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Wonderful innings from Joey
At the risk of being overly modest, I shyly admit that in my early twenties I was an off-break bowler in the Lance Gibbs class. My problem was that none of my various captains, in their collective ignorance, recognised my talent which meant that I had few match opportunities to take wickets. However, on a Thursday afternoon in February 1964, West Indies batsman Joey Carew met his equal in the nets at Queen’s Park Oval when he unwisely tried a “vupp” and I clean bowled him neck and crop to record my most memorable wicket ever.
This epic event resulted in Joey buying me a Coke after practice and started a friendship that combined discussions on cricket, horse racing and different personalities in the news. Joey laughed his head off when I demonstrated with a straight face how the ball that bowled him was fairly normal for me—perfect length, sublime guile and flight and unfathomable spin—and from then on, whenever we met, we basked in one another’s strange sense of humour. In 1966 I went to England on WITCO business which included tying up loose ends for two UK football teams, including Chelsea, to play at the Oval. Joey asked: “you think it will happen?” to which I replied, “we chel-see!” Joey cracked up and to the end he used this expression wherever it was appropriate. “Joey, do you think Bruceontheloose can beat Cactus Amour?” “Boy, all I can say is we chel-see!” Dozens of times and we laughed each time!
Joey and I exchanged many views on cricket and racing, but usually we talked some real “nonsense” before being serious. For example, I would say: “Joey, my spinning finger is good to go, so I am available for Australia” and he would reply with great regret: “I wish you had told me that yesterday because we picked the team last night!” Once he asked if I could spare two hours in the nets to help Brian Lara with his many batting problems and I told him I really did not have time to waste and anyway, the guy had no future. Joey: “Boy, you and I always think alike!” More laughs!
However, it was at the race track that Joey was at his best as he always played the role of the poverty-stricken gambler when asked “how are you doing?” I don’t think Joey ever admitted he had backed a winner and his ongoing tales of woe almost made one cry with pity. Examples: “Boy, do you know what it is like to be broke after the third race and you can’t even buy a sandwich?” “Can you believe that my two horses in the race once again finished last and one before last?” “Boy, I don’t know how to tell Marion I lost all the grocery money again.”
“I need August to arrive because August is my lucky month for winners. Last August I actually had two winners but they were both favourites!” About two years ago, Joey told me he had a real hot tip and asked if I could lend him $50,000. Me: “you want cash or cheque?” Joey thought for a while and then said: “I’ll take a cheque but in case I lose, you better also give me $25 cash so I could take a maxi home!” Joey was a funny guy! Joey was a very proud and loving parent and paid me a big compliment when he asked me to follow son Michael’s cricket closely and keep him advised.
Michael was a superb young batsman and Joey knew my interest in youth cricket, so it was a pleasure attending Michael’s games and appreciating his beautiful strokeplay. The downside was that Joey wanted to know every detail of every stroke so even if Michael scored ten, a casual listener would have concluded he had scored a century! I know how thrilled Joey was when Michael obtained his race horse trainer’s license after a long apprenticeship with John O’Brien and soon after saddled his first winner.
Younger son David was also deeply involved in the racing world and is still a top tipster, so father and sons had much to communicate about.
I hardly think Marion will remember, but not long after she and Joey were married, I moved from south into town in 1965 and lived in an apartment building named Parillon Flats on Queen’s Park East. Out of the blue one day, Joey said: “I hear those flats are nice. Why don’t you invite us to dinner?” Poor me! As a bachelor, what was I to serve the famous Carews? I have no clue what we had to eat, but was relieved to learn next day that they had not fallen ill and been rushed to hospital. Several years ago I asked Joey if he remembered the royal occasion and politely he said “yes but vaguely.”
Obviously my hospitality did not leave an indelible mark! To be totally objective, I should also mention that while Joey’s company provided me with much pleasure, he also administered the biggest “insult” in my potentially brilliant cricket career, which I eventually forgave but never forgot. In a 40-over Broadway game at the Oval, Joey was in the covers and I was at gully when the batsman square cut between us. A boundary seemed a forgone conclusion, except that it was I—not Joey—chasing the ball, gliding effortlessly over the lush turf with my daisy-cutting action and eating up the distance like Usain Bolt of today—poetry in motion.
Normally in such situations, the captain would encourage an extra effort of the fielder by shouting “not two!” Had Joey shouted “not two” to me, I could have lived with that, but for the world to hear, he yelled “not eight Hugh, not eight!” That was a bit much to endure and I let him “have it” after play. Joey looked remorseful—or so I thought—until he said: “maybe I said eight but I was thinking ten!” How do you win with such a guy? So much has been written and said about Joey by the important and famous I thought I might add something a little different on behalf of the not important and the not-so-famous.
Joey certainly carved a unique niche for himself in Caribbean sporting lore and his untimely loss is irreplaceable. The fact that he paid more attention to his religion and family than he did to cricket and racing tells me he is in good hands and waiting for all his many friends to join him in the fullness of time. To the question: “do you think there will be a cricket ground and a race track in heaven?” I can hear Joey answering: “Boy, all I can say is, I chel-see!” Enjoy your eternal rest Joey. You played a wonderful innings and richly deserve your reward.
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