The fourth annual class of the British Baseball Hall of Fame (BBHoF) sees seven more inductees announced: Bill Dawber, John Devey, Michael Harrold, RG Knowles, Simon Pole, Terry Warner, and Max “Lefty” Wilson. This brings the total number of enshrinees to 18.
Photos and full bios for each of these individuals, as well as the previously elected inductees, can be found on the BBHoF web page, and abbreviated details are given below.
In a career that spanned five decades, Bill Dawber was one of the few players in the London area to shine on the baseball diamond both before World War II and after, developing into arguably the region’s best player in the 1950s. A young member of the professional London Major Baseball League’s Romford Wasps, Dawber was part of a club that made the national finals in 1937. In 1952, Dawber’s excellence was singularly recognized in the south of England. That year, he was the only player from the region chosen to represent England on a 15-man squad that travelled to play The Netherlands. In 1952, Dawber was also picked as a member of an all-England side that played in a tournament against Spain and a US Air Force team. Dawber continued to play into his 50s, retiring in 1972.
A dominant two-way player in the first professional baseball league in Great Britain history, the British-born John Devey not only led the league in batting but also paced the circuit in wins on the mound. His performance powered his club, Aston Villa, to a 17–8 record and a league championship. The league featured two former Major Leaguers, four former or future American minor leaguers and a host of other players with considerable experience in the United States. Beyond his baseball exploits, Devey is arguably one of the greatest all-around athletes to have competed on the diamond in Great Britain. He played football for England and was a regular for the Warwickshire county cricket team.
Michael Harrold was the Great Britain national team’s longest tenured manager, leading the squad to a European title in 1988 and the juniors to a championship in 1993. His exceptional career also included stints as a distinguished player at both the national and domestic levels, as well as success as a manager in domestic league play. In addition to his work on and around the field, Harrold was a long-time administrator. Among his many roles, he served as British Baseball Federation president and a member of the British Olympic committee.
Richard George (RG) Knowles was pivotal in developing the first regular baseball played in London. A comedian by trade, Knowles rounded up fellow performers and began setting up games in 1889 in Battersea Park. His efforts led to the establishment of the London Thespians – one of England’s first dominant teams. As player–manager of the Thespians, Knowles led the club to national championships in 1893 and 1894. The Thespians were the first team to win multiple British titles. Backed by Knowles’s work, Thespian home games were known to sometimes attract crowds in the thousands. Beyond his club, he also helped form the London Baseball Association.
During his decade-long British career, no player put up better statistics as either a pitcher or a hitter than Simon Pole. From 1999 until 2008, he boasted a career .454 batting average, with 35 home runs and 224 runs batted in. According to Project COBB, those are career bests for that period. He led the country’s top league in home runs three times and topped the circuit in batting twice. In 2005, Pole won the “triple crown” with a .571 average, six home runs, and 42 runs batted in. He was no less impressive on the mound. His 2.11 earned-run average was the best of any player during the span of his career. A native Australian, Pole represented his adopted country internationally, playing for Great Britain in six events including the 2005 European Championship A-Pool.
In a baseball career that lasted nearly 60 years, Terry Warner consistently shined as an all-around player in domestic competition and, in 1967, delivered one of Great Britain’s most important all-time international pitching performances. Warner won two national titles with Thames Board Mills. Along with his on-field exploits, Warner also invested numerous years into teaching the game. He was a coach for Great Britain when they took on the Dutch at Crystal Palace Football Club’s stadium in 1965 and he managed the team in 1968. In 1984, Warner skippered the Croydon Bluejays to a national title.
Max “Lefty” Wilson
Max “Lefty” Wilson is the only Major Leaguer to have pitched a team to a British national championship. He played in Great Britain during the heyday of professional baseball in the late 1930s. In 1936, he pitched for the Catford Saints in the London Major Baseball League. His performance was so impressive that fellow future Major Leaguer Roland Gladu dubbed the left-hander the best pitcher in the country. The next season, Wilson moved to the north of England to play for Hull. There, he was treated as a hero. The Hull Daily Mail called him a “pitching genius” in its 10 May 1937 edition. He led the club to the national championship that year, producing one of the greatest finals performances in British history.