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Friday, 25th July 2008

Godfrey Evans

Turf Slides, Famous Cricketers [1950]

England and Kent wicket-keeper of the post-war period has died at the age of 78.

His career would have started earlier but for the disruption caused by the Second World War, naturally this can be said of his entire generation but it is non-the-less true for all that.

In Kents last match of 1939 Wisden noted Evans kept wicket for the county 'specially well on the first day.' He was only able to do so because the regular wicket-keeper, WHV Levett had already been called up.

He was born Aug 18, 1920 in Finchley, North London but was brought up in Kent. He was a natural sportsman winning his colours at Kent College, Canterbury by becoming captain of the cricket, football and hockey teams.

Naturally someone that gifted had somewhat divided sporting loyalties so the young Godfrey decided to be rather good at boxing as well. He won all his boxing matches both amateur and professional but at the age of 17 age the sport up because of potential damage to his eyesight.

Moving forward 1946 saw him in the Kent XI as the wicket-keeper. His style was to make sure the batsman knew he was there and his speed of reaction ensured he was tucked in close to the wicket to all but the most fearsome of pace bowling England had to offer.

His first test appearance was at the age of 26 when in 1946 the kept wicket at The Oval against India. By this time he had accumulated three months first class cricket experience but this was not going to stop him making 91 test appearances. This made him the familiar face behind the stumps for 13 years. This saw him make 4 tours to Australia and two each to South Africa and the West Indies.

Godfrey was not a man to buckle under pressure. Indeed the more vital the match the better appeared his performance.

That said there was one unfortunate incident in the 1948 Headingley Test against Australia when Bradman and Morris made a stand of 301. Evans should have stumped one or both of these men when the opportunity arose early in the partnership.

The following winter evans was replaced for two tests by SC Griffiths.

Evans was not just a wicket-keeper though and like the best could turn his hand to batting when need arose. Again when the need was greatest his ability to bat seemed to improve no end.

In 1950 things were looking rather bleak against the West Indies. Evans went into bat with the score at 88 for 5. Evans stuck to the task and made a stand of 161 runs with Trevor Bailey. Evans having scored 104 of them.

In 1952 against India he was to make another century which added to his best batting year when he scored 1613 runs at an average of 28.

Sometimes though it is not important to be scoring the runs but important just to be there. In 1947 at Adelaide Evans was the rock when he was partner to Compton who was securing the match with successive centuries. Evans took 95 minutes to score a run but it gave Compton all the time he needed to collect the runs and save the match.

Half way through the summer of 1959 the cricket selectors decided to drop Evans from the side (on the premise of 'team building') at the age of 39 he promptly announced his retirement.

Godfrey Evans was made a CBE in 1960.

Gene Sarazen

I'm not telling you what cards he appears on, you'll only want them :-)

One of the world's great golfers and the first to win all four majors, US, British Open, US PGA and Augusta Masters, died this month (May 1999)

He was born Feb 27, 1902, in Harrison, New York, the son of an Italian immigrant. His given name was Eugenio Saraceni.

At the age of 10 he began to caddy.

In 1916 he contracted a lung complaint and for a number of days hovered on death's door. He obviously recovered and set about becoming a professional golfer with renewed vigour. It was at this point he changed his name to Gene Sarazen (having first checked the phone book to ensure it was not a name he was borrowing from someone else.)

In 1920 he appeared in his first US Open. His health was not as robust as it could have been and also at 5ft 4.5 inches he was no giant in the game.

This could be considered the making of him as he trained harder than many to overcome these difficulties. In 1922 Sarazen won the US Open for the first time. This naturally meant he finished ahead of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Four weeks later he added the US PGA to the winning list.

The following year he retained the PGA but was not able to export his golfing abilities to the British Open where he failed even to qualify.

True to his determination he vowed to keep returning until winning the title. He managed to do so in 1932 beating Harry Vardon in his last Open. That year he had also won the US Open and his winnings for the year came to £25,000 (approx $42000) making him the highest paid sportsman of the day.

This helped ease some of the losses he had incurred in the Stock Market. His comment, 'I don't want to be a millionaire, just live like one.' Sums up an attitude.

To be really good at golf makes you a good golf play but to be a great you have to manage to do something a little bit extra. Gene did that little bit extra when he created the sand iron. A more effective club for getting out of bunkers which up until that point had been achieved by using a niblick.

Although he only adapted the niblick to create the sand iron, he kept the whole thing something of a secret as he did not want the officials to get wind of it and try to ban it from the game.

Gene remained loyal to the British Open even after the Second World War when many US players remained away.

Indeed he played there last in 1973 at the age of 71, 50 years after this first appearance. In the first round at the 8th (the Postage Stamp) he achieved a hole in one. In the following round he drove into a bunker and just to prove a point holed out from there.

In later years it became a tradition for him to drive off the first tee at the Masters. In 1998 (aged 96) he was squaring up to the ball when Sam Snead (85) advised, 'Get that left shoulder tucked under your chin, Gene, and make a full turn.' Gene drove the ball straight down the middle for 160 yards. 'God damn it. If someone had told me that 80 years ago, I'd have been a hell of a player.'