A retired health inspector (1925-2019), once told me he and his dad saw Eddie Gilbert bowl Bradman out for a ‘duck’. He may have been referring to a Sheffield Shield match in 1931. He said Gilbert bowled a ‘lethal’ ball, a beamer that nearly hit Bradman on the full. I think this photo below may be depicting that same ball, although commentary suggests otherwise.
The ‘Don’, clearly rattled, was bowled out by Gilbert a few balls later.
Maybe my friend was referring to another occasion. He said he saw Eddie Gilbert play at East Brisbane cricket ground and that he bowled a lot of full length deliveries. Gilbert’s run up was very short, his high-speed deliveries relying on his unique, straight-armed slinging action. Perhaps it was a bit like Jeff ‘Tommo’ Thompson whom I saw one afternoon at the Gabba. He was very quick and a little eratic which made him more difficult seeming to put batsmen in two minds.
At the time Eddie Gilbert was the fastest bowler in the world, and he wasn’t acknowledged, or respected and could not enter public bars of hotels. Eddie had to seek permission to leave Cherbourg mission to attend games. He was a Kaantju man and came from Cherbourg. Kaantju people had been taken to Palm Island, Cherbourg, and Woorabinda by force.
Bradman recalled years later that the five deliveries he faced from Gilbert in that match were the fastest he had experienced in his career. Bradman said ‘The keeper took the ball over his head, and I reckon it was halfway to the boundary‘ and that the balls from Gilbert ‘were unhesitatingly faster than anything seen from Larwood or anyone else.‘
Harold Larwood managed to subdue Bradman during the Bodyline Series against England in the early 1930s.
Eddie died in 1978 at Wolston Park Mental Hospital, a sad ending for an aborginal man who had achieved so much in sport. My health inspector friend told me that conditions at Wolston Park were pretty grim.
We post two videos commemorating Eddie Gilbert below.