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Cricket in the United States of America, as the Cricket Hall of Fame’s Committee knows all too well, is a fragile sport and dependent very largely on the excessive efforts of a few individuals. The continued survival and success of the Staten Island Cricket Club, the oldest continuously active cricket club in the United States, could not have occurred without the contribution of Clarence Modeste.
Clarence was born in Tobago, where he was of course exposed to cricket. Interestingly it was not until he had finished with school that he began to play the game with any regularity, joining a club in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and developing into a medium pacer to be reckoned with. After a spell in England, where he played cricket, squash and tennis at a club in Wimbledon, Clarence returned to his club in Port of Spain, in 1959. He eventually moved to New York City and joined some friends at Excelsior CC, in Brooklyn. In 1961, he began to play for Staten Island Cricket Club (SICC), and has remained there ever since. This year (2011), he celebrates 50 years at the club, where he is, it can be said without exaggeration, a legend.
What particularly drew him to SICC, he says, was its exciting fixture list, which over the years came to encompass matches around the United States – among them Hartford, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia and overseas tours to such places as Canada, England, the Bahamas and Trinidad.
In due course, Clarence became heavily involved in the organization of these tours, and in the hosting of teams visiting from distant places, personally ensuring that the visitors received a fine impression of New York cricket community, and providing them with tea. In this and other ways, Clarence’s contribution has been far from limited to his own club, and his good reputation has spread beyond our small cricket world: In recent years Clarence has been the subject of respectful articles in, among other publications, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph (UK), Caravan magazine (India), and the Adelaide Review (Australia). I would find it hard to believe that American cricket has known a finer or more valuable ambassador.
Clarence is currently President of SICC, an office that he has held for over 20 years, if not 30. Under his guidance, the club has been able to maintain its historic longevity and its association with its ground at Walker Park, which has been unbroken since 1886. The club has also maintained a vigorous fixture list of friendly matches, many of which, over the years, Clarence has captained and of course the SICC membership of the Metropolitan District and Cricket Association, which Clarence has served as Vice - President. It bears mentioning that Clarence has continued to play cricket all this while, converting himself into an opening batsman. I had the honor of playing in a league match with Clarence only two years ago – a quite extraordinary feat, given his age (which has always remained a secret). But perhaps most important of all, it is Clarence who has consistently inspired the members of his club, and players of all clubs with whom he has had dealings, to uphold the values of fair play and friendship that are so essential to our sport.
This dedication to the common good is reflected in two other substantial ways. He was highly instrumental in the successful introduction of organized youth cricket to Staten Island CC last year (2010). The club has now joined USYCA, and he continues, as a member of USACUA, to serve as an umpire. His interests in youth cricket and umpiring, has been combined, in recent years by umpiring at school matches in New York City.
The foregoing sets out only some of many other contributions Clarence has made to cricket in the United States. For example, he has also been an active member of the British Officers’ CC of Philadelphia. My difficulty, in making this nomination, is that it is almost impossible to extract from Clarence anything more than the barest information regarding his own achievements and activities. This is the sign of a true cricket man who puts the sport well ahead of himself.