NORMAN A "NORRIE" CLAXTON was a tall man
with a quiet, almost inaudible voice, possessing an engaging smile and
renown for the ever present red carnations that adorned his lapel.
One of the greatest sports philanthropists Australia has ever known,
Claxton also left his mark as a champion in no less than six sports
– Australian Rules Football, Cricket, Baseball, Cycling, Athletics,
and Hockey – all by the time he was 30 years of age.
In three of these sports – Cricket, Baseball, and Football – he represented
his home state with distinction, in addition to which he was a
champion sprinter, having won the Bendigo Championship (Victoria) in
Yet Norrie Claxton will be remembered
much more for his contribution to sport off the field than for his undoubted
achievements on the field of play.
An astute and highly successful businessman, Norrie Claxton derived
tremendous satisfaction from his financial backing of sport and devoted
much of his life to administrative roles in cricket, baseball, and cycling.
Former Australian and Claxton Shield captain, Ken Gulliver, recalling
his first meeting Norrie Claxton during the fourth Claxton Shield series
at Adelaide's Unley Oval said that he....
" marvelled at the man's totally unassuming nature. Norrie's soft voice
forced his listeners to edge closer to catch his words, and therein
lay the secret to the man's ability to capture an audience. "
In cricket, Norrie Claxton attained international representative status
as a member of the South Australian team playing the touring English
teams of 1901-1902, 1903, and 1907.
But Norrie would save his best for those occasions South Australia played
their arch rivals, Victoria.
Norrie Claxton's highest first class score of 199 not out, was against
Victoria in a 1906 Sheffield Shield match and, by coincidence, his best
bowling effort was also against Victoria when, in 1904, he snared 5-130
with his clever medium-paced deliveries.
After he finished playing cricket, Norrie Claxton, a confirmed bachelor,
turned his attention to administration - serving as a selector, manager
and member of the SACA executive for 20 years.
At the age of 23 Norrie Claxton burst into prominence as a sprinter
when he won the Bay Sheffield 100 Yard Sprint at Glenelg in 1900, repeating
the effort at Bendigo (Victoria) the following year.
As a cyclist, Claxton was equally brilliant specialising in sprint events
where his long, lithe frame squeezed every ounce of speed out of his
bicycle. He was 40 years of age when the North Adelaide Cycle Club elected
him captain – a position he held until his death in 1951 at the age
of 74 years.
Although the archives do not provide us much detail on Norrie Claxton's
playing career in football, baseball, and hockey his prowess in those
sports was well known among the older generation of sporting identities
in South Australia.
He played baseball for the North Adelaide club in 1911 and 1912 and
represented South Australia during that same period. He was the founding
President of the South Australian Baseball League, holding the position
for a record 17 consecutive years, and was Patron for a further 21 years.
It was one of Norrie's dreams that there would be an national Baseball
championship involving all Australian states, and was very proud to
witness the inaugural (1934) Claxton Shield – named in his honour.
Norrie was doubly proud when his South Australian team won the inaugural
Shield competition and went on to complete the hat-trick with wins in
1935 and 1936.
The Final of the 1935 series between South Australia and Victoria was
one of the most memorable in the history of Shield competition.
The game was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and was the second
of a double-header at the famous arena.
It turned out to be one of the longest games of baseball in Claxton
Shield history and went a marathon 15 innings before play was halted
in near total darkness with neither team scoring a single run.
Incredibly, both pitchers, South Australia's Ron Sharpe and Victoria's
Mick Carr went the whole game and the 112 batters that they faced, without
one crossing the plate, is an Australian record unlikely to be beaten.
While the scoreless draw clinched the series for South Australia, a
perusal of the figures of the three competing teams only emphasises
the closeness of the competition.
South Australia's team batting percentage was .197 and their fielding
.957. New South Wales figures were .176 and .924 and Victoria's .140
and .922. These figures suggest the pitching and fielding for all teams
was of an exceptionally high standard - certainly for the 1930s.
Victoria and South Australia have dominated the Claxton Shield recording
17 and 15 wins respectively. New South Wales follows with 11 wins, and
West Australia 7.
Queensland, who were admitted to the competition in 1939 finally broke
their drought with back-to-back title wins in 1982 and 1983 which, after
adding victories in 1987, 1988, 2003 and 2006, brought their total to
6. Northern Territory and ACT are yet to record a win.
New South Wales is the only state to have won the coveted trophy four
times in succession having triumphed in 1937, 1938, 1939 and the first
series after World War II in 1946.
Were it possible, Norman A ("Norrie") Claxton would stand even taller
than his 1.88m if he were alive today and could see the outstanding
success that is Claxton Shield Baseball - the National Championships
a lasting monument to a truly great Australian who simply loved sport,
and baseball in particular.
(extracted, with amendments made in respect of
dates, from the 1986 Claxton Shield Tournament Program – author unknown)