Tribute by Short Fine Leg
W.J. Baker or "Joe" to his many friends, joined the Red Triangle Club in season 1934. A native of Morden, near Hamworthy, his first season on the island was for the now defunct Portland Bill C.C. whose players consisted mostly of Southwell lads and Coastguards. They played on the open ground between the Coastguard Cottages and the cliff - a rather bumpy pitch.
It was at the end of this season (1933) when Joe, playing for the Bill, must have taken part in the "notorious" floodlit match against the Borstal Officers, when in order to finish the final game, already so very late in the season, headlights of four cars were used to "lighten the darkness". A spectral scene indeed, darkness, fog, drizzle and the foghorn blaring from the lighthouse. Some say the 3,000,000+ CP lights of the lighthouse were "turned on" to illuminate the proceedings - after all several of the team were coastguards. Kerry Packer - we beat you by 40 years!
However, at the end of this season Joe, "seeing the light" left the cricketers at Sturt and aligned himself with those at Jordan - Reforne - the home of Portland Red Triangle Cricket Club. 1934 was quite a successful season for our Club and with a grim determination, a pleasant personality and an assertiveness, he quickly became a popular figure, both on and off the field.
As a batsman Joe reminded me of the late Ken Barrington - determined and resolute. On reaching the wicket he regarded the bowler with an ominous glint in his eye, a stell-set jaw, tightlipped which seemed to say "You'll never get me out". Although not a great batsman, he scored his runs with determined strokes, the ball being carefully stroked, placed and prodded to where he wanted it to go. Joe was never out. He did not blame the umpire - only himself - he should never have got himself out to such a poor stroke. A good runner between the wickets, woe betide any partner who "almost ran him out". In seven complete seasons (omit 1940) he scored more than 2700 runs for the Club.
Joe was a bowler of no mean ability as his record shows (243 victims). A seam bowler with a very low trajectory, he was very difficult to get away. With a good off break, an excellent length and with guile, he terminated the innings of many good batsmen - with a wry smile on his face.
The writer remembers one humorous occasion. Whit Monday 1935, we were playing against Bridport - on the Brewery Ground. Jack Stone had a "double" (a fifty in each innings). Joe had a "hat trick" - the "likeable rogue" felt very pleased with himself that day, fully imagining he was in line for at least Test Match Honours - only for his heavenly dreams to be shattered by that "scholastic ****!" at the other end, who also claimed a similar feat. The last two wickets in the first innings and the first wicket in the second innings. 3 wickets in 3 consecutive balls. Joe was highly indignant at such a claim and I believe he actually wrote to Southampton (Hampshire C.C.) for a ruling. Even his great cricketing friend, the Rev. A.V. Hurley, was non-committal and murmured, with a twinkle in his eye, something like "I'm not a Solomon come to judgment - ask the MCC".
In the field, a safe pair of hands held 57 catches. What a look he gave to anyone who put "one down" - especially in the years of his Captaincy 1937 & 1945. His great knowledge of the game became only too apparent in these two years - his field placings, change of bowlers and example all helped to make him a successful skipper. A skipper who was always willing to advise and encourage the younger members of the team. Even some thirty years later the Tremlin brothers and Brian Mitchell benefited from his advice.
On retiring from active participation, he spent twenty years in a "less active" capacity - umpiring - don't tell Steve White. A very fair umpire indeed his visual expressions were a joy to watch. A negative decision was always followed by a heaven-ward glance, a rolling of the eyes and a baleful look at the offending bowler as if to say "Don't waste my time".
In his younger days "the man from Morden" who was always young at heart kept a very fast sports car. Always in perfect running order, immaculately kept, the combination was irresistable - Joe bowled many a "maiden over" both on and off the wicket.
In an early paragraph I mentioned he became a member of the Triangle in 1934. In a very short time he appointed himself Head Groundsman and remained so for many years. With the help of A.R. Atherton and later Norman Carline, this unforgettable trio ruled the Club (The Ground Staff), as far as the ground was concerned, for nearly 30 years. To them the wicket was the "Holy of Holies" an woe betide anyone... This trio cut the outfield, cut the wicket, weeded, seeded marled and rolled (Joe was a fine mechanic). This "Labour of Love" was always appreciated by the perceptive friends who obviously, over many years, joined in. Together they must have put in more hours of voluntary work than Melvyn Tremlin has scored runs - and that is a few thousand.
Thank you Joe for your service to Our Club. East Dorset's loss was the Red Triangle's gain. You well deserved your Memorial Gate on the south side of the Ground, for your service as a player, Captain, Groundsman and Chairman of the Committee.