Full name Thomas William Spencer
Born March 22, 1914, Deptford, London
Died November 1, 1995, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland (aged 81 years 224 days)
Major teams Kent
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium
Other Umpire, Coach
|First-class span||1935 - 1946|
|Test debut||England v Pakistan at Nottingham, Jul 1-5, 1954 scorecard|
|Last Test||England v New Zealand at Nottingham, Aug 10-14, 1978 scorecard|
|ODI debut||England v Australia at Lord's, Aug 26, 1972 scorecard|
|Last ODI||Australia v West Indies at Lord's, Jun 21, 1975 scorecard|
Spencer, Thomas William, OBE, died in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, on November 2, 1995, aged 81. His death was not widely noticed in cricket circles at the time, although his first-class career as player and umpire had covered 36 seasons and he stood in 17 Tests. Tommy Spencer made his debut for Kent at 21 but the potential shown in his Second Eleven run-making was never quite fulfilled. In 75 first-class games between 1935 and 1946, interrupted by war service in the RAF, he made 2,152 runs at 20.11, with a highest score of 96 against Sussex at Tunbridge Wells in his last season before going off to coach at Wrekin College. Strong to leg and a fine cutter, Spencer was an attractive attacking batsman, while his fielding in the deep marked him as a natural sportsman. In winter he played football for Fulham, Lincoln City and Walsall; he claimed to have played four sports professionally - the others being table tennis and boxing. He held 36 catches and in 1937 had Joe Hardstaff caught for 146 off a full-toss, his only first-class wicket. At Frank Chester's suggestion Spencer went on the umpires' list in 1950. Four years later he was standing in the Second Test against Pakistan at Trent Bridge when Denis Compton made his highest Test score and Bob Appleyard took his first four wickets for England at a cost of six runs. But 15 years would pass before his second Test. "I was a bit disgusted," he told the Northern Echo many years later, "but determined to plod on and become a bloody good county umpire." Spencer had a gummy smile and although literally toothless, he stood no nonsense in the middle. "He was an umpire one would always trust," said the Warwickshire and England opener John Jameson. "His decisions were spot on." By 1975 this had been recognised and he stood in the first World Cup final at Lord's. It was his no-ball call that gave Australia a momentary reprieve as hordes of jubilant West Indian supporters poured on to the field, believing that Jeff Thomson had been caught by Roy Fredericks in the covers. With the ball lost in the mêlée after Fredericks's shy at the stumps went for overthrows, Spencer and Dickie Bird signalled dead ball once Lillee and Thomson had run three; otherwise they might have run all 21 needed for victory. He was at the business end again that summer when Lord's had its first streaker, during the Test against Australia. Patrick Eagar gave him his photograph of the event and in retirement, after 30 years on the first-class list, Spencer would show it at the Seaton Delaval working men's club from time to time to "give them a bit of a laugh". He attributed his longevity to not driving a car for his last 20 years as an umpire: he travelled to matches by train instead. It was much easier on the eyes, he claimed, and his unwavering concentration stood him in good stead. So did his honesty and integrity. David Constant, with whom Spencer stood in his last Test at Trent Bridge in 1978, recalled him frequently saying that umpires should "keep the game straight".
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Tom Spencer, OBE, whose death at Seaton Delaval, Northumberland in early
November 1995 aged 81 has only recently come to light, was a gritty, middle-order right-handed batsman with a particularly stylish cut. London-born but brought up in Hastings, he won a reputation there as an all-round sportsman
at the Clive Vale School. He played 76 matches as a professional for Kent between 1935-46 but although he won his county cap he was one of those
unfortunates who found his career fatally disturbed by the war, in which he served in the RAF. His career figures of 2,152 runs for an average of 20.11, with a best score of 96 for Kent against Sussex at Tunbridge Wells in
1946 when he occupied the crease for nearly four hours in miserable conditions. represent a travesty of his true ability. After 1946 Spencer became
professional coach at Wrekin College, where he showed much natural ability; and he also coached at the Christian Brothers' College in Kimberley. But in 1950 he joined the first-class umpires' list, and it is as an umpire that he is most
remembered. When he retired after the 1980 season (he made one appearance in 1981) Spencer was the longest serving umpire on the list. Between 1954
and 1978 he umpired in 17 Test matches and in 1975 he had the honour of umpiring the first World Cup Final when West Indies beat Australia at Lord's. Spencer, a good footballer on the left wing, played as a professional for Wolverhampton
Wanderers, Watford, Fulham and Lincoln City, as well as for Service teams during the war. Awarded the OBE for his services to cricket, Spencer, an
excellent raconteur during his umpiring days with a fund of stories concerning the celebrities of the game, lived on the north-east coast after his
retirement and it seems almost beyond belief that he disappeared from the game so completely that his death went unnoticed in the general cricket world until seven years later. It is also a sad reflection on modern sport and perhaps on society in general.
Robert Brooke, The Cricketer, March 2003
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