Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Hubert Lawrence | Farewell to Pinnie, Sir Headley and Big Mike

Published:Thursday | November 14, 2019 | 12:16 AM
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The last few weeks have been painful for the Jamaican sports community. In a year when the track and field family has already lost track and field Olympians Twilet Malcolm and Dionne Rose, the bell tolled for stalwarts Renford Pinnock, Headley Forbes and Michael Fray in the space of 14 days. Pinnock, Forbes and Fray were giants individually, so the combined loss is immense.

Aspiring St Catherine table tennis players in the 1970s might not have known Pinnock totalled 2,662 runs as a free-scoring wicketkeeper/batsman in first-class cricket. They met him across the table in the big parish, scything through opponents with a racquet he called ‘Excalibur’. He was a soft-spoken gentleman and a role model to all.

When those Spanish Town ‘TT sharks’ grew older, they realised that the man with the skipping rope would have been a West Indies regular in almost any other era. Cricket experts rate him highly. As a human being, he was first class.

INVALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS

Sir Forbes made many invaluable contributions, varying from his involvement in sugar estate sport, management of Jamaica junior track and field teams, to a long and productive membership in the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association. He was kind and thoughtful, but at the same time firm and businesslike. You could trust him with your life, and some people did.

His son, business executive Ian Forbes, has followed in his footsteps.

Fray’s death last week was a heartbreaker. As this is written, investigations are under way to pinpoint exactly what happened. Whatever the truth is, Big Mike’s passing has shaken all who knew him. Swift for St Andrew Technical, the University of Texas El Paso and Jamaica; this tall, smooth strider could run everything from 100 metres to 400 metres. When he reached the 1968 two hundred-metre final, he was only the third Jamaican – after Les Laing and the peerless Herb McKenley – to achieve the feat.

With McKenley as the coach, Errol Stewart, Fray, Clifton Forbes and Lennox Miller first equalled the 4x100m world record at the 1968 Olympics before breaking it in the semi-final. Four years later, Fray was in another Olympic final alongside Miller in the 100m. At that point, McKenley, Miller and Fray were the only Jamaicans who had ever raced in an Olympic 100m final.

Big Mike embodied the all-embracing spirit of Olympianism. He loved people and life. For enquiring minds, he was a deep source of accurate information on sport and sprinting here in Jamaica and worldwide.

MEN OF DIGNITY

To lose one of them would be seismic. To lose all three of them in one fortnight is tragic. The Pinnock-Forbes-Fray trio lived with a dignity our boys would do well to emulate. Pinnock walked softly but carried a big bat. Forbes, who earned a national honour for his service to Jamaica, was a strong commanding figure who cared for others. Fray was just like Pinnock and Forbes but with a unique brand of charisma that drew people to him.

When you add the passing of film-maker Franklin ‘Chappy’ St Juste in the same fortnight, it’s hard to be cheerful. Chappy’s son, Brian, has done much to revolutionise the broadcasting of sporting events, including Boys and Girls’ Championships over the last two decades as a producer. Besides that, Chappy taught many of the cameramen and video editors who have turned Champs into a great event to watch.

For those of us who knew these giants, it’s hard to hold back the tears.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised local and international track and field since 1980.