Harold “Dickie” Bird, the most famous umpire the game of cricket has produced, celebrated his 80th birthday on April 19, and the Barnsley-born national treasure has written a book to mark the event which is already a national best-seller.
Dickie Bird 80 Not Out, My Favourite Cricket Memories, Hodder and Stroughton (£20) will delight his legion of friends and fans, whether they be avid cricket followers or not.
Dickie loves to regale anyone who will listen with his favourite memories from a lifetime in cricket which began to flower with the Barnsley Club and went on to bloom with Yorkshire and Leicestershire before bursting into full blossom as the greatest umpire on the international scene.
Dickie penned his autobiography which sold three-quarters of a million copies after he had made his tearful exit in his final Test as an umpire at Lord’s in 1996, and it was among the best-selling sports books ever written. It was crammed with stories from his colourful career and now, 17 years on, Dickie casts a fresh eye over those memorable years as well as coming up with many new tales and personal observations.
He has been assisted in compiling the stories by former Barnsley Sports Editor, Keith Lodge, an old and trusted friend who was similarly involved in his autobiography and its successful sequel, White Cap and Bails.
Dickie’s love of life has never left him, but it has not all been plain sailing for him healthwise in recent years and he begins by confessing that last year he thought he would not make it through to his 80th birthday. Early one morning he was hit by a stroke and, in great pain throughout his body, kept drifting in and out of consciousness.
Even though his speech was slurred he eventually managed to summon medical help, and was rushed to Barnsley Hospital. For a while he lost his speech entirely, but that has, thankfully, now returned, although he admits that the effects of the stroke have slowed him down and made him feel more tired.
In addition, Dickie has had to have operations to repair a burst blood vessel and to improve his sight when he was in danger of going blind as a result of standing all those years in bright sunshine in some of the hottest countries in the world. Happily, he has recovered from all his afflictions to enjoy life to the full, and this book shows that he is still a master story-teller who can quickly cast a spell over his readers.
The book also includes many excellent photographs which first depict Dickie in his earliest days with Yorkshire and go on to record his remarkable life both on an off the field.
The foreword to the book is written by Sir Michael Parkinson, who played in the same side as Dickie at Barnsley Cricket Club and his remained a lifelong friend.
Awarded the OBE in 2012 for his services to cricket and charity - he founded The Dickie Bird Foundation which helps under-privileged youngsters to get a foothold in sport - Dickie is an honorary life member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and his interest in the fortunes of his native county is such that he continues to be a familiar figure at most of their home matches and special events.