Today, I am happy to welcome Harry Turnbull to TFT. He recalled that day when he saw the greatest athlete breathing in the flesh…
When I was young, my father came to pick me up every Saturday. We would drive a Ford Anglia, with a shiny white hood and black tail, and always go to the indoor bowling center where he plays every week.
I would watch him roll up a bowl on the artificial turf, feed dandelions and burdock, and consider when to eat the restaurant’s top dishes, the handmade hot pork pies. During the football season, every few weeks, at 2:50 pm, I would walk 50 yards from the center to watch Hartlepool United.
Saturday, June 22, 1974 is not a football season, but the World Cup is underway. When my father came to pick me up, I was a little surprised, instead of the bowling center, the car drove out of the city.
“Dad, where are we going?” I asked.
“We will see one of the greatest athletes in the world, young man”.
“Oh” I said, puzzled.
“Is this George Best?”
I have been a Manchester United fan since winning the European Cup in 1968. This was the first game I saw on TV after returning from the colony where my father was a quartermaster in the Royal Air Force. In 1971, Dad took me to Newcastle, where we saw Bestie score the winning goal in the last few minutes. This is a game known for the IRA threatening to assassinate Best on the court. He later said that this was the only game he had played that didn’t stand for a microsecond.
“George Best,” he said disdainfully, “this guy is better than Best, Law and Charlton combined.”
This makes me think deeply.
“Pele or Muhammad Ali”, I said boldly.
“No, boy,” he rejoined because the Anglia pointed its finger at the transport bridge across the Tees to Middlesbrough.
“This is Sir Jeffrey Boycott”.
The only time I saw cricket was watching my dad play for the Royal Air Force in a charity match at Singapore Changi Air Force Base.
“Who is his dad?”
“The opening bats of Yorkshire and England are the best of his generation. We are going to watch his game today.”
This explains why a bundle of corned beef sandwiches and sausage rolls grilled in the sun on the back seat. Food safety had not yet been invented at that time, so eating meat only after the meat has festered at high temperatures for several hours is not considered harmful.
Then something moved me. hard.
“Will it be completed by 5:00?”
“No, boy, Jeff will warm up then”, he giggled.
I thought about this.Scotland vs. Yugoslavia was originally scheduled to start at 6.30pm
When we arrived at Akram Park, I was praying for rain.
Yorkshire vs. Middlesex, the home team hit the ball first.
After watching Boycott stroking occasional singles for an hour, I became restless.
“Is the lad happy? Isn’t it better than football? Look at that forward’s defense, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Up to now, I have collected knights who are not in the realm of resistance.
After several hours of drudgery, the great man was fired 24 times. The Yorkie scored 116 points with a total score of 61.5 points. Fred Titmus led 7-39. In hindsight, it was a wonderful performance, but it was not appreciated by his father at the time. I guess on the test site, it must be a typical performance of resolute resistance.
He insisted on staying until the end of the game. I returned home to participate in the second half of Scotland’s 2-0 World Cup victory.
When he drove me out of the car, he smiled and asked, “Will you support Yorkshire now?”
During the day, I chatted with another kid who seemed to know cricket well. I asked him if he has a team in Manchester. When he told me that Lancashire was only a few hundred yards away from football Old Trafford, I knew where my destiny was.
I pretended to think about it, and finally said: “Sorry Dad, I like Manchester United, so I think I will support Lancashire.” So I did it-and still do. He drove away to himself.