Fred Trueman certainly paid his dues – and did the miles on the clock – in yeoman service for Yorkshire and England.
In his entire career, he sent down a staggering 99,764 deliveries, he sprinted more than two million yards (around 1,200 miles), and that does not include the walk back to his mark.
Seldom, if ever, breaking down, he must have been extremely fit to do that – and yet famed middle-distance runner Gordon Pirie once insisted, on a boat trip, that he could devise some exercises to strengthen Trueman’s legs.
No wonder, it elicited Trueman’s tart and menacing rejoinder: “Can you swim?”
Perhaps a bigger insult came from Yorkshire County Cricket Club when Trueman’s outstanding, but turbulent Headingley career came to an end.
He was presented with Charles II silver cruet-set as a farewell present – but Yorkshire ruined the grand gesture by asking Trueman to pay £120 towards the £220 cost!
No wonder Trueman bore a grudge against Yorkshire, which only grew and festered with the advancing years.
His life and times are chronicled in an incisive, entertaining biography* by Chris Waters.
The book is a bit of slow burner to start with, but becomes a rattling good read and straddles a fine line by being sympathetic, but honest at the same time, highlighting his foibles as well as his fabled deeds, the rows with the English and Yorkshire cricket establishment, the at times tangled personal life, his fall-out and later rapprochement with Geoffrey Boycott.
It is a lively boisterous, at times sad story, and for many his reputation rests not with his deeds on the pitch (the first man to 300 Test wickets), but with his broadcasting work on Test Match Special on BBC Radio and his oft-used phrase, which became a parody: “I don’t know what’s gouing off out there.”
As erstwhile colleague Ray Illingworth aptly pointed out, it was actually Trueman’s job to point out to people what WAS going off out there! Trueman’s forcible – often reactionary and occasionally rather insulting – comments on TMS divided opinion, and made him unpopular with modern-day pros.
Not that Trueman gave a fig about that, for he was very much a paid-up member of the ‘Better-In-My-Day’ club.
There can be no division of opinion about the merit and source-work of this book about a complex figure.
I loved the line about the Yorkshire Post conducting a poll to find the best 11 White Rose county players of all time.
Of all the entries, Trueman received the most votes (99%).
Trueman should have been pleased with that – instead, he was thoroughly indignant.
“Only 99%? I’d like to catch up with the people who didn’t vote for me...”
Only he didn’t use the word people...
* Fred Trueman – the Authorised Biography, Aurum Sport, £20.