A resolute opener who always got the job done
Bermuda’s cricket and football communities are mourning the passing of Gladstone “Sad” Brown on Tuesday at the age of 73 after a recent illness.
Brown was Bermuda’s first ICC Trophy Tournament captain in 1979 when he led the island team to the semi-finals of the inaugural tournament in England.
He was also an outstanding forward for Young Men’s Social Club, one of the island’s top teams during the 1960s when they won three straight league titles between 1963-64 and 1965-66, and three FA Cup titles between 1962-63 and 1964-65 — losing only one game in three years.
Winston “Coe” Trott, who played football with Brown at Social Club, cricket with him at Devonshire Recreation Club and also for both the Somerset Cup Match team and Bermuda, was saddened to hear of Brown’s passing.
“I had been visiting him but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do, just make sure he was comfortable and let him know we were thinking about him at all times,” Trott said. “He knew he had the support of the other guys, the guys who travelled together or played sports together. We also tried to support the family because they were hurting as well.
“It’s pretty painful because he was my right-hand man,” added Trott, who remembers first meeting Brown in about 1957 when they were members of the North Village junior band.
“He was a drummer in the band and I was in the bugle section. Most of the time when we travelled together, we were roommates, whether it was with Devonshire Rec, the national team or even when we travelled socially with a couple of our buddies.”
Trott opened the bowling while Brown opened the batting in the various teams they played for. Brown led from the front as Bermuda finished top of their group in the 1979 ICC Trophy, then a 60-overs competition, against East Africa, Argentina, Papua New Guinea and Singapore to reach the last four.
In the semi-final, when reaching the final would have guaranteed a place in the World Cup against the Test-playing teams, Bermuda suffered their only loss of the tournament, scoring 181 all out, with Brown the second-highest scorer with 34, before Canada replied with 186 for six in 57.5 overs.
In the next tournament in 1982, this time under the captaincy of Colin Blades, Brown had the distinction of scoring the tournament’s first century when he finished with 100 in an opening stand of 211 with Winston Reid, who made 128 that day against Malaysia as Bermuda amassed 348 for nine. They then dismissed the South East Asian country for a paltry 64, with El James recording amazing figures of five wickets for two runs in 7.1 overs.
“Reid was usually the faster scorer but ‘Sad’ got his century first,” Trott said. “We had a team meeting, it was a little heated, and the next day Reid and ‘Sad’ opened up and ‘Sad’ got to his century first, which was unusual because he was the anchor man. Most good teams are built around a player like that.”
Bermuda reached the final at the next tournament in 1982, but with Sri Lanka now a Test-playing country, only the ultimate winner would advance to World Cup. Zimbabwe accomplished that goal after chasing down the 231 for eight posted by Bermuda, led by Brown’s team-high score of 48.
“Once he understood the job of opening bat, he was so valuable to the team,” Trott said. “The opposition must have got tired of seeing him; he just stayed and stayed until he got the job done.
“He was a captain, so he set his standards pretty high, as far as how it should be done and why it should be done this way or that way. He was a good team player. He took the bangs and nursed it along until we had a decent score to work with.”
It was a good time for Bermuda cricket, said Reid, who came to Bermuda from Barbados in late 1974 and five years later was Brown’s opening partner in Cup Match and for Bermuda in the ICC Trophy. The double-century partnership against Malaysia was a short-lived record, Reid pointed out. “At the time it was a world record for an opening partnership in a 60-overs match, but it was broken the next day by Zimbabwe,” Reid says.
“He got his century before me, but we never set out to see who would get the hundred first. Our main objective was to bat. The two of us loved batting and didn’t want to give anybody else the chance to bat.
“The fact that I played for Somerset and he played for Devonshire Rec didn’t make a difference; we just went about our task. We really gelled together as two national team players.”
That friendship continued into retirement when Brown, who later owned his own taxi, would often visit Reid at his upholstery shop in Somerset, cricket often the topic.
“We would talk cricket, about the national team,” Reid said. “He was passionate about the national team. He loved cricket and wanted to see Bermuda cricket move forward.
“He was passionate about the two-day and three-day game; that’s how you build strong teams.”
Reid added: “Because we both had a good tournament in England , when we came back to play Cup Match, why separate us? That ’79 Cup Match team was a good strong team: we had eight players who went to England, eight guys who ate, drank and slept together for three weeks.
“When we got back, we took that into Cup Match, while St George’s had a new captain [Gregory Foggo] and we were able to beat them after 20 years. After ’79 the players remained very close; that is what helped the team even more than natural ability. We had some wonderful times.
“My condolences go out to Brown’s wife and children. I’m going to miss him from the bottom of my heart. We had a great respect for each other, cricketing ability and otherwise.”
The eight Somerset players in that Bermuda team were Brown, Reid, Trott, James, John Tucker, Joe Bailey, Colin Blades and Barry DeCouto.
Trott, DeCouto and Thomas were also part of a strong Devonshire Rec team that won several titles during that era, harmonising an older brigade that included Erskine “Choe” Smith, Bergon Spencer, Jeff Abbott, McDonald “Bull” Swan, Gladwin “Dewey” Trott with a youth movement that featured Donald Norford, Anthony Edwards, Paul Perinchief, Calix Smith, Anthony Amory, Darrin Lewis and Albert Steede.
Brown went on to serve as a cricket administrator after his retirement, including as first vice-president of the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control in 1997 when James was voted in as president. Brown also served as chairman of the BCBC disciplinary committee and treasurer in 1999. He was also president of the Central Counties Cricket Association and was vice-president of Devonshire Rec in 1998.
Lloyd Smith, president of the Bermuda Cricket Board and a young player at Devonshire Rec at a time when Brown, Lionel Thomas, Erskine “Choe” Smith, Winston ‘Coe” Trott, Bergon Spencer and Barry DeCouto, paid tribute to his former captain.
“It is a very sad day as we mourn the passing of Gladstone ‘Sad’ Brown, a legend in the local cricket fraternity,” Smith said yesterday. “‘Sad’ played a huge role in the development of our great sport, on the field as a player and off the field as an administrator. On behalf of the BCB, I extend our sympathies to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed.”
The Bermuda Cricket Board honoured the 1979 team during the 2018 awards ceremony at CedarBridge Academy. That full Bermuda team was: Gladstone Brown, Joe Bailey, Winston Reid, Clarence Parfitt, Lionel Thomas, Colin Blades, Barry DeCouto, John Tucker, Noel Gibbons, Clevie Wade, Winston Trott, El James, and the late Willie Weldon and Paisley Caines.
“To the players of that team, we say thank you for representing us so admirably,” the BCB said that night. “Your performances were stellar and in the end it was a case of what might have been. Tonight we applaud your feats.”
Brown, who made his Cup Match debut in 1969, played his last Cup Match in 1983, scoring a total of 206 runs in 11 innings. He had more notable performances in the Central Counties, scoring 153 not out in a match in 1984 after sharing in an eighth-wicket stand of 284 with Arnold West. He also had county scores of 124 in 1973 and 112 in 1983.
“He did wonders for Devonshire Rec as a player, administrator and bingo chairman,” said Carlton “Pepe” Dill, another long-time friend of Brown. “He took Devonshire Rec’s bingo from ‘nothing bingo’ to the best on the island.”
Dill played with Brown at Social Club and then in cricket for the Rec as his opening partner after returning from playing profession football in the United States with Houston Stars and Dallas Tornado.
“We played in Bermuda’s first high school international, against St Mary’s College from Trinidad, playing one game in Somerset and one game at Devonshire Rec,” Dill recalled. “He was at Churchill, I was at Howard Academy and ‘Coe’ at Bermuda Technical Institute.
“I left Devonshire Lions as a boy and ended up at Social Club, and ran into ‘Sad’ there. In the three years when we had one loss at Social Club, ‘Sad’ was a part of that team. Police beat us at Nationals — the only time I lost a game when playing for Social Club.
“We’ve been around each other for quite a while. He and I opened up [batting] together and were on opposite flanks [at Social Club] as well. He was just as good in both sports; he played for the national [football] team as well, He played in the national team before me.
“He was one of those unassuming people, no real noise made, but was devastating. I have nothing but all high praises for the fella; I’ve lost a good friend. “He was one of about seven of us who completed the building of Devonshire Rec. Those still around the club are going to miss him.”