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Stanley Joseph McCabe (1910–1968)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

Stanley Joseph McCabe (1910-1968), by unknown artist, 1934

Stanley Joseph McCabe (1910-1968), by unknown artist, 1934

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24669708 [detail]

Stanley Joseph McCabe (1910-1968), cricketer, was born on 16 July 1910 at Grenfell, New South Wales, third son of native-born parents William McCabe, hairdresser, and his wife Harriet, née Glynn. Educated locally and in Sydney at St Joseph's College, he was a promising schoolboy cricketer who achieved recognition in country carnival matches. Chosen to represent New South Wales in 1928 at a time of team reconstruction, he was selected to tour England in 1930 before he had scored a century in first-class cricket. He was only 19 when he played in his first Test match at Nottingham in June. Thereafter, he was a member of every Australian Test team—thirty-nine in all—up to World War II.

McCabe showed more potential than performance in the early series against England, South Africa and the West Indies. Indeed, his 20 wickets were almost as useful as his 607 runs. But on 2-3 December 1932 in Sydney, against the fury of England's 'bodyline' attack, Stan McCabe came into his own. Scoring 187 not out in an innings of high courage and adventure, he inscribed his name in cricket history.

His reputation vindicated, McCabe topped the tourists' first-class averages in England in 1934. At Johannesburg in the 1935-36 season he produced a classic innings of 189 not out in 195 minutes, including a century before lunch. McCabe made runs when needed against England in Australia in 1936-37. He capped his Test career with a chanceless 232 in 230 minutes at Nottingham in 1938. (Sir) Donald Bradman and the English bowler S. F. Barnes, great cricketers of different generations, agreed that it was the finest innings they had seen.

McCabe hit 2748 runs in Tests at 48 an innings, 3031 in the Sheffield Shield competition at 55 and 11921 runs at 49 in all first-class matches. It was an impressive tally but, in a period of very high scores, not outstanding. What was remarkable was the way he made them—thirty runs from Stan McCabe were more memorable than a hundred by most batsmen. He seemed to lack the inclination to score unnecessary runs or to assume that each century had to be doubled. He played with superb grace and had every shot in the book, but was never a mere accumulator of runs. Neville Cardus observed in his brilliant stroke play 'a certain courtliness': in spirit and approach, McCabe belonged to an earlier, golden age of batsmen.

In his earlier years an agile fieldsman, he was always a reliable medium-pace bowler. With Australia's attack based largely on spin, he was sometimes required to take the new ball. His 39 Test wickets were valuable: he dismissed Walter Hammond four times.

From the 1935-36 South African tour, McCabe was Australia's vice-captain. He captained New South Wales with success, especially in the triumphant 1939-40 season. Thereafter, foot trouble restricted his wartime appearances to occasional matches. Captaincy in no way affected McCabe's popularity with his team-mates. He was still 'Napper'—his shortish, somewhat plump figure and his prematurely receding hairline gave him a fancied resemblance to Napoleon.

At St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, McCabe married Edna May Linton on 5 February 1935. In 1939 he opened a sports store in George Street, which he conducted for the rest of his life. He was appointed to the Sydney Sports Ground and Cricket Ground Trust in 1963: many people thought that he should have been given more scope as an administrator. On 25 August 1968, while trying to dispose of a dead possum, he died in a fall from a cliff near his home at Beauty Point, Mosman. He was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery, after a requiem Mass attended by many friends and admirers. His wife, son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Tebbutt, With the 1930 Australians (Lond, 1930)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Batsmen (Syd, 1954)
  • N. Phillipson, The Australian Cricket Hall of Fame (Melb, 1979)
  • New South Wales Cricket Year Book, 1968-69
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1969
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 1938, 5 Jan 1957, 26 Aug 1968.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'McCabe, Stanley Joseph (1910–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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