Obituary

Jeff Stollmeyer

STOLLMEYER, JEFFREY BAXTER, died in a Florida hospital on September 10, 1989, aged 68, as a result of being shot five times and beaten about the head by intruders to his Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, home. His wife and son also were injured in the attack. Youngest of six brothers, Stollmeyer was a considerable influence in West Indies cricket, both on and off the field, first during the days when whites controlled the game, and then in the transition to a more democratic process. Tall and graceful with a good range of strokes marked especially by the drive, he made his major impact on the international scene with his solid left-hand opening partner, Allan Rae, providing the base on which Weekes, Worrell and Walcott were to build so effectively on the 1950 tour of England. It was this series, won 3-1, that catapulted West Indies into the top rank of Test teams.

Stollmeyer began his Test career a decade earlier when, at the age of eighteen, he toured England in 1939, along with his brother, Victor, making 59 at Lord's in his d├ębut innings, the same score at The Oval in the Third Test, and averaging 30.53 for the tour from 916 runs. In 1948-49 he and Rae established West Indies' first reliable opening partnership, putting on 239 against India at Madras. Stollmeyer's 160 was the highest of his four Test centuries. As vice-captain of the team in England in 1950, he played a significant role in its success, averaging 50.83 in the Tests with a top score of 78, and scoring 1,334 runs in all first-class matches, including 198 against Sussex at Hove.

He batted almost five and a half hours there, despite a severely bruised hand, and he and Rae (179) established a record for any West Indian wicket in England with their opening stand of 355 in 4 hours 40 minutes. But it was a different story for the West Indians in Australia in 1951-52, brought back to earth largely by the short-pitched bowling of Miller and Lindwall. Stollmeyer made a brave century in the final Test, captaining the side after a disillusioned John Goddard had stood down. He retained the captaincy for the home series against India in 1952-53, England in 1953-54 and Australia in 1954-55; but his captaincy was not as imaginative and aggressive as his strokeplay.

The blunter approach of Goddard persuaded the selectors to bring him back at the age of 38 to lead the 1957 team to England, Stollmeyer, disappointed, chose to retire from first-class cricket. His Test career had brought 2,159 runs at an average of 42.33, while his first-class total was 7,942 runs at 44.61 with fourteen centuries, the highest being 324 at Port-of-Spain for Trinidad against British Guiana in 1946-47. His third-wicket stand with Gerry Gomez of 434 in that match remained a national record at the time of his death. Stollmeyer bowled modest leg-spin, which brought him 55 wickets at 45 runs each, and he held 93 catches.

Yet his chief contribution to the game was perhaps in administration, where his courteous nature and principled approach made him a calming influence during difficult days. He worked closely with Gomez in persuading West Indies cricket that the time had come to give black players their proper say, culminating in the appointment of Frank Worrell as captain. Stollmeyer served as a member of the West Indies Board of Control and Test selector before becoming Board president in 1974 - one of the most demanding administrative roles in cricket because of the range of interests, backgrounds and the sheer geographical stretch of the regions and organisations.

There was extra tension for Stollmeyer when, in 1977, most current West Indies players joined Packer's World Series Cricket and were given strong support from the cricket public. A traditionalist who feared the impact of outside commercial influence on the game, Stollmeyer demonstrated his strength of character by his continued opposition to WSC. Despite demands that he resign, Stollmeyer's sense of duty inspired him to continue in office, and he rode out the storm.

However, he remained unhappy with much of the change WSC had brought, especially in the advance of one-day cricket, which he regarded as not worth watching. He stood down as a Board member in 1981 but remained closely connected with the game, and was regularly consulted by later players and administrators.

His 1983 autobiography, Everything Under the Sun, was a simply told but informative, incisive study of the development of cricket in the modern West Indies. In it was the pointed comment that the future of West Indies cricket is linked closely, for several reasons, to the issue of South Africa, given the risk that cricket might split on this point. Stollmeyer's involvement in a wide range of activities stretched to politics - he was a senator in the Trinidad Parliament - and business interests, and his close links with other cricketing countries continued through out his life. Just before the attack that led to his death, he was named as Australia's first Honorary Consul in Trinidad and Tobago.

© John Wisden & Co