he was trained as a medical doctor specializing in pathology. After serving internships at NHS hospitals in London, Wolverhampton and Portsmouth, Verity left England to go to Los Angeles in 1959 and began serving a residency at UCLA's School of Medicine in 1960. He remained a part of the hospital staff and doubled as a university professor for more than 50 years. He also served for more than 20 years as a deputy coroner for the Los Angeles coroner's office.
It was on his arrival to UCLA that he met Sid Albright and Manchester native Dr. Peter Lomax, the two people who along with Verity are credited with co-founding the Westwood Cricket Club. Two years later, the club changed its name to University Cricket Club.
Over the next 50 years, Verity served on the University CC board in various administrative capacities, including multiple terms as club president for an elite first division side in one of the most competitive leagues in America.
Not long after Verity got involved in cricket at the local level with University CC, his influence was quickly felt at the national level. USACA was established in 1963 with John Marder as its first president and Verity on board as executive secretary. While on the USACA board, Verity played an instrumental role in the revival of the oldest international cricket rivalry, USA v Canada. The two countries first played each other in New York in 1844 and played every year from 1890 through 1912.
The rivals then went the next 51 years without staging a contest but thanks in part to Verity's efforts, the series resumed in 1963 with USA traveling to Toronto for a two-day match won by Canada. Verity made his lone international appearance for USA in the match. Two years later, USACA was admitted to the ICC as one of the first Associate members in 1965, with Verity staying on the USACA board until 1967.
"Cricket was his passion," Neil Verity, Tony's son, told ESPNcricinfo. "He would spend as much time as he could with others at the club and promoting cricket as much as he could. He wanted to preserve the quality and the lore of the game and keep its traditions maintained."
After formally stepping away from USACA, Verity continued to stay involved in national affairs and used his connections in England to organize the very first tour by a USA national team to England in 1968. It was the first major competitive tour by an American side to England since John Bart King led the Gentlemen of Philadelphia on tour in the British Isles in 1908, a season in which King topped the English County Championship first-class bowling averages with 87 wickets at 11.01.
USA had 21 matches on their 1968 tour itinerary beginning at Arundel Castle with a game against a Duke of Norfolk XI. They then took on a variety of minor county sides, while several county second XIs took USA through Trent Bridge, Old Trafford, New Road, Edgbaston, Tunbridge Wells and the Oval. USA also played a match against the MCC at Lord's.
"He was one of the best organizers I've ever known," Neil Lashkari, president of University CC and a former USA player, told ESPNcricinfo. "His attention to detail was second to none. He was very organized, had a plan and stuck to it."
Lashkari, who played at four ICC Trophy tournaments for USA from 1979 to 1990, said that Verity was a great proponent of the social aspects of cricket. Verity organised club tours for University CC to go to England in alternating years throughout the 1970s and 80s, as well as tours to Jamaica and British Columbia in Canada.
He encouraged touring sides to come to play in Los Angeles, which included his home county Yorkshire in 1964 and a touring side from New Zealand in 1965 which boasted the likes of Walter Hadlee and Richard Collinge. Several MCC sides also made their way to Los Angeles and Verity hosted the MCC tourists at his home in 1992 and 1999 on their USA tours.
After his playing career ended, Verity also took an active role in umpiring. He founded the SCCA Umpires Association and also stood in two home international matches- USA v Ireland in 1973 and USA v Canada in 1974- in California. He is also credited with starting an annual charity golf tournament in 2002 that has served as a fundraiser for the last 12 years for the SCCA youth cricket program.
Away from cricket and medicine, he also developed a reputation as an accomplished sculptor and painter, with many of his artworks having been featured at galleries and exhibitions in California over the last two decades.
A memorial service was held for Verity at his family home in California on Saturday. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Valerie; three children, Michael, Neil and Alicia; and five grandchildren.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPennaFeeds: Peter Della Penna
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