Christmas cards from Irving Rosenwater

Published: 2014

With his well recognised ability to fall out with people in many ways the most interesting thing to have access to would be the doubtless fluctuating list of those who received Christmas cards from Rosenwater, but the cards he sent out between 1996 and 2005 are collectable item in their own right. In each case I do not know how many were printed or sent, but it cannot have been very many.

All ten cards have the same format, cream coloured card covers with a title on the front, a piece of research in stapled in on white paper and a scarlet ribbon that serves a purely decorative function.

The first, in 1996, is A Boycott Anthology. Finding soundbites on the subject of Fitzwilliam’s finest has never been difficult although there is no personal touch from Rosenwater here as he acknowledges that the twenty he includes are culled from Boycott’s 1974 benefit brochure.

1997 was a statistical effort, just a couple of pages listing the progression of the highest partnership in First Class cricket. The journey then took eleven steps from 1861 to 1946/47 when Gul Mahomed and Vijay Hazare added 577 for the fourth wicket. That record has subsequently passed to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

The following year, 1998, is just a couple of pages entitled A Twenty-Two of  Aphorisms. These Rosenwater no doubt collected over the years. There are some excellent ones amongst the twenty-two my personal favourite being, perhaps, we cannot all aspire to be first-class cricketers, otherwise who would watch and applaud the first-class cricketers?

In 1999 there is a table similar to that in 1997, again with a few notes. This one is The Oldest Surviving England Test Cricketer – A List. The last place on the list in 1997 was Alf Gover. The baton has changed more than once since then.

For the new millennium Rosenwater chose a stat again, and another progressive record, this time that of the youngest England Test cricketer. That had just five entries ending, as we all thought it would in perpetuity, with an 18 year old Brian Close in 1949. Seventy three years later Rehan Ahmed shaved 23 days from Closey’s record.

Having found a format he liked Rosenwater continued in 2001 with a list of men who had captained England just once. Back then there were a team of them, eleven in all, the most recent being Mark Butcher, and if I’m not mistaken it still is.

Much more work must have gone into the 2002 list, that of longest lived county captains. There are twenty names on the list, which is topped by Bob Wyatt, who passed away a couple of weeks short of his 94th birthday. Were the list revisited now then the man twelfth place, Surrey’s Nigel Bennett, would now be above Wyatt.

There was a change of tack for 2003, Rosenwater’s card containing a four stanza 16 line poem he had written entitled Close of Play, and a haunting piece of work it is too.

Undoubtedly the oddest card is that of 2004, When AC MacLaren Became Prime Minister. It is a skit reproduced from an Australian newspaper from 1928 – did the original writer perhaps forsee the coming of Boris Johnson?

For 2005, sadly the last Christmas Rosenwater was to see, he returned to the list format, this one of England Test Captains Still Living. There are 28 of them, of whom we have subsequently lost ten, but gained another six.

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