Sir Donald Bradman - The Biography
Author: Irving Rosenwater
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Stuart Wark
16 Jun 2008
Irving Rosenwater passed away just over two years ago, on the 30th of January, 2006 at the age of 73. Rosenwater was perhaps best known to the wider sporting community as a statistician for the BBC before moving to work in a similar capacity for Kerry Packer at Channel 9 in Australia. In 1978, Rosenwater wrote a biography of Bradman that was considered by many judges to be the best of the multitudes of works about the great batsman. I must admit I had not read it myself, so upon Archie's recommendation, I tracked down a copy recently.
Rosenwater was an interesting character in his own right. He was born in the East End of London between the two wars, his father a Polish immigrant. Strangely enough, he also had two different birth certificates. Originally registered as 'Isidore', his parents had second thoughts and re-registered him as Irving. Upon leaving school, Rosenwater commenced studying to become a solicitor, but his great love was cricket and the pull of the game was more than the appeal of law. He commenced his journalistic career in 1955 with the publication of articles in The Cricketer, and over time he moved on to become that magazine's assistant editor. Rosenwater was well known as being pedantic about grammatical correctness and accuracy. Whilst this personality trait would seem suited to editorial work, it meant that he unfortunately clashed with both fellow employees and the editor, which resulted in Rosenwater choosing to leave The Cricketer. He eventually took up the perfect job for him, statistician for the BBC cricket coverage.
After moving to Australia to work with World Series Cricket and Channel 9, Rosenwater also produced Sir Donald Bradman : A Biography, the book that was to become his magnus opus. In line with someone who was so statistically and factually orientated, Rosenwater's book is incredibly thorough. It manages to cover the entire career of Bradman as a player in the necessary level of detail that the legend of Bradman requires. In spite of the incredible amount of research and detail included in the book, there were no discernable errors or mistakes within the text.
It must be said that Rosenwater does not write with a particularly decorative manner; it is functional rather than flowery. As with many other writers, this is merely a difference in style rather than any type of inherent flaw. It is possible to argue that Rosenwater didn't concentrate too much upon Bradman's personal character, but that would be to miss the point of this book. Rosenwater does recognise the impact that the performances of Bradman had upon the wider Australia psyche after the Great Depression and World War II, and he manages to convey this aspect of Bradman's role in Australia's history. Rosenwater managed to produce a thorough biography of Bradman without falling into the trap of either being overly fawning or hyper-critical.
Sir Donald Bradman - The Biography was a winner of The Cricket Society Literary Award, a highly deserved honour. It is perhaps a bit sad that this book was the high point of Rosenwater's literary career, as he never again managed to reach such heights. After its publication Rosenwater continued working with Channel 9 as their official statistician, but never again wrote a book as well received. It is possible that the unrivaled magnitude of Bradman's performances were perfectly suited to the statistical bent of Rosenwater, and no other player similarly captured his imagination.
Sir Donald Bradman - A Biography is a wonderful book. It was the first truly comprehensive biography of Bradman, and remains the preeminent book on Bradman to this day.