Profile – The Don
Don Bradman was the youngest of five children. He had one brother and three sisters. His parents were George and Emily Bradman. After his first few years in Cootamundra in country NSW, his parents moved the family to Bowral, around 1910, in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He later became known the ‘Boy from Bowral’ even though he wasn’t born there. His schooling was at Bowral Intermediate High School.
The Don’s father and family were keen cricketer’s and he was exposed to the game from a young age. Young Donald honed his cricketing skills by throwing a golf ball against a small brick wall and hitting it on the rebound with a cricket stump. If anyone has tried this they will realise it is no easy feat. Perhaps this is where he trained his eye for his future career as the world’s greatest batsman. That particular tale is now Australian folklore and so is the story of the time when his father took young Don to the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1921 to watch a Test Match. Don said to his father “I shall never be satisfied until I play on this ground”.
Don Bradman played his first cricket match at age 11 in Bowral. He scored 55 runs and the oval on which he played is now called ‘Bradman Oval’. Adjoining the oval is The Bradman Museum. Don scored his first century at age 12 and he never looked back.
Bradman’s career really took off and he soon left home to live in Sydney where he played for the St George Club. He quickly moved into the New South Wales State side after some high scoring innings. His big break came in the 1928-29 series against England when he made his Test debut. His start in the big time was not that great and he only made 18 runs in the first innings and 1 in the second. History shows that he was dropped for the next Test but was picked again for the third Test. He scored 79 in the first innings and his first Test century of 112 in the second innings. After that start to his career he was never dropped from the Australian team again!
Don Bradman met his future wife at a very early age. Jessica Menzies was a child hood friend of Don Bradman and the two remained close all their lives. So close in fact that in April 1932 they were married in Burwood, Sydney. They had a long married life but sadly Lady Bradman died in 1997. On her death, Sir Donald said that his wife was the greatest partner he ever had.
Don Bradman took the cricketing world by storm. The more he played the more cricket records he broke. On the 1930 tour of England he scored 334 the highest Test score at the time. He scored 452 for New South Wales against Queensland setting a new highest First Class innings score. He was so good that the English team devised a method called Bodyline in an attempt to curb his scoring. The Bodyline series slowed him a bit but certainly did not stop him. He went on to break records for the most number of runs scored and helped break team records.
He scored a total of 211 centuries in his career, played 80 Tests for Australia, a large number of them as Captain, and scored 6,996 runs in Test Cricket. His career Test average is 99.94, the highest ever and almost double that of any other batsman. Did you know that Sir Donald Bradman won the South Australian squash championships in 1939. He beat tennis champion Don Turnbull in five sets, lasting over an hour. The Don was so exhausted he never played competition squash again.
In 1934 on a tour to England Bradman collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He was suffering from gangrenous appendix. He had emergency surgery and for a few days was reportedly near death. His wife Jessie Bradman rushed to England to be by his side but by the time she arrived he was well on the way to recovery. He recuperated in England, then in Switzerland and France and later returned to Australia where he missed the 1934-35 series.
During the period of the Second World War Test cricket was not played. At the end of the war Bradman resurfaced for Australia. One of the reasons he continued to play was to boost the moral of those who had been affected by the War. He captained the Australian team to England in 1948 at the age of 40. The 1948 team were virtually invincible and are still regarded today as one of the best Team’s Australia ever produced. Bradman ended his career in England in 1948. As he walked out to bat in his final innings he was given an enormous cheer by the huge crowd. The English team gave him three cheers and then he was out for 0. You could hear a pin drop as he left the field, unable to get the last four runs he needed to finish his career with an average of 100.
After cricket Sir Donald Bradman settled into his home in South Australia. He became a national selector and cricket administrator and won praise for both roles. He was also a successful businessman. He became a published author when he wrote his autobiography titled ‘Farewell to Cricket’. On the 15th March 1949 Don Bradman became Sir Donald Bradman after he was Knighted by the Governor General of Australia. The Don continued to live a quiet and reclusive life away from all the publicity that surrounded him until he died at the age of 92. He died at home after suffering from pneumonia, and is still loved as much today after his death as he was when he was hitting his opponents into the ground.
He is a national treasure and a living legend. He still received hundreds of letters from fans from around the world each year up until his death in February 2001.
Bradman memorabilia is highly sought after has become very valuable. The Bradman Museum holds a lot of items from his past as does the South Australian Library. Even in the new millennium new books are being written about him. Without doubt, he has had a marvelous life and career. Sir Don, we salute you!
Thanks to Simon Curry for the Biography