This is post four in a ten-post countdown to SABR Day 2011. The series is going through the decades of the 20th Century, backwards from the 1990s. On SABR Day itself, there will be a special feature on the 1890s, which will celebrate the significant link between keeping score and baseball history. This article will be published at 05:00 British time in order to coincide with the start of the day in the time-zone of the Cleveland-based SABR office. To view all the Cobbettes published to date, click here.
In an interview posted on the website of the music magazine Rolling Stone in 1999, David Bowie was asked the following question: “Are you a baseball fan?”
Here was his reply:
“When I was fourteen, I was a member of a group of expatriate Canadians who had a team called the Dulwich Blue Jays, and they’d play on weekends, and I used to play outfield for them.”
The “Dulwich Blue Jays” to whom Bowie referred were a British club from south London. They were founded as the “Bluejays (Dulwich)” in 1949, but the team changed its name in 1964 to the Beckenham Bluejays, which better reflected the fact that Beckenham Place Park was the home ground. After another name change, to the Croydon Bluejays this time, the club eventually won their first national title. This came in 1984, 35 years after their original formation (it should be noted that very few British clubs last into a fourth decade).
The final, in which the Bluejays (pictured above) defeated the Hull Mets, was one of the most exciting ever played in Britain, being settled in the ninth frame on a two-out double down the foul line. Now, back to Bowie.
The summer that the soon-to-be rock star spent as a 14-year-old was in 1961. Keen to cross-check the statement made in the interview, I contacted Jean Crook of the Old Timers Baseball Club, a team of veteran players from the British league. Having passed on my question about Bowie’s involvement to a Bluejays player of that era called Phil Laing, she replied to me with the following information.
Laing, who was born in the same year as Bowie, started out with the Bluejays in 1961. The two met through mutual friends at Bowie’s school, Bromley Technical College, and through this connection Bowie began to attend baseball games, gradually becoming an avid supporter. However, according to Laing’s recollections, he never played in an official game for the team.
While this is disappointing, the two stories are not necessarily contradictory: Bowie may well have manned the outfield during training and pre-game drills, but just not in games.
As an afterthought, when Bowie was 15 years old he suffered an eye injury in a fight at school that impaired his depth perception. Perhaps this was something that prevented Bowie playing baseball any more, forcing him down the path of rock stardom?
If you have an interesting history snippet to share that has a link to Britain then please send a message to Joe Gray through the Get in contact page. To see all of the work of Project Cobb, which is a Chartered Community of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), click here.