1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grace, William Gilbert
|←Gracchus||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12
Grace, William Gilbert
|See also W. G. Grace on Wikipedia, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
GRACE, WILLIAM GILBERT (1848-), English Cricketer, was born at Downend, Gloucestershire, on the 18th of July 1848. He found himself in an atmosphere charged with cricket, his father (Henry Mills Grace) and his uncle (Alfred Pocock) being as enthusiastic over the game as his elder brothers, Henry, Alfred and Edward Mills; indeed, in E. M. Grace the family name first became famous. A younger brother, George Frederick, also added to the cricket reputation of the family. "W. G." witnessed his first great match when he was hardly six years old, the occasion being a game between W. Clarke's All-England Eleven and twenty-two of West Gloucestershire. He was endowed by nature with a splendid physique as well as with powers of self-restraint and determination. At the acme of his career he stood full 6 ft. 2 in., being powerfully proportioned. loose yet strong of limb. A non-smoker, and very moderate in all matters, he kept himself in condition all the year round, shooting, hunting or running with the beagles as soon as the cricket season was over. He was also a fine runner, 440 yds. over 20 hurdles being his best distance; and it may be quoted as proof of his stamina that on the 30th of July 1866 he scored 224 not out for England v. Surrey, and two days later won a race in the National and Olympian Association meeting at the Crystal Palace. The title of "champion" was well earned by one who for thirty-six years (1865-1900 inclusive) was actively engaged in first-class cricket. In each of these years he was invited to represent the Gentlemen in their matches against the Players, and, when an Australian eleven visited England, to play for the mother country. As late as 1899 he played in the first of the five international contests; in 1900 he played against the players at the Oval, scoring 58 and 3. At fifty-three he scored nearly 1300 runs in first-class cricket, made 100 runs and over on three different occasions and could claim an average of 42 runs. Moreover, his greatest triumphs were achieved when only the very best cricket grounds received serious attention; when, as some consider, bowling was maintained at a higher standard and when all hits had to be run out. He, with his two brothers, E. M. and G. F., assisted by some fine amateurs, made Gloucestershire in one season a first-class county; and it was he who first enabled the amateurs of England to meet the paid players on equal terms and to beat them. There was hardly a "record" connected with the game which did not stand to his credit. Grace was one of the finest fieldsmen in England, in his earlier days generally taking long-leg and cover-point, in later times generally standing point. He was, at his best, a fine thrower, fast runner and safe "catch." As a bowler he was long in the first flight, originally bowling fast, but in later times adopting a slower and more tricky style, frequently very effective. By profession he was a medical man. In later years he became secretary and manager of the London County Cricket Club. He was married in 1873 to Miss Agnes Day, and one of his sons played for two years in the Cambridge eleven. He was the recipient of two national testimonials: the first, amounting to £1500, being presented to him in the form of a clock and a cheque at Lord's ground by Lord Charles Russell on the 22nd of July 1879; the second, collected by the M.C.C., the county of Gloucestershire, the Daily Telegraph and the Sportsman, amounted to about £10,000, and was presented to him in 1896. He visited Australia in 1873-1874 (captain), and in 1891-1892 with Lord Sheffield's Eleven (captain); the United States and Canada in 1872, with R. A. Fitzgerald's team.
Dr Grace played his first great match in 1863. when, being only fifteen years of age, he scored 32 against the All-England Eleven and the bowling of Jackson, Tarrant and Tinley; but the scores which first made his name prominent were made in 1864, viz. 170 and 56 not out for the South Wales Club against the Gentlemen of Sussex. It was in 1865 that he first took an active part in first class cricket, being then 6 ft. in height, and 11 stone in weight, and playing twice for the Gentlemen v. the Players, but his selection was mainly due to his bowling powers, the best exposition of which was his aggregate of 13 wickets for 84 runs for the Gentlemen of the South v. the Players of the South. His highest score was 400 not out, made in July 1876 against twenty-two of Grimsby; but on three occasions he was twice dismissed without scoring in matches against odds, a fate that never befell him in important cricket. In first-class matches his highest score was 344, made for the M.C.C. v. Kent at Canterbury, in August 1876; two days later he made 177 for Gloucestershire v. Notts, and two days after this 318 not out for Gloucestershire v. Yorkshire, the two last-named opposing counties being possessed of exceptionally strong bowling; thus in three consecutive innings Grace scored 839 runs, and was only got out twice. His 344 was the third highest individual score made in a big match in England up to the end of 1901. He also scored 301 for Gloucestershire v. Sussex at Bristol, in August 1896. He made over 200 runs on ten occasions, the most notable perhaps being in 1871, when he performed the feat twice, each time in benefit matches, and each time in the second innings, having been each time got out in the first over of the first innings. He scored over 100 runs on 121 occasions, the hundredth score being 288, made at Bristol for Gloucestershire v. Somersetshire in 1895. He made every figure from 0 to 100, on one occasion "closing" the innings when he had made 93, the only total he had never made between these limits. In 1871 he made ten "centuries." ranging from 268 to 116. In the matches between the Gentlemen and Players he scored "three figures" fifteen times, and at every place where these matches have been played. He made over 100 in each of his "first appearances" at Oxford and Cambridge. Three times he made over 100 in each innings of the same match, viz. at Canterbury, in 1868, for South v. North of the Thames, 130 and 102 not out; at Clifton, in 1887, for Gloucestershire v. Kent, 101 and 103 not out; and at Clifton, in 1888, for Gloucestershire v. Yorkshire, 148 and 153. In 1869, playing at the Oval for the Gentlemen of the South v. the Players of the South, Grace and B. B. Cooper put on 283 runs for the first wicket, Grace scoring 180 and Cooper 101. In 1886 Grace and Scotton put on 170 runs for the first wicket of England v. Australia; this occurred at the Oval in August, and Grace's total score was 170. In consecutive innings against the Players from 1871 to 1873 he scored 217, 77 and 112, 117, 163, 158 and 70. He only twice scored over 100 in a big match in Australia, nor did he ever make 200 at Lord's, his highest being 196 for the M.C.C. v. Cambridge University in 1894. His highest aggregates were 2739 (1871), 2622 (1876), 2346 (1895), 2139 (1873), 2135 (1896) and 2062 (1887). He scored three successive centuries in first-class cricket in 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874 and 1876. Playing against Kent at Gravesend in 1895, he was batting, bowling or fielding during the whole time the game was in progress, his scores being 257 and 73 not out. He scored over 1000 runs and took over 100 wickets in seven different seasons, viz. in 1874, 1665 runs and 129 wickets; in 1875, 1498 runs, 192 wickets; in 1876, 2622 runs, 124 wickets; in 1877, 1474 runs, 179 wickets; in 1878, 1151 runs, 153 wickets; in 1885, 1688 runs, 118 wickets; in 1886, 1846 runs, 122 wickets. He never captured 200 wickets in a season, his highest record being 192 in 1875. Playing against Oxford University in 1886, he took all the wickets in the first innings, at a cost of 49 runs. In 1895 he not only made his hundredth century, but actually scored 1000 runs in the month of May alone, his chief scores in that month being 103, 288, 256, 73 and 169, he being then forty-seven years old. He also made during that year scores of 125, 119, 118, 104 and 103 not out, his aggregate for the year being 2346 and his average 51; his innings of 118 was made against the Players (at Lord's), the chief bowlers being Richardson, Mold, Peel and Attewell; he scored level with his partner, A. E. Stoddart (his junior by fifteen years), the pair making 151 before a wicket fell, Grace making in all 118 out of 241. This may fairly be considered one of his most wonderful years. In 1898 the match between Gentlemen v. Players was, as a special compliment, arranged by the M.C.C. committee to take place on his birthday, and he celebrated the event by scoring 43 and 31 not out, though handicapped by lameness and an injured hand. In twenty-six different seasons he scored over 1000 runs, in three of these years being the only man to do so and five times being one out of two.During the thirty-six years up to and including 1900 he scored nearly 51,000 runs, with an average of 43; and in bowling he took more than 2800 wickets, at an average cost of about 20 runs per wicket. He made his highest aggregate (2739 runs) and had his highest average (78) in 1871; his average for the decade 1868-1877 was 57 runs. His style as a batsman was more commanding than graceful, but as to its soundness and efficacy there were never two opinions; the severest criticism ever passed upon his powers was to the effect that he did not play slow bowling quite as well as fast.