Tag Archives: Baseball Ground

A good man doesn’t stand by (1)

Some time ago, I showed you a picture of the England football team all making their Nazi salute at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 14th 1938:

England-Germany 1938 nazi.xsderftgyhb

They were not the only foreigners to greet the Führer with a cheery “Sieg Heil”. Here, just a year later, is the Republic of Ireland football team engaged in pretty much the same behaviour:

Ireland-Germany-1

Let’s just leave that for a short while, and move westwards to the English Midlands. To South Derbyshire, and more precisely, the little village where my Dad, Fred, grew up.

During those long sunny summers and cold snowy winters after the Great War, Fred’s home was at Number 39, Hartshorne Lane, Woodville. The house was called “Holmgarth”, and it was the very last house in the little village of Woodville as you went down the hill towards the neighbouring village.

After Fred’s house, the only dwellings were just a couple of very large detached houses set well back from the road, either side of a small, shared, lake. This was just a few yards beyond the massive blue brick railway bridge, which carried the old passenger railway line from Woodville Station towards the neighbouring town. Here it is, being demolished in the early 1980s:

demolition

Hartshorne Lane in the 1930s was made of gravel, and there was so little traffic that it was perfectly possible for boys to play football or cricket all day long without any interruption whatsoever. Boys, including Fred, regularly knocked their cricket stumps into the soft surface of the road:

hart road 2 START HERE

Indeed, the whole area was still so countrified, that one day in 1929, a seven year old Fred saw a stray cow walking around in the front garden of the house, and rushed to tell his mother. She was busy with her housework, and just told him that he was being silly and telling lies. Eventually, though, she looked out of the kitchen window and she too noticed the cow which had by now made its way around the house to the kitchen garden. She was very startled and cried out in fear. Fred though, thought that this was a good example of somebody getting their just deserts.

Fred’s father, Will, used to work at either Wraggs or Knowles clayworks, a couple of miles away. He would finish his working week at lunchtime on Saturday, and then return home immediately to make sure that he did not miss the football match at Derby, which started at three o’clock:

aerial 1

First of all, though, he would always strip to the waist and wash off all his grime in the kitchen sink.

When Fred was too young to accompany him, Will would walk to the match at the rather strangely named Baseball Ground in Derby. His knowledge of shortcuts, and his willingness to walk over the fields, meant that he could reduce the usual distance by road of twelve or thirteen miles to a walk of only some ten miles or so.

This all came to an abrupt end, though, when Will began to take his young son Fred to the match:

AD with grandma 3

Everything had to change. They would both stroll the short distance down Hartshorne Road until they reached the so-called Lovers’ Walk, a path, complete with romantic tinkling brook, which ran as a well-known short cut, up to the end of Station Street. From here father and son would take the train together from Woodville Station to the Baseball Ground at Derby, hiding away in the middle of a thousand terraced houses.

baseballground_ssssssssssssssssssssssss

Sometimes, though, they preferred to catch the ordinary bus in Hartshorne Lane. There was, in actual fact, great competition between the train and bus companies, with occasional, but regular, price wars. The usual fare was one shilling and a halfpenny, but first one, and then the other, company would knock the halfpenny off in a bid to steal a march over their rivals.

Whatever method of transport they used, Fred and Will always left for the match around one o’clock or half past one.

In the early 1930s, Derby County’s goalkeeper was a man called Jack Kirby. He came from Newhall, a mining village just the other side of Swadlincote from Woodville. Kirby had joined Derby County, a professional soccer team in the top division, from a little amateur team, Newhall United, in April 1929. He made his debut for Derby at the top level in the 1929-30 season:

kirbhy

In those days, footballers did not assemble for a pre-match meal at some prestigious hotel. Indeed, Jack used to travel to every Derby home game on his bicycle from his terraced house in Newhall. This was a distance of some thirteen or fourteen miles.

On alternate Saturdays, therefore, Kirby would come slowly past Fred’s house on his bicycle at around one o’clock.  He still had, perhaps, an hour and a half to travel the twelve or so miles to Derby. Fred and his father Will would watch out for him, have a quick chat, and invariably joke that Jack was going to miss the start of the game. Kirby never hurried, though, keeping always to what Fred and Will both considered to be a worryingly snail like pace.

There was more to Jack, though, than just banter about the speed of his cycling. Jack really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing, so that evil might prosper. For now though, here is Jack in action against Newcastle United:jfk0072211209 - Copy

The English First Division could be a really rough place in 1934:

jfk0072210208

Jack was a handsome devil, and like all proper goalkeepers, his doting old mum always knitted him a nice warm pullover:

jfk0072210208 - Copy

He was very good at latching on to the heavy, invariably wet football of the era, with hands as big as buckets:

jfk0072209207

The secret was practice, practice, practice. Even if people in the house next to the ground keep spying on you as you train:

jack again

Soon, we will all hear the story of how Jack proved to the whole world that he really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing.  Jack was not prepared to let evil prosper.

 

 

 

Advertisements

17 Comments

Filed under Criminology, Derby County, Football, History, Politics

Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

Imagine it is the late 1970s. We are walking down to the old Baseball Ground, and about to turn into Harrington Street. The floodlights of the ground are just visible:

A fur x police hors 4

My Dad, my brother and I used to park on what had been the Parade Ground at the old Victorian army barracks at Normanton, and then walk down to the football ground. If we were at all late for the kick off, Fred, my Dad, was quite capable of generating a punishing pace along the terraced backstreets. It was with complete justification that my brother would regularly accuse him of setting off like “a long dog” (whatever that was).
On one occasion, Fred was extremely late for the game, so rather than miss a second of the action, he just left the car on the grass verge of the Ring Road. He accepted as a necessary evil the inevitable parking ticket and fine he would receive, and paid it without demur, but both my brother and myself were advised, “Don’t tell your mother.”
This was not too dissimilar from an incident when he damaged his beautiful pale blue Hillman Minx quite badly by reversing it into an, admittedly, pale grey, well camouflaged lamp post, down near the bridge which went over the railway lines at Swadlincote Station:

building site 3asdf

Again, he accepted the cost of the panel beater and a resprayed rear wing, on the basis of “Don’t tell your mother.”
Closer to the ground, Harrington Street was closed to traffic because of the thousands of people all rushing down to the game. The single floodlight is even more obvious:

B - Copy (3)
Here is a backlit policeman on his horse, and more terraced houses, looking back past the long demolished Baseball Hotel:C x police horses - Copy (2)

Two rather drenched policeman on their horses, walking down Shaftesbury Crescent. Look at the fashions! Look at the flares!

D r x police horses 1

At last! These two policemen have the sense to find a little shelter from the weather:

E ur more police horses -photo 3

They are at the back of the Normanton Stand, at the entrance to the Popular Side. The “Popside” was where hooligans of both teams would stand. There would be disorder at virtually every game.
Fred, as a man of some fifty or so years of age, was himself physically attacked, on two occasions, both of them by those lovable, loyal, warm hearted supporters of Newcastle United.

We had a period when we used to park the car in the playground of Litchurch Lane Junior School, for a mere 25p. One day, as we returned from the game, I was surprised to see large brown birds flying over our heads. Only when one of them crashed into the wall of the railway repair works, did I realise that they were not birds, but bricks, thrown by a group of discontented Newcastle supporters.

On another occasion, a group of Newcastle supporters set about giving a damn good kicking to an innocent young man and his girlfriend, who had the misfortune to be walking along Osmaston Road, just in front of us. My Dad, Fred, of course, armed with his RAF maxim of “it always happens to somebody else, never to me”, raced off to help out the young victims. I can remember how Fred grabbed one hooligan’s foot as he prepared to kick the poor young man, and then wrenched it around backwards as hard as he could. That must have hurt! Afterwards, I remember too how the young victim had been kicked so much that he had lost the face off his watch.

When I got home, I discovered a tear on my favourite green USAF war surplus jacket. That tear was present in my T-shirt as well, and my back had a long red mark on it. I have always reckoned that that was as close as I ever got to being stabbed, by somebody I did not even see, in a mêlée of whirling bodies.
The opponents for this match are, I think, Norwich City:

F football x four photo 4

They are playing in yellow shirts and white shorts, which was a slight change from their normal kit with green shorts:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The problem was that in the early 1970s, lots of people still had black and white televisions, and Derby and Norwich would have looked very similar, as Derby were wearing white shirts with dark blue shorts, and Norwich yellow and green. Here Derby press forward with yet another attack:

F football x four photo 4

I can’t remember the score of this game, but I think it is safe to say that Derby probably won. They used to beat Norwich fairly regularly in the 1970s.

 

22 Comments

Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Personal

Football in the Old Days : Derby County v Middlesbrough

In the early 1970s, I used to watch Derby County who, at that time, were a highly successful team in what was then still called “The First Division”. I saw Derby win the Championship of that First Division on two occasions, in 1972 and 1975. In later years, I took my camera with me a couple of times, to take a few photographs, even though, at the time, this was actually illegal and club stewards kept a careful watch in case anybody did it.  Derby, of course, did not play in their current modern stadium, but in the old Baseball Ground, built in the middle of square miles of terraced houses in one of the poorest areas of Derby. It has now, alas, been demolished, although I do have a box of mud from the pitch, and a fair quantity of bricks from the stands.

I keep them in the cellar, but the very best one I had concreted underneath my Dad’s gravestone. He was a Derby fan from 1931, when Newcastle United came to Derby and won by 5-1, until the last game at the Baseball Ground, a 1-3 defeat against Arsenal. Fred was to watch Derby County for almost seventy years, until his very, very last game, at the new Pride Park Stadium, a defeat by 0-2 to Charlton Athletic. Nobody said supporting a football team was going to be easy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My camera was a Voigtländer Vito B (I think) equipped with a rather handy Zeiss lens:

Voigtlander-Vito-Bxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Here are the match stewards just before the match begins:

A four more police horses - photo 2

Today, the opponents are Middlesbrough, recently promoted to the First Division, and relying on tenacious defence to stay there. Here they are warming up before the match begins. The spectators at the back are in the Ley Stand, sitting upstairs, as it were, but standing in their thousands underneath. The “standees”, what a wonderful new word, are the away supporters from Middlesbrough:

B four more police horses photo 4

Middlesbrough played in all red with a white chest band:

1973

Derby played in white and dark blue:

derbyxxxxx.jpgjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Middlesbrough have already come out for the game, but here come Derby, resplendent in their white shirts with a darker collar and cuffs,

C four more police horses photo 1

Here is the moment just before Derby kick off to start the game. At the far end is the packed Normanton Stand:

D football x four - C photo 2

Hooliganism was rife in the 1970s, and here the supporters next to me in the Osmaston Stand, Lower Tier, are obviously bored by the game, so they concentrate on a threatened pitch invasion by the Middlesbrough  fans:

E photo 1

Here Derby attack, and their best player, Kevin Hector, has a shot at goal:

football x four - photo 1

He shoots, he scores!

photo 2

I thought the result of this game was Derby County 3 Middlesbrough 2 but apparently, when I checked my reference books, it actually finished Derby County 2 Middlesbrough 3. They are useless books and I may throw them away.

12 Comments

Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Personal

Arsenal £127 Tottenham Hotspur £81

Recently, the Premier League teams released their charges for a seat to watch a game next season.

As you might expect, prices are fixed at an almost unbelievable level for the ordinary working person. The days when an averagely wealthy parent might have taken his two children to a game seem to be long over.
football prices
When I was much, much, younger, my Dad used to take my brother and myself to matches at the now demolished Baseball Ground in Derby. Granted, though, the playing surface might occasionally lack a little of the green stuff…

And just now and again, it became a little muddy in places…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t know how much it cost my Dad, though, because we had season tickets, and I never saw him physically hand over his hard earned cash.

Forty years on, of course, the Baseball Ground is long gone…

I just cannot remember what prices for admission were posted up on the old stands at the Baseball Ground. And in any case, in those early days of the 1970s, there were terraces, where it was even cheaper to watch the game, although admittedly, hooliganism could often run riot.

terreces v man utd
I am pretty sure though, that, even allowing for the passage of time, my dad was not paying out anywhere near that average cost of £90.24 for a single game at White Hart Lane, or a possible £127 to watch their great rivals, Arsenal.
Unbelievably, if my dad were still with us now, it could cost him almost £300 to take my brother and myself to a Spurs game, and probably more, should we wish to watch Arsenal. Even the cheapest seats would give him too little change from his £100 for him to buy everybody a skinny latte and a prawn sandwich.
And the net result of all this, of course, is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Little teams like QPR or Burnley might optimistically put their prices up, ready for a long and successful stay in the Premier League, but in terms of actually achieving any real footballing success, they stand quite simply no chance whatsoever.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The days when a team like Derby County could win what would have been the Premier League twice in four years are long gone…

Derby-1975-title-champion-001

…and the years when a team like Nottingham Forest could win the European Cup in two consecutive seasons have gone with them.
Football, though, was a lot more exciting in those days…


And occasionally, considerably naughtier…


Derby County only missed reaching the European Cup Final by the narrowest of margins. The width of an Italian’s banknote, you might say…

I don’t really know what to offer as advice. Most of us know which football team we are destined to support as a matter of instinct, and, judging by next season’s proposed prices, if we support a London team in particular, we could well be in financial difficulties.

It is, though, more or less impossible to invent an artificial love for Leyton Orient, Stevenage or Dagenham & Redbridge, just because it is cheaper to go inside their stadium and physically watch them play.

I would commend to you, though, not so much the teams in League One and League Two, but the teams lower down the pyramid. Have a look in your local evening newspaper, and see which local clubs are going to be playing on the following Saturday, kicking off probably at the traditional three o’clock.  And go and watch one of them. You never know, you might enjoy it. The programme will not be £5. When you ask for “A skinny latte and some nice focaccia, please”, the lady will probably reply, “Yer what??”
And pick a team with a good name, such as… Coventry Sphinx, Tonbridge Angels, Solihull Moors, Pontefract Collieries  or even the West Midlands Police.

You may or may not like it, but at least it will not be costing you the best part of a hundred quid. And who knows? You may one day take to them, and realise that you have become a supporter of real football, not showbiz.

2 Comments

Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Nottingham