British Sports Hall of Fame 1938: Edgar Baerlein, Alex James, Gladys Lunn and Gwen Neligan

My choices for the British Sports Hall of Fame for 1938 are

Edgar Baerlein (Rackets and Real Tennis) – winner of the British Amateur rackets singles title a record nine times and the British Amateur real tennis singles title thirteen times.  He was also rackets doubles champion six times.  He won his first real tennis crown in 1912 but only really concentrated on the sport after World War I and dominated the event until 1930.  His number of singles titles remained the record until 1979.  He stayed at the top of real tennis at doubles until 1937 when he won his eleventh British title.  In 1931 he won the first British Open singles title when aged 51.  Internationally in 1923 he became the only man to beat the great American Jay Gould during his twenty year supremacy at real tennis from 1907 to 1926.

Alex James (Football) – one of the finest midfielders of the 1930s, he was a key player in the Arsenal team which dominated the English game in that decade.  He won the league four times and the FA Cup twice between 1930 and 1936 with Arsenal where he was used in a deep-lying role.  In his earlier career with Raith Rovers and Preston he had played in a more attacking position scoring eighty goals as an inside-forward.  Despite this great club success he only appeared eight times for Scotland following disputes with selectors.  He was one of the most famous sportsmen in Britain between the Wars.

Gladys Lunn  (Athletics) – one of the best middle-distance runners in the world for a decade in the  early days of women’s competition.  In 1925 she set a world best for the 880 yards with a time of 2:24.8.  She took more than six seconds of this time in 1930 when winning the first of five British titles at the distance.  In 1930 she won the World Women’s Games title at 800m.  In 1936 she set a world best for the mile and reduced that record twice down to a time of 5 minutes 17 seconds.  She also set two world records for the 1000m.  She was also a fine javelin thrower and won British titles at that event.  At the 1934 Empire Games she won the 880y and javelin and took bronze in javelin at the 1938 Games.  She was also international cross-country champion in 1931 and 1932.

Gwen Neligan (Fencing) – winner of the 1933 fencing European Championships title.  These championships were later awarded world championships status so she can be regarded as Britain’s first female world champion.  She won team silver medals at the championships in 1933 and 1934 when she narrowly missed out on defending her title.  She was British champion each year from 1934 to 1937.

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