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Thread: The Legend of John Barton King

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    The Legend of John Barton King

    Following interest shown in this player in another thread thought it worthy of one to featyre him...Read and enjoy

    'Undoubtedly one of the finest bowlers of all time'. It would surprise many people to hear that this quote by Sir Plum Warner was about an American bowler. His name was John Barton King, and he was seen by many critics as the greatest bowler of in the world, and the greatest of his generation.

    The story of the first ever test match in 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between the touring England team and the Australian eleven is well known. However, what is not so commonly known is the fact that the first ever international game between two countries took place at New York in 1844 between the USA and Canada. Cricket was primarily introduced to the USA by English immigrant mill-workers within the New England area. Cricket thrived within Philadelphia, which became the centre of game within the country from the 1890's through to the First World War.

    The USA, or perhaps more correctly, the Philadelphian Gentlemen, undertook five tours of England and played tour games against most of the first class county teams. They recorded victories over many sides, including a number of defeats for Australian teams who played against them during their return from tours of England. Much of their success during this period can be traced back to one man, John Barton King.

    John Barton King, or 'Bart' King as he became known, was born on the 19th of October, 1873. As with most of the children his age, Bart grew up playing the American national game of baseball in his home town of Philadelphia. He did not start playing cricket seriously until he was fifteen. He joined the Tioga Cricket Club, which was one of the major clubs within Philadelphia. The first recorded game that Bart played in was for the Tioga Juniors on 27th June, 1889. Throughout this season, Bart took 37 wickets for a total of 99 runs, a very clear sign of his potential. He started off as a batsmen, but the club quickly pushed him into bowling as even at age fifteen he was strongly built and over six foot in height. At this stage he primarily bowled just above medium pace, however over the next three years for Tioga Juniors he gradually built up his speed until he was considered to be genuinely fast.

    The secret to Bart's bowling success can be largely traced to his ability to swing the ball in both directions. Whilst he was rated by his contemporaries as one of the first truly fast bowlers, his most dangerous ball was an inswinger. He referred to it as his 'angler' and he only used it rarely as he felt that the less batsmen saw it, the less chance there was for them to get used to it. His normal ball was an outswinger, but he commented that this merely increased the danger of his inswinger. It is said that Bart's ability to swing the ball was developed as the result of his early years as a baseball pitcher. The unique component of his action was that in the final strides of his run, he held the ball above his head in both hands, much in the manner of baseball pitcher. In spite of this, there were never any claims that he threw, unlike other fast bowlers of the day, and he renowned for his very high and pure action.

    The years with Tioga Juniors provided Bart with an excellent grounding for the game, and in 1892 he became a permanent member of the Tioga senior team. Bart's career for Tioga continued until 1896, when the club disbanded. He then joined another major Philadelphia club Belmont, before he finally finished with the Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1916 after the Belmont club was dissolved in 1913. During this extended playing career in the USA, Bart took a total of 2, 088 wickets at an average of 10.47. In addition to this, he also scored 19,808 runs at a very good average of 36.47. His score of 344 for Belmont in a Hallifax Cup game against Merion in 1906 is still considered to be a record score within North American cricket. It is naturally difficult to determine precisely what this record represents, as obvious questions can be asked about the standard of cricket within the United States. It would appear from anecdotal evidence that the standard of Philadelphian cricket was at least the level of minor country cricket in England at the time, and therefore his record stands as one of merit.

    Ignoring all arguments surrounding the relative strength of cricket in the USA during this period, it is Bart's performances in international games that remains the outstanding aspect of his career. He was first selected to play in an international match in 1892 for the Gentlemen of Philadelphia against the Gentlemen of Ireland during his initial season in the senior ranks with Tioga. Still only eighteen years old, Bart took 19 wickets at an average of 13.53 in the three game series. Following this success, he was selected for the USA in their annual match against Canada, and he responded by taking 3 for 6 and 2 for 15 in the USA's win.

    The following year saw the Australian team play a series of games against the Philadelphian Gentlemen on their way home from England. It had been a long and arduous tour, and unwisely Australia agreed to play the Gentlemen on the day following the conclusion of their rough crossing of the Atlantic. Winning the toss, the Gentlemen smashed an impressive total of 525. Bart batted at no. 11, but he scored a very quick 36 to help the Gentlemen to top the 500 mark. The Australian team was very rusty, dropping numerous catches and misfielding regularly. The game was to go from bad to worse for the tourists however, as Bart ran through the Australian top order to take 5 for 78. Australia were bowled out for 199, and then shot out again for 258 after being forced to follow on. Australia had been beaten by an innings and 68 runs by the Philadelphian Gentlemen, with a nineteen year old Bart playing a pivotal role in the victory. Whilst Australia won the return game by six wickets, Bart had been noticed and his fame was starting to spread.

    Bart toured England for the first time with the Philadelphian Gentlemen in 1897. This was the first major tour of England planned by an American team. It was to last two months, and was composed of fifteen first class games against county teams. The highlight of the tour was the game against the full-strength Sussex side. The Philadelphian Gentlemen batted first and totaled 216, thanks largely to a 106 run partnership between the team's best batsman, John Lester and Bart, who made 58. The Sussex innings started off with Bart opening the bowling with a wind blowing over his left shoulder. This made his 'angler' deadly, and in less than an hour, Sussex were bowled out for 46. Bart took 7 for 13, including the prized wicket of Ranji clean bowled first ball. Sussex followed on with 252, with Ranji redeeming himself with 74. Bart's figures in the second innings was 5 for 102, giving him twelve wickets for the match, which the Gentlemen went on to win by eight wickets. In all first class games on the tour, Bart took 72 wickets at an average of 24.20 and scored 441 runs at an average of 20.1. He received many offers to play county cricket, however he chose to return home instead.
    Keep Your Feet on The Ground,Keep Reaching for The Stars!

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    International Coach archie mac's Avatar
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    Top stuff mate, it might have been just as well that the USA did not take cricket to heart, they produced Bart King without really trying and as Warner said he was one for a time the best bowler in the world. What would have happened if they really trained some players
    You know it makes sense.

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    Here is an article from The Guardian published in August 2000.

    The king of swing
    He was one of the greatest bowlers of all time - maybe even greatest. He was so good that he once sent the rest of his team off and took on the opposing batsmen single-handed. So how come most of us have never heard of Bart King? Martin Kettle on cricket's forgotten giant

    It was once said of Bart King that he was the best known American of his time in England. When he came over to Britain, people would recognise him in the street and stop to shake his hand. Since King was a contemporary of Buffalo Bill and the Wright Brothers, this means that his fame must have been special. But what makes it extraordinary is that King was famous for being a cricketer - an American cricketer.

    Nowadays, as everyone knows, Americans don't play cricket. The surprise is that until well into the 20th century, they not only played cricket, but played it almost to test match standard. Until baseball overwhelmed it less than 100 years ago, cricket was America's most widely played team game. It thrived, especially in the Philadelphia area, where more than 120 clubs existed at various times. In 1905, more than 400 matches were played in Philadelphia in a single season. Almost all the players were American, and King was the best.

    On three occasions before the first world war, Philadelphia was strong enough to mount first-class tours of England - playing and beating county sides. There was talk of the US becoming the fourth test match-playing nation, although that prize went to the West Indies. As late as 1912, Philadelphia defeated an Australian test team by two runs. King, then 39, took nine for 78 in the match with his fast inswing. After two decades in the game he still reigned as Philadelphia's king of swing.

    Within a generation, cricket in the US had all but collapsed. One or two Wasp schools and colleges on the east coast continued to play. Touring sides occasionally crossed the Atlantic to play knockabout cricket at club level, as they still do today. In Hollywood, a team which boasted Errol Flynn as opening batsman and Boris Karloff as wicketkeeper, kept going into the 40s. But America's years as a cricket power were over, never to return.

    Yet the ghosts remain. As you drive out of Philadelphia along the road they call the Main Line, through exclusive Edwardian suburbs full of houses like those in which Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant lived in The Philadelphia Story, you reach the Merion Cricket Club. "Merion CC - 1865" is carved in the stone arch at the entrance.

    A vast and splendid pavilion still looks out on to a cricket field that is the equal of any in the world. Here, in 1906, King hit the highest score ever made in North America - 344 not out.

    Less than a mile away, at Haverford College, there is actually a Sunday afternoon match in progress on Cope Field, where cricket has been played since 1877. Tucked away in the college buildings is one of the most unexpected museums in the US, the CC Morris Cricket Library and Collection. Amar Singh, the library secretary, shows me some of his treasures, including the bat with which King made his great score, with which I play a few fantasy drives. There is a bat belonging to WG Grace, who played here in 1872 against "22 of Philadelphia" - WG took nine for 22 in the first innings and 13 for 45 in the second - and one donated by Sir Donald Bradman, who played here in 1932.

    There is a souvenir of Gary Sobers' visit to the revived Philadelphia Cricket Festival as a guest in 1999. There is as good a collection of cricket blazers as you could ever expect to see, including the natty Hollywood CC number. Karloff's wicket-keeping gloves are on their way here, too. And in another glass case are King souvenirs, including the key to room 166 from the Hotel Metropole in Folkestone, brought back from Philadelphia's first tour of England in 1897.

    King was the towering figure at the centre of Philadelphia's golden age of cricket. Statistics, beloved of cricket buffs, tell his story almost better than words. In his career, which lasted from 1892 to 1916, he took more than 2,000 wickets at an average of 10.47 runs each - a better average than any of his contemporaries in any country. In 1908, on his third tour to England, King topped the English bowling averages, the only American ever to do so. His 87 wick ets at a cost of 11.01 runs each remained the best figures for an English season until 1958. He was the first American to score a triple century - 315 for Belmont against Germantown in 1905 - and his 344 not out the following year remains the record.

    "Without question the finest all-round cricketer ever produced in America," wrote his contemporary, John Lester. One of cricket's finest historians, Rowland Bowen, went even further: "Certainly one of the six leading bowlers in the world of all time, and arguably the best." When King died, aged 91, in 1965, Wisden said his greatness was "beyond question". The Cricket Quarterly called him "one of the greatest cricketers of all time".

    Today, however, King is almost forgotten. His dates of birth and death are still reverently reprinted each year in Wisden, as are one or two of his records. But Philadelphia cricket has slipped into oblivion and King himself is all but unremembered in the city where he broke almost every record in US cricket.

    If there is one place in Philadelphia where a memorial to him would be appropriate, it is the corner of 49th Street and Chester Avenue. When I told a former Philly cop that I was planning to visit the site of the Belmont club ground, where King played most of his cricket, he looked at me and said: "Sir, I would be very careful about doing that. Or, if you do, then go during daylight hours, keep your car doors locked and try not to draw attention to yourself."

    Maybe the officer was right. They have seen better days at 49th and Chester. But you can still visualise how what is now a baseball diamond and an overgrown basketball court in the heart of largely black inner-city West Philadelphia could once have been a cricket field lined with plane trees, with the number 13 tram rumbling past, then as now. And could the grass have been any greener then? I doubt it.

    It was on this grass that King performed the feat which, if he had done nothing else in cricket, would deserve to be remembered today for its brilliance. It took place in a match between Belmont and Trenton in 1901. Trenton, coming down from New Jersey, arrived without all their players, so Belmont put them in to bat, hoping that the latecomers would arrive in time to bat and that all 11 would be there by the time that Belmont began their reply.

    That afternoon, King was unplayable. His fast-bowling ripped through the Trenton order. Before long, the ninth Trenton wicket fell - King had taken every one. The final Trenton batsman, the captain of the team, had arrived by then. As he walked to the wicket, his side in disarray, he made a challenging remark to King about how the collapse would never have happened if the whole team had been there at the start, as they should have been.

    "Bart looked the captain over with an appraising eye," Lester later recalled. "Then he called the fielders over and sent them to the clubhouse." With that, King went back to the start of his run-up. When he turned to begin running in, King saw that Eddie Leech, the Belmont wicketkeeper was still in position. King called out to him. "Why, Eddie, Eddie, whatever are you doing there? I won't need you, Eddie. Join the rest."

    As Leech departed, the Trenton captain lodged a protest. On the field there were now two batsmen, two umpires and King. The umpires consulted the laws. No, they decided, there was nothing that said a fielding side could not have fewer than 11 on the field - only that they could not have more. They waved play on. But now it was King's turn to hold things up. On second thoughts, he brought one fielder back, and positioned him 20 yards behind the wicket on the leg side. "To pick up the ball after the game is over, and return it to the umpires," he explained.

    Finally, King ran in and bowled. It was the ball he always called his "angler", a fast inswinging yorker. It took the Trenton captain's leg stump, and the ball was deflected down the legside, coming to rest in front of the feet of the solitary Belmont fielder. King had taken 10 out of 10.

    His contemporaries had little doubt about King's prowess. "The best swerver I ever saw in my life was J Barton King of Philadelphia," wrote CB Fry, the England captain. "Mr King was a magnificent bowler, very fast, very accurate, and we remember at Philadelphia in 1901 being bowled by an unexpected inswinger which we left alone," wrote Eric Wilson, the Yorkshire and England batsman.

    To the end of his days, King remained the tall, thin, erect man who blew English county batting line-ups apart in the Golden Age. But there were few to remember him. One of the exceptions, although in the nick of time, was the Marylebone Cricket Club. In 1962, a mere 54 years after King last bowled on an English wicket, he was made an honorary life member of the MCC - the first and only American cricketer ever to be granted the accolade.

    In the 50s, as a student at Haverford College in the Philadelphia suburbs, Amar Singh remembers seeing a "very tall, very gaunt" old man who would come unannounced to watch college cricket on Cope's Field, where students still play to this day. "He was an ardent supporter of the team. But not very talkative and very unassuming. He used to come to Haverfold regularly to watch us play. He sat on a chaise longue under the trees. We had no idea who he was. Now, of course, I just regret not questioning him about all his achievements."

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    In 7 games against the Australians King captured 41 wickets (5.9 per game) at an average of 15.0

    In 7 games against MCC he took 38 at 16 .9 !

    Overall in these 14 games against representative sides he took five wickets in an innings as many as 7 times !

    In his first class career, mostly against these sides and the English county sides, he took 415 wickets in just 65 games at 15.65 each. He was without doubt the best bowler in the world of his time.


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    He was the first player to master swing bowling and is often credited as being the father of swing as we came to know it later. He leant it from baseball.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBMAC View Post
    Following interest shown in this player in another thread thought it worthy of one to featyre him...Read and enjoy
    Here is the rest of this article. . .

    International games were few and far between back in the late 1890’s and early 1900's, as a consequence of the distances between countries. Bart's next major performance was in 1901 against a touring English team led by the famous spinner B.J.T. Bosanquet. Bart took 23 wickets in the two games, including a best of 8 for 78, at an average of 10.3. His ability to swing the ball late, combined with his express pace, simply proved too much for the tourists to cope with. His place as the pre-eminent Philadelphian, and by default, United States cricketer had been established by now, and he continued unchallenged in this role until his retirement.

    Bart toured England again with the Gentlemen of Philadelphia in 1903. There were sixteen first class games between the Gentlemen and the county teams. Bart took 93 wickets at an average of 14.91, and scored 653 runs at an average of 28.89. The two highlights of this tour were defeats of Surrey at the Oval and Lancashire at Old Trafford. As with any win by the Philadelphian Gentlemen, Bart's performances were central to both of these victories. Against Surrey Bart took 3 for 89 and 3 for 98 in the game, but his batting was the highlight for once. He scored 98 in the first innings before being unfortunately being run out, however he followed this up in the second innings with his highest first class score of 113 not out. His bowling was again to the fore against Lancashire, taking 5 for 46 and 9 for 62. His chance of taking all ten wickets in the second innings was ruined by a run-out. In all the Gentlemen won seven games, lost six with the other three games drawn.

    Once again, Bart's first class career came to a standstill, with no first class games for the next five years. He continued to play inter-club cricket for these years, reining supreme with both bat and ball. He won the Batting Cup three times and the Bowling Cup four times between 1904 and 1908, revealing his dominance of his local competition. The absence of tours did allow Bart to concentrate upon games against the United States near neighbour, even though these games were not deemed to be of first class standard. He played eleven times for the USA against Canada from his debut in 1892. His performances were pivotal in the USA rarely being challenged in these games.

    Bart toured England for the third and final time in 1908 with the Gentlemen. Despite being in his mid-thirties by this stage, Bart produced his best bowling performances in English condition. He took 87 wickets in only ten first class games at an average of only 11.01. This average was the best performance by any bowler in the summer, was better than any average for the previous fifteen years, and then was not matched for another forty years. Bart by this stage was balding, but still in magnificent physical condition. At six foot one and 178 pounds, Bart had long and loose arms, a powerful torso with strong shoulders and wrists. His team mate from the Philadelphia Gentlemen John Lester said that of Bart that 'nature endowed this man completely with the physical equipment that a fast bowler covets'. Bart's batting had dropped off a little by this stage, but he still managed to score 290 runs in the ten games, at an average of 16.11.

    Bart's first class career was drawing towards a close following the 1908 tour of England, however he still had a few world class performances left. Playing against the Gentlemen of Ireland in 1909, Bart performed the amazing effort of bowling all eleven batsmen (G.A. Morrow was bowled off a no-ball and remained not out at the conclusion of the innings). This was one of three occasions that he took all ten wickets in the innings, however it was probably against the best opposition. The last two international matches that Bart played in were against the much weakened 1912 Australian test team. In spite of the fact that he was approaching 40, Bart took match figures of 9 for 78 in the Philadelphian Gentlemen's victory by two runs in the first game, and 8 for 74 in the second game that Australia won by forty five runs.

    For a golden period from the mid 1890's until the First World War, the Philadelphia Gentlemen were able to put forward a representative team that could match many of the best sides around the world. Whilst there were other players of significance in the side such as batsman John Lester and bowling partner P.H. Clark, without the performances of Bart it is doubtful that the Gentlemen would have been anywhere near as successful.

    Outside of cricket, Bart's first source of income was with his father in the linen trade. Later on, he worked as an insurance agent, a job that was supposedly obtained for him by members of a Philadelphian family who wished him to continue playing cricket. He married in 1913 to Miss Lockhart; a happy union that was to last over fifty years. John Barton King was elected as an honorary life member of the MCC in 1962, and died on the 17th of October, 1965 just two days short of his 92nd birthday. He remains the greatest of all American cricketers, and indeed the only player from the USA to ever be considered to be the best of his craft in the world.

    Career Statistics

    As Bart was born in the United States, he was not able to take part in test matches. His first class record is therefore composed of games primarily against touring international teams such as Australia, and matches against counties on the three Philadelphian tours of England. Bart played 65 First Class Games from 1893 to 1912.

    Bowling Figures

    Bart took 415 wickets at an average of 15.66. His best bowling figures were 10-53. He took five wickets in an innings 38 times, and ten wickets in a match 11 times.

    Batting Figures

    Bart scored 2134 runs in 114 innings at an average of 20.51. He scored one century, eight fifties and took sixty seven catches. His highest score of 113 not out.

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    International Coach archie mac's Avatar
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    Keep them coming SJS, great reading

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    Baseball influences on cricket's development
    Baseball may have failed to conquer cricket but it has exercised significant influences on the English game's development. Let me turn first, or rather at last, to the 'Gentleman of Philadelphia' who continued to play cricket long after the rest of America had turned to the other game and who in their tours of England in 1897, 1903 and 1908 showed they could give most English first-class counties as good as they got.

    The 'gentlemen' of the various elite Philadelphia clubs were, it has to be faced, a bunch of moneyed snobs. Indeed, I sometimes think that it was the snobbishness of Philadelphia which was largely responsible for branding cricket as a 'stuck-up' game in popular American perception. In any event, as they prepared to set out for England in the summer of 1897, the Gentlemen of Philadelphia found they were short of a really penetrative bowler. A non-'gentleman', in that his trip had to be subsidised, was recruited by the name of John Barton King (1873-1965). King had a lethal delivery which he called 'the angler', a product of his experience as a baseball pitcher, which, time and again, would prove the ruin of English batsmen. On his last tour in 1908 'Bart' King topped the England bowling averages with the extraordinary figure of 11.01 which was not to be bettered until 1958 by Les Jackson of Derbyshire with a figure of 10.99.

    You may be the judge of 'Bart' King's impact on the English game when I tell you it was confidently rumoured that he was offered the hand of a rich widow in order to enable him to play regularly as an amateur in county cricket. Technically, the impact was altogether more far-reaching. England's faster bowlers, who had hitherto depended on sheer pace with perhaps a last second application of spin, suddenly became 'complete anglers' in the Barton King mould. A former trundler like Yorkshire's George Hirst started to shatter stumps with balls that ducked in, some said, with the force of a hard throw in from mid-off. The 'swingers' multiplied through the decades to the near- extinction of the Lord's purists' beloved off side play.

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    Obituary of John Barton King
    17th October 1965

    From: Cricket Quarterly, EV911-C91, 1966, page 61

    He was one of the greatest cricketers of all time and he died within two days of his ninety-second birthday in the City of Brotherly Love where he was born: two months after his contemporary and bowling partner, P. H. Clark. Those left to attend the funeral who had played with him were few indeed: it is remarkable that there were any. Yet when MCC last played in Philadelphia in 1959, no fewer than 8 of the last first-class Philadelphian team to visit us, fifty-one years ago, came down to watch the match: it is impossible to refrain from the speculation that cricket, by virtue both of its physical and of its ethical demands, had prolonged their lives.

    "Bart" King was, without question, the greatest of all the many fine cricketers to have come from North America. He was one of the first half-dozen really great fast bowlers: there are some who would say that he was the greatest of them all and it is indeed difficult to think of convincing arguments or reason to disagree with this assessment. But whether the greatest of one of the top six, he must forever remain on a very high eminence.

    Even in the great days of Philadelphian cricket, which lasted for the fifty years [prior] to 1914 when the first war effectively put an end to them, few American boys did not come to cricket without some preliminary dabbling in baseball. Bart King was not exception, but when he turned to cricket, in 1888, he was young enough to learn, and to learn a very great deal. It was in that year that he joined the Tioga Cricket Club, then one of the principal Philadelphian clubs, though it is not till the following season that we find his first-recorded match, when he played for Tioga juniors against Germantown juniors on June 27th: his bowling was not remarkable but he scored 39 in his first innings, batting first wicket down. In the season he took in all 37 wickets for 99 runs and gave notice of the devastation he was to wreak, on placid pitches, against top-class international batsmen. Twenty-seven years later, he played his last game for the Philadelphia CC (another of the principal clubs) against Frankford, on July 20th 1916: his bowling again was nothing remarkable, nor, his batting, for he scored 18: but his batting average was 43.33 for the season.

    This tells us something else about this extraordinary man. Not only was he a quite outstanding fact bowler: he was also an very fine batsman, not indeed world class, as was his bowling, but certainly not to be sneered at. To this day, his 344 for Belmont v Merion B stand as the North American record: he scored 39 centuries in his career and he topped 1,000 runs in a season six times, in 4 of them also taking over 100 wickets. He took over 100 wickets on 4 other occasions also. In his whole career he scored 19,808 runs at an average of 36.47 and took 2,088 wickets at an average of 10.47. None of this was in knock-about cricket: Philadelphian club cricket was at least as good as good minor county cricket, or comparable with the best cricket played by our leading wandering Clubs, and of course King's career figures include much international and other first-class cricket. They surpass any other in North American cricket and are likely to stand for many years. Had he been an English or Australian cricketer, it is difficult to guess what statistical heights he might have ascended: there was no falling off when he met teams of those players for he was of, and above, their standard.

    The statistical bones tell us something about the man: let us see him in more detail. He played for Tioga until 1896 when he joined Belmont, the Tioga Club then being disbanded. It had been with Tioga that he had been chosen first to play in an International match, in 1892 against the Gentlemen of Ireland. He toured this country in 1897, 1903 and 1908. In this last tour, he topped the English bowling averages with figures not to be beaten for over 40 years and which were better than any others in the previous 15 years or so. But the most outstanding matches in which he played had been in the two previous tours. In 1897, he took 7 for 13 against the full Sussex team (this followed his own first innings of 58). helping to dismiss the side for 46. There was nothing at all wrong with the wicket but there was a strong side wind blowing of which King took full advantage. He had bowled Ranji first ball (that season he got F.S. Jackson with his fourth ball, and L.C.H. Palairet clean bowled for 0--Palairet remarked on returning to the pavilion that he seemed to be in fashion) and in the second innings, by taking 5 for 102 he materially helped the Philadelphians to a victory by 8 wickets.

    This side wind must have made him unplayable: his most destructive ball was this in-swinger ( which he called the "angler"): he used it sparingly, on the whole, lest batsmen should learn how to play it, so when he did bowl it generally took wickets. His swerve was very pronounced, learnt from his baseball days: but the pitcher "throws" and "Bart" King never threw at cricket, but always bowled, always with a very high action. This was partly derived from his own stature for he was a fine upstanding man of well over six feet (and carried himself well to the end of his days, nor, even at the end, did he look his years).

    He used his in-swinger sparingly, but this tale is told about C.B. Fry, that Fry asked him to send down a few balls in the nets. King obliged, and bowled him his in-swinger which Fry learnt to play. In due course, Fry came to the crease, shaped for the same type of delivery and was flabbergasted to find himself caught first ball in the slips, for King had bowled his more usual out-swinger. (We have not been able to trace which match this was, and think it must have been some unrecorded minor match.)

    In 1903 came King's even more wonderful performance against Surrey. In the first innings, he scored 98 runs (run out) and took 3 for 89 (P.H. Clark, whom we noted earlier on, took 5 for 102): in his second he made 113 and took 3 for 98, (Clark 5 for 112): Surrey thus lost by 110 runs. He showed a complete mastery of Tom Richardson's bowling. After the match, at a banquet, he fell asleep during a speech by the Lord Chief Justice.

    He took all 10 wickets in an innings on three occasions (on five others he took 9 wickets): one of these against the Gentlemen of Ireland in 1909 was followed by his taking the hat-trick in the second innings.

    In 1912 he took part in his last two international matches; against the 1912 Australian Test team- a weak team, no doubt, but his performances were of high quality for a fact bowling nearing his fortieth year: in the first match, which Philadelphia won by 2 runs, he took 9 for 78 runs and in the second, which Australia won by 45 runs, he took 8 for 74.

    After that season the Belmont ground was sold and the club disbanded and he joined the Philadelphia CC: he did not turn out till August 30th, yet, so late in the season, he scored 75 and took 5 for 32. He had only one more match that season, but played more games in 1915 and 1916 and then retired.

    His early employment had been in the linen and yard goods trade, in his father's company, but later he embarked on insurance as a career. He was not one of the aristocratic and wealthy Philadelphian families from whom came so many of the leading cricketers of that City, and it has been stated that his insurance career had been found for him by members of those families, as a means of keeping him in the game. He was a man with no "side" to him as the following anecdote shows. He once met a well-known English professional in the street in London: the latter said "Hallo Mr. King": King "Hallo, call me Bart": professional "But you're a gentleman cricketer, sir": King "Aren't you a gentleman too?": professional "Oh no sir, I'm a professional".

    King was elected an honorary member of our Incogniti CC in 1908 and an honorary life member of the MCC in 1962. The nearest he came to cricket administration was to represent the Belmont club on the Board of the "American Cricketer" until 1912: he also acted as a Philadelphian selector.

    He married a Miss Lockhart in 1913, whom he survived for a year or two, the marriage having lasted happily for fifty years. His wife's sister-in-law has provided the rather unusual photograph of King "at bat", as he would have said, for Belmont in 1906, which we reproduce hotographs of him batting are hard to find. We also reproduce a vary much better known photograph which has been described as the finest photograph known of a fact bowler in action: sufficient justification for its appearance again now, as a monument to Bart King

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    International 12th Man JBMAC's Avatar
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    Thanks SJS

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    One of the finest first hand accounts of Bart King comes from Australian leg spinning all rounder H V "Googly" Hordern.

    Unfortunately I do not have a soft copy so this has to be typed out.

    My third bright coal is not one little bit like anyone you have ever seen on our Australian cricket fields. As a matter of fact you have never seen him here. It represents the great American cricketer, John Barton King. It is rather remarkable that the United States of America should have produced such a phenomenal player considering the small amount of cricket played in that country; still there it is.

    A magnificent physical specimen, some 6ft 2 ins.; still full of vigour of youth with a matured experience and brainy knowledge of the game sums up somewhat the JB King I first met in 1906. He is, or was, generally known for his extraordinary bowling ability but believe me he was a magnificent all-rounder; a first class batsman without being an actual champion, a splendid fieldsman, and as a bowler almost unique. Surely a wonderful combination.

    If I had been given the selection of a World Team in the years that I knew him. 1906-19010, he would have been almost my first choice, which is wonderful considering the galaxy of players at that time. (This was the Golden Age of Cricket)

    He took a long bounding run up to the wicket, and just before actual delivery the ball was gripped in both hands, high up over the head, a la baseball pitcher, and then followed the most perfect arm and body swing possible to imagine. The ball itself came along a shade faster than what is known as fast-medium, and in the last yard or so, swung in sharply from the off side - in other words an in-swinger! I have not only seen but experienced the very unpleasant sensation of a perfectly length ball from him, pitched outside the off stump, and missing the leg stump by inches. Of course it was his sharp swerve at the last minute that did it; but what a devilish difficult ball to play at his pace !

    This ball was his stock in trade but he had, as a variation, a really fast straight one, more often than not a yorker, and occasionally used the out-swing, which, however, had not the sharp late curve of his regular ball and was effective only as contrast.

    Quite a wonderful repertoire. He had one other extraordinary peculiarity (which I have seen only once in another cricketer, the late aboriginal bowler, Jack Marsh); that was that he made the ball, occasionally, wobble in the air.

    The first time I batted against King, after having been badly beaten by the first two or three balls, I turned to the wicket keeper and said:

    "I must be bilious today, those balls all looked 'wobbly' to me."

    The keeper replied with a smile on his face:

    "You need not worry about your liver, young fellow, you will always be bilious when Bart King is bowling." A truly great bowler.

    Just to show that I am not solo in my admiration of King: once upon a time, Prince Ranjitsinhji, then at the pinnacle of his fame, was clean bowled by Bart King in his first over. "Ranji" in his charming way, walked up the wicket and said:

    "That was a wonderful ball Mr King and I wish you accept my bat as a momento."

    A most sporting tribute from a very great batsman to a very great bowler. Have I said enough to enable you to realise that J B King was one of the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen.


    Source :- Australia's H V Hordern in his autobiography, "Googlies"
    Last edited by SJS; 28-12-2009 at 05:35 AM.

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    That is a very orthodox grip and stance (except for the slight turn of the left foot towards covers almost the same as mine ) but boy have a look at those forearms !
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    Last edited by SJS; 28-12-2009 at 08:04 AM.

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    A E Knight in his famous coaching manual The Complete cricketer (1906) write of the Philadelphia side. . .

    ". . .in J B King (they) possessed a fine all-round player and a first class bowler. who knew of the baseball pitchers art of swerving. He is probably the best fast swerving bowler who has ever been seen in England, and had he been of English birth would certainly have secured a place on the English side."

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    Another comment on King cmes from Pelham Warner who I find is one of the most miserly with compliments. In the 1920 edition of The Badminton Library's "Cricket", he writes. . .

    The first right handed 'in-swinger' of whom we have heard is Mr J B King, the great Philadelphia fast bowler, who was in-swinging as early as 1895. At the other end Mr E W Clark bowled 'out-swingers' and a few years later P H Clark succeeded his brother.

    Mr King was a magnificent bowler, very fast, very accurate and we remember at Philadelphia, in 1901, being bowled by an unexpected in-swinger which we left alone. In 1903 he was probably the best fast bowler in the world. He learnt to swing by playing baseball.


    In his Book of Cricket (1911) he writes in greater detail. . .

    Had J B King been born an Englishman or an Australian instead of an American his fame as a cricketer would have been more widely known. As it is he is recognised by all those who played against hhim as one of the greatest of all bowlers. He was at his best between 1894 and 1904 at a time when cricket in Philadelphia was of a high standard. It is not easy to make the modern cricketer believe this for, alas, little or no cricket is played in America today, but between the years that I have mentioned the Gentlemen of Philadelphia defeated the Australians on two occasions and invariably held their own with various English teams.

    King was a tall wiry man, small waisted and with good shoulders, who bowled fast right hand with a marked in-swerve of the ball to a right-handed batsman. He made a full of his height, bringing his hands together over his head before delivering the ball, kept an accurate length and direction and did not rely only on his in-swing or body break for his wickets, for he made the ball occasionally go straight or move a little away from the bat.
    He invariably bowled on a true wicket with a couple of slips and did not over do the leg-side fields-men - a couple of short-legs and a mid-on were enough.

    King had tremendous 'ginger' and was a rare striver and his yorker was a yorker and no half-volley or full toss.. Everyone who played against him was tremendously impressed. There can be little question that he was a great bowler.

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    Hall of Fame Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    I can't put my hands on it now but I did read a piece once that put forward the idea that it was King's very dominance of the domestic game in Philadelphia (the US) that held back the games development over there - over the late 19th early 20th centuries there were around 50 professional cricketers altogether so the game must have been viable

    Anyway they had an award called the Childs Cup that was awarded each season to the highest batting average and lowest bowling average in their "first class" matches - between 1902 and 1914 King won the batting Cup seven times and the bowling one nine times between 1896 and 1911 - no one else managed either cup more than once in that time

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