It was with great sadness that while battling with my own grief of losing my dear beloved wife Dianne to illness just over three weeks ago, I was informed early yesterday morning of the passing of George Linton, the former Spartan First division captain and Barbados leg-spinning all-rounder, who gave his all to cricket in so many different areas.
As tributes poured in for the 57-year-old Linton, I knew it would be a day or rather a long night of special homework for me from a local domestic perspective to research his statistics. That entailed digging into some old, tattered “exercise” books with endless “dog-ears” as well as some hardback books containing endless scorecards of BCA First division matches and team averages, which I have proudly kept throughout my three-and-and-a-half decades as a sports journalist.
One must understand that Linton was not only a cricketer who came through the national Under-19 ranks with a base in community competitions for the Friendship Youth Group, which took part in the popular but now defunct Barbados Youth Council tournaments, but also the role he would later play as a cricket coach at the National Sports Council (NSC) for over 25 years and his service as a Barbados junior and senior selector, rising to the post of chairman.
As a selector and true cricket man, he journeyed virtually all over the island to scout talent and follow matches. And as far as the NSC was concerned, he cherished the Whether you care to call him George or Georgie, he was an unmistakable figure with his portly size and features in particular resembling the great Jamaican actor and comedian Oliver Samuels. In fact, in typical Bajan parlance, it was suggested in some Georgie also did radio commentaries on local domestic cricket and had a taste at the first-class level as well. His style was almost unique, twirling his tongue to pronounce some words and even at times sounding as though he was crying. It was just his way.
In 26 first-class matches following his debut in 1982 against the Windward Islands at Kensington Oval in the then Shell Shield championship, he sent down 764.4 overs (4588 balls) including 145 maidens and took 78 wickets for 2321 runs at 29.75 runs apiece with five five-wicket hauls and a best of five for 35. And in 38 innings, nine of which were not outs, he scored 734 runs with a highest of 83 including five half-centuries at an average of 25.31.
George Lester Lincoln Linton was born November 12, 1955 at Waverley Cot, St. George and according to his brother Louis, died in his sleep at his home in Friendship Gap, Hothersal Turning, St. Michael hours after watching the first day of the BCA LIME Under-15 semi-final match between Queen’s College and Lodge on Wednesday, ironically at the Friendship ground, home of his old club, Yorkshire. The family had moved to ‘The Turning” when George was about aged five.
I was aware of his most recent illness by way of Louis and the fact that he was hospitalised for three weeks from July 20th. When I last saw Louis on August 5th – the eve of my wife’s funeral – when Louis attended the viewing of her body, he indicated that George was “coming around” and would soon leave hospital. He was released from hospital last Saturday.
Therefore, it was with shock when I heard of his passing.
As host of Mid Wicket, The Real Cricket Show, which is aired on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation radio station 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights, I can state that George was by far the easiest person I could approach even at the last minute to be a guest and he would readily accept. He loved to talk and discuss cricket.
In fact, when I was first asked to host the programme in early 2011, George was the very first guest as chairman of the Barbados senior selection panel.
As fate would have it, his last appearance on Mid Wicket was just under a couple months ago on June 24th. Ironically, as soon as I introduced him on the programme, he expressed condolences to the family of Ronald “Duke Tank Lynch” Bradshaw, a former Primary and Secondary schoolmate of mine, who had recently passed and suddenly, too, like George. “Duke” was aged 56.
In his usual witty way, George told listeners that he and “Duke” had a couple things in common. Both were “sizeable” and “dark” in complexion. “Duke” was also a cricketer, an attacking batsman I dare say.
There have been and will be many tributes and stories in relation to Georgie. One of the most fitting has come from the BCA (check www.bcacricket.org) who I recall also played a major role in helping to organise a successful benefit for George in 2002.
Linton represented the Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams as well as Yorkshire in the BCA Intermediate division championship before making his Division 1 debut for Spartan in the mid 1970s.
As I meticulously delved through my treasured BCA records, one of the first things which struck me was the pattern of George’s Division 1 statistics during the decade
of the 1980s when there were 12 teams in the competition until 1989 when the number increased to 14 with the Combined Schools being split into North and South and Cable & Wireless (now LIME) being promoted from the Intermediate division.
In 1980 and 1981, he played full seasons, which amounted to 11 matches in each season, but for the next six seasons he was limited to only 24 matches all told because of professional contracts in Britain. In sequence, they were: 1982 (four), 1983 (five), 1984 (three), 1985 (four), 1986 (four) and 1987 (four) before playing 11 matches in 1988 and 13 in 1989.
What intrigued me about the 1980s and the decades of the 1990s as well was that gradually, perhaps suddenly, after being one of the top, genuine all-rounders, George then paid little attention to his batting, slipping further down the order but he never stopped being one of the top bowlers.
It would take more than one column to do full justice to George from a statistically perspective but I must highlight some of his outstanding feats in the BCA First division championship. For example, in 1980, he scored 459 runs including three half-centuries and took 54 wickets at 13.88 runs each, having sent down 301.3 overs including 73 maidens.
Linton was one of the BCA Cave Shepherd Five Cricketers of the Year in 1981 when he was the Spartan captain. He scored 556 runs from 17 innings, one not out, for an average of 34.75 and was one of only five batsmen to score 500 runs (including one century and four half-centuries) that season. His highest score was 104 against the BCL at Blenheim ”A” in the fourth series. He took 51 wickets (only one of two bowlers with over 50 scalps) at 14.82 runs each from 276.5 overs including 55 maidens with a best of six for 37 against Combined Schools at Lodge “A”, Society in the ninth series.
The following season, Linton also had the honour of scoring a century (106 not out) against Empire in the derby at Bank Hall in the eleventh round. In his four matches, he scored 161 runs (ave: 32.20) and took 31 wickets at the miserly average of 9.70.
Perhaps by sheer co-incidence, he had the identical bowling average of 9.70 in 1983 when he took 37 wickets in the five matches referred to earlier but it was from that season that his batting took a nosedive and to such an extent that he only passed 100 in season once thereafter – 103 in 1987 – before his First division career ended ten years later.
Apart from 1981, Linton was also the Spartan captain in 1988, 1989 and 1990 (for the first three matches). Spartan, with their base in Queen’s Park, won the Division 1 and Barbados Fire Cup (now Sagicor General Super Cup) titles in 1990.
Between 1980 and 1997, Linton took 606 first division wickets (including 361 between 1988 and 1994) – he missed only the 1995 season – at the outstanding average of 11.56. His best figures were nine for 65 in the first innings against St Catherine at Bayfield in 1989 in the sixth series.
His most productive season with the ball was in 1994 when he grabbed 72 wickets (ave: 10.17) from 306 overs including 78 maidens.
More has to be written about George Linton. Trust me.
To his sorrowing relatives including brothers Louis and Desmond, sisters Judy and Cecelia – all of whom were from the combination of his late father Beresford and mother Eudora Linton, who lives in New York, along with two other siblings, Peter and Margaret Maynard (as they say from his father’s side), I extend deepest sympathy.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.