East meets West

Here’s a photo from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two female tennis players competing in a tournament in England.

Gem Hoahing (1920-2015) was of Chinese ancestry, but was actually British: she was born in Hong Kong, and her family moved to England in the late 1920s. She was 15 at the time of this photograph, so she was too young to play at Wimbledon that year, but she competed in 19 Wimbledon championships between 1937 and 1961. Her best results were reaching the quarterfinals in women’s doubles in 1948 and the fourth round in women’s singles in 1949 and 1957. At 4’9.5″, she was the shortest player ever to play at Wimbledon.

Dorothy Round (1909-1982) was one of the leading British female tennis players of the 1930s, finishing in the quarterfinals or better in women’s singles at Wimbledon every year from 1931 to 1937, and winning in 1934 and 1937. She also won the Australian Championships in 1935. After her tennis career ended in 1950, she took up golf, playing in tournaments during the 1950s.


Action plus!

I don’t think I will ever grow tired of pictures from the photo page of 1930s newspapers. Here’s another photo from the April 20 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, this time of two tennis players in mid-game.

Bryan Grant (1909-1986) and Lester Stoefen (1911-1970) were quite likely the men’s tennis doubles partnership with the greatest height difference in history.

Grant, who was 5’4″, was nicknamed “Itsy Bitsy the Giant Killer” or just “Bitsy” for short. His specialty was retrieving balls hit by much larger opponents and wearing them out. He was ranked in the United States Top Ten a total of nine times between 1930 and 1941, and played seniors competitive tennis well into the 1970s. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1972.

Stoefen wasn’t just six-foot – he was 6’6″. He won three Grand Slam doubles titles with George Lott in 1933 and 1934. He turned pro in 1934, and started a series of head-to-head matches against fellow professional Ellsworth Vines in 1935, winning one and losing 25. He passed away from cirrhosis of the liver in 1970.


Showing up nicely

We’re getting closer to the start of the baseball season, so this photograph from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star seems relevant:

There was a Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team before there was a hockey team of the same name. The baseball Maple Leafs played in the Eastern League from 1902 to 1911 (and briefly in 1899). Moving to the International League, the Maple Leafs existed until 1967.

Robert Petrie did become a member of the Maple Leafs in 1930, but it doesn’t look like he made the starting lineup: he appeared in 63 of the team’s 139 games, sometimes as a pinch-hitter, and batted .259. He played for two International League teams in 1931 – Reading and Jersey City – but then disappeared from organized baseball and from history.

In more recent times, the name “Robert Petrie” was more commonly associated with The Dick Van Dyke Show.


A few hurling pointers

Baseball spring training is happening, so this photo from the March 11 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star seems relevant:

Perhaps pitching recruit Reginald Baker didn’t pay close enough attention to Connie Mack, as he never pitched in the major leagues. He last appeared in organized baseball in 1937, after four years away. I could find out nothing else about him, other than that he was listed at 6’3″ and 195 pounds, which is quite large for that era.

Connie Mack, the Philadelphia Athletics’ “perennial manager”, continued to run the team for another twenty years, finally quitting the game in 1950 at the age of 86. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937, despite still being active. Like Baker, he was tall for his era – he is listed at 6’1″.


When baseball was young

The January 31 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a column that appeared to be a regular feature in the paper (I’ve seen it in other editions). It was one of the earlier examples of a frequently-employed theme in baseball writing – namely, that baseball was much better back in the day than it is now.

In particular, note the complaint about modern (i.e. 1927) gloves being like “divan pillows”. (For a sample of what a 1927 glove looked like, see this photo of pitcher Walter Johnson’s glove.)

The Baseball Reference website, the definitive on-line source for baseball statistics, has an entry for the 1883 Boston Beaneaters mentioned in this article. It lists twelve players on the team, not eleven – but one only appeared in fourteen games, so he likely wasn’t with the team for the full season.

I also found information on the two players quoted:

  • John Morrill (1855-1932), nicknamed “Honest John”, served as player-manager for the 1883 team for part of the season. His career as a professional player extended from 1876 to 1890. He hit 16 triples in 97 games in 1883.
  • Joe Hornung (1857-1931) played professionally from 1879 to 1890, and was considered one of the best outfielders of the 19th century. He had a habit of shouting “ubbo ubbo” whenever he got a hit or made a good play; this became his nickname.

John B. Foster (1863-1941), the writer of the article, was a sportswriter, the secretary of the New York Giants from 1913 to 1920, and editor of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide.


Popular third baseman

Here’s a photograph of baseball player Don Ross from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


I am fascinated by baseball gloves in old photos. How did players ever catch anything in those things?

Don Ross went on to play parts of seven seasons in the majors. He played right through the Second World War, which suggests that he had some medical condition that made him ineligible to serve. He passed away in 1996.


No pro career

Here’s a photograph from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring some athletes with their children.


The common theme was that the athletes didn’t want their kids following in their footsteps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out whether they did.

Glenn Cunningham (1909-1988) overcame a childhood accident to become a runner. He finished second in the 1500 metres at the 1936 Olympic Games, and held the world record for the mile for three years from 1934 to 1937. His Wikipedia page doesn’t mention his daughter.

Mike Meola (1905-1976) pitched parts of the 1933 and 1936 seasons in the major leagues before landing with the Toronto minor league club in 1937. After his career, he worked as a demolition contractor in New York.

There were a number of Hugh Borthwicks out there on the Internet, some of which were into golf, and some of which lived in Borthwick Castle.


On the job

Here’s a photo of a Canadian Olympic athlete from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Roxy Atkins (1912-2002) was a competitor in the 1936 Olympic Games; she was a hurdler. After the Second World War, she married and moved to the United States, eventually becoming an American citizen. She worked with American track and field teams in 1956, 1971, and 1983, among others.


Retains British golf title

Here’s a photo from the sports section of the June 4 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


The British women’s golf championship (then known as the British Ladies Amateur) has come up in this blog recently. The 1932 championship was held at the Saunton Golf Club, which was founded in 1897 and still exists.

Enid Wilson (1910-1996) went on to win the championship for a third straight year in 1933. She later wrote about women’s golf in England.

Clem Purvis-Russell-Montgomery had rather a lengthy surname. I found her here (I think) in a listing of members of the British peerage. Her full name was Clementina Helen Maud Purvis-Russell-Montgomery, and her father, the 7th Montgomery baronet, went through life with the full name of Henry James Purvis-Russell-Hamilton-Montgomery.


Titled athlete and bride

Here’s one more photo from the March 27 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Lord David Burghley (1905-1981) eventually became David Cecil, the 6th Marquess of Exeter. His marriage to Lady Mary Theresa Montagu Douglas Scott (shown here) produced four children and ended in divorce in 1946.

The Marquess stayed involved in athletics, and eventually became the president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). In this role, he presented the gold medals in the 200-metre dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and appeared in the photo of the two American medallists raising their hands in a Black Power salute. (He’s wearing the red blazer.)