Born in Kidderminster on 13 October 1864, Teddy Tyler began his career as a slow left-arm bowler by playing for his home town. He caught Worcestershire’s eye but they deemed him unworthy of a contract. Perhaps they were concerned about his action, which was regarded as suspect. Somerset thought otherwise and they were proved right. Tyler relied very much on length and flight rather than spin. His occasional quicker deliveries probably resulted from the bending of his arm and, indeed, in 1900, once the rules concerning questionable throwing actions were tightened, Edwin James Tyler would find himself regularly being no-balled. His obituary in Wisden states that it was ‘fortunate for him that he came out at a time when great laxity prevailed with regard to throwing’.
Capable of bowling non-stop all day, he put in a fair shift to earn his keep as a pro. Sam Woods noted that ‘he, Nichols and myself were bowled silly’. He sent down nearly forty thousand first-class deliveries for Somerset before finally calling it a day and taking a well-earned rest in 1907. In 1895, he had joined the ‘hundred club’ with a mighty haul of 124 dismissals, including 10 for 49 against Surrey. He was rewarded with an England cap against South Africa in 1896 (on the 1895/6 tour), acquitting himself well with four wickets. Thereafter, things fell away, but not until the turn of the century had his powers waned dramatically. Teddy Tyler was no great shakes with the bat, but not a no-hoper, either. F. S. Ashley-Cooper relates, in the first published history of Somerset, that in a match arranged against Bridgwater, Tyler was stunned by a blow from the first ball he faced and – perhaps rendered unaware of his limitations by concussion – contributed 59 not out to his side’s total of the 68 needed for victory. Of the nine runs not attributable to Tyler, eight were extras. Such eccentricity also attached itself to his running between the wickets. Fellow Somerset cricketer Bill Roe recounted the time when, determined to give the strike to Roe, Tyler charged, head down, to the bowler’s end, forgetting to play the ball, with the result that he was bowled, leaving his partner high and dry on 93 not out.
Teddy had a sunny disposition and was loved by all. He threw himself into a number of business ventures, including insurance sales, a travel agency, a spell as a pub landlord and his clothing and tobacconist’s shop with fellow professional George Nichols, though none of these seems to have been hugely productive. Later photographs of Teddy suggest that the joint ownership of a gentlemen’s outfitters had at least benefitted him in terms of his sartorial awareness. Perhaps he was too good-natured for the hard-headed world of business. Taunton School came to his aid, offering him the role of cricket coach and it was here that a future England captain, Jack White, came under his wing.
Teddy Tyler died in Taunton on 25 January 1917 at the age of fifty-two, one of the many Somerset cricketing outsiders who decided to stay put in the town that had adopted them.
Stephen Edden was born and brought up in the Taunton area and began watching Somerset in 1963. After retiring from a career in business, he is now a writer. He has just completed a set of biographies of the 167 players who appeared for Somerset CCC in the County Championship up to 1914 and he hopes that the book will be published in 2016. He’s already started to repeat the exercise for the men who played first-class cricket for Somerset in the 1880s and is always on the look-out for early photographs or documents.