Sam (middle) with Arthur Morris (left) and Neil Harvey at the MCG in 2008 (Pic by Bruce Postle/Ken Piesse archives)
Leading cricket writer Ken Piesse has just published the life story of one of the club’s most outstanding sons, SJE ‘Sam,’ Loxton.
Few sportsmen have been more popular or loved in their own time and beyond as Prahran’s favourite post-war cricketing son Sam Loxton.
Guaranteed lasting celebrity as a member of Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles, Sam was larger-than-life, talented, ubiquitous and caring.
His life in cricket and beyond was multi-faceted and touched so many.
Like hundreds of thousands worldwide, the Don was his hero. He considered himself the luckiest man alive to be able to play under him. When Sam died, aged 90, in 2011, he was buried with a photograph of Bradman and one of his letters to Sammy in his pocket.
Sam shared the great man's winning philosophies, was a fierce defender of tradition, yet never lost touch with its essential subtleties and intrinsic sporting values.
Many a time at the Hassett Club in Melbourne, Sam would start proceedings with Lord Harris’ historic and uplifting ode to the greatest game of all. Often at these events, there is a background of noise and chatter, especially from the far tables. When Sam spoke, slowly and deliberately, everyone was silent, totally respectful of the old Invincible.
‘Cricket,’ he would begin, ‘You do well to love it. For it is more free from anything sordid, anything dishonourable, than any game in the world. To play it keenly, honourably, generously, self-sacrificingly, is a moral lesson in itself and the classroom is God’s air and sunshine. Foster it, my brothers, so that it may attract all who can find time to play it; protect it from anything that would sully it, so that it may grow in favour with all men.’
The applause would be thunderous and long lasting.
Sam spent a lifetime in the game. He was a master storyteller and a friend and confidant to many. As a player he could win even Test matches, as shown by his champagne quick-fire 93 at Headingley in 1948. It turned the fortunes of the most famous post-war Ashes Test match of all.
Sam was 12 when he first filled-in with the Prahran thirds, beginning a 50-year-old association at the club as player, captain, coach, selection chairman and long-time committeeman.
Prahran’s first post-war Test player, Sam won 10 and drew two of his 12 Tests. He captained Victoria and was a powerhouse at club level. In the 1954-55 District final, he made a century and took seven wickets. It was Sam’s flag…
Few shared his passion for the game. As Australia’s most famous cricket playing writer Jack Fingleton said of Sam, he was ‘square-jawed and serious-faced until breaking out into the widest of grins. He was on the field to enjoy his Test cricket – not merely to participate in it or be overcome by it. Nobody, in my experience, has brought more actual and visual enjoyment to the game than he.’
Sam bought the same love of life and people into his job as a politician. As a long-time Member for Prahran, few were more dedicated to his constituents or had as wide a contact base. Young cricketers worked back then and for the most talented who were student teachers, they invariably enjoyed generous postings close to the city – thanks to Sam’s Spring Street mates – so they could continue their club and Victorian careers.
When he first became the Member for Prahran, his winning seat won the Liberals the election. He’d been lobbying for less than three months. ‘I was the silver haired boy then,’ he said. He called his boss Sir Henry Bolte ‘Curly’ and Sir Henry affectionately responded with ‘Sambo’.
Until now, Sam has been among the least recognised of the 1948 Invincibles. The goodwill and enthusiasm from dozens who knew and loved Sam embellished the author Martin Rogers’ researches and writings. It has been my privilege as the club’s centenary historian, to publish Sam’s unique story, 100 years after his birth.