“A feature of the game was the form of Rankin at left-back, his tackling and kicking throughout was accuracy itself.”
Waterloo and Crosby Herald, 25th March 1932
W illiam or Billy Rankin, Bruce's eldest son, was born in 1904. He played football as a full-back for local amateur teams, Bootle Celtic and Howsons. Some reports in local newspapers suggest that he was on Everton's books at some stage, probably as an amateur, although the Club have no record of him.
Billy joined Marine FC in the summer of 1931. Marine were one of the foremost amateur teams in the Liverpool area, playing in the Liverpool County Combination. Their home ground was in Crosby.
His first season at Marine must have exceeded his wildest dreams. The Mariners, as they were known, reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup for the first and only time in their history and then created another record by winning the Lancashire Amateur Cup for the second season in succession.
Some 300 clubs entered the FA Amateur Cup. Marine's journey to the final began on Saturday, 12th December 1931 with a 4-2 home win against Northampton Nomads. Billy was at left-back. Nomads took the lead in the first half, but Marine equalised almost immediately. In the second-half, Marine scored three goals in almost as many minutes, before Nomads got a second goal towards the end of the game.
In the second round, Marine faced South Bank in Middlesbrough on Saturday, 16th January 1932. The Marine half-backs had been criticised in the local papers for straying too far upfield in the Nomads game, leaving Billy and his fellow full-back Kerr exposed. So to strengthen the half-back line, Marine moved Kerr forward to right-half and brought in Jackson, who had been playing with Everton Reserves, to take Kerr's place at right-back.
Marine took the lead in the 30th minute and, although they pressed the South Bank defence, they were unable to score a second goal before the interval. Ten minutes into the second half, goalkeeper Drury brought down the South Bank centre-forward to concede a penalty. He saved the resulting kick brilliantly, but could not stop one of South Bank's forwards following up the rebound to equalise. Marine managed to take the lead again 15 minutes from the end; they held on to go through to the third round.
In the next round, to be played on 6th February, Marine were lucky enough to get a home draw against Maidenhead United, who played in the Spartan League and were holders of the Berkshire Senior Cup. Marine scored in the third minute and were four goals up within the first half an hour. Maidenhead's consolation goal came seven minutes from the end. Billy was at left-back again.
Marine's luck held when they were drawn at home again in the quarter-final, this time against Leyton from the Athenian League. Leyton had won the FA Amateur Cup in successive years, in 1926-27 and 27-28, and were beaten finalists in 1928-29. Marine went ahead in the third minute, scored a second before half-time and then again after the interval to seal the game. According to the Liverpool Echo, full-backs Billy and Kerr were as much responsible for the win with their overall play and strong tackling as any other player.
The semi-final draw pitted Marine against Yorkshire Amateurs, who were probably favourites for the Cup as they had knocked out the holders, Wycombe Wanderers, in the third round. The game was played at Filbert Street, Leicester City's ground, on Saturday, 5th March. To the delight of the 200 or so supporters who had travelled from Crosby, Marine won 2-1. The full-backs Billy and Jackson got special mention in the local press again for an excellent contribution to the victory.
The Final, against Dulwich Hamlet, was played at Upton Park on Saturday, 16th April. Marine travelled down to London on the Friday, staying in the Regents Palace Hotel in Regent Street.
The team was:
Drury; Jackson, Rankin; Crilley, Kelly, Halsall; Kerr, Garvey, O'Donnell, King, Bamford.
Although Marine were only down 1-0 at half-time, they conceded a further six goals in the second half and managed to score a consolation goal themselves, all in the space of 20 minutes. According to the Waterloo and Crosby Herald, goalkeeper Drury and full-backs Billy and Jackson were outstanding for Marine. However, The Daily Telegraph thought that the extremely muddy and wet conditions contributed to Marine's defeat since they played on a grassy and well-drained pitch at home. But, Dulwich Hamlet had played under the same conditions and managed to score seven times.
Marine gained some consolation for their loss in the FA Amateur Cup Final four days later when they won the Lancashire Amateur Cup for the second year running. They defeated The Casuals from the Liverpool Zingari League by four goals to two at Goodison Park. The Marine team was:
Drury; Jackson, Rankin; Crilley, Kelly, Wady; Kerr, Jones, O'Donnell, King, Kinder.
Early in the second half, Marine had established a three goal lead, with Billy netting the second from the penalty spot. With five minutes to go, the Casuals pulled the score back to 3-2, and pressed desperately for the equaliser. However, centre-forward O'Donnell scored in the last minute to seal the game for Marine.
Billy had played in all of the Lancashire Amateur Cup matches. After beating Old Blackburnians 7-0 at home and then Manchester YMCA 3-2 away, Marine were held to a 2-2 draw by Old Boltonians, coming from behind twice. However, they made amends in the replay on 9th January 1932, scoring four goals before half-time and finishing 5-1 winners. At the end of the month, they beat Collegiate Old Boys 2-0 in the semi-final played at Formby.
Holders Marine also reached the final of the George Mahon Cup, losing 3-2 to Liverpool Cables on 5th May. Billy was at left-back in that game and also appeared in the earlier rounds, the highlight of which was probably the 4-1 first round defeat of Liverpool A on 10th October 1931.
Marine, the holders, were knocked out of the Liverpool Amateur Cup by The Casuals in a first round replay in January 1932 by two goals to one. In the first game, a week earlier, Marine had been leading 4-3 in extra time when the referee unexpectedly abandoned the game seven minutes from the end on the grounds that he could not follow the flight of the ball.
The other major Cup competition contested by Marine was the English FA Cup. They were 3-2 victors over Whiston at College Road on Saturday, 26th September 1931 in a preliminary qualifying round, despite playing with 10 men for more than half of the game when centre-half Almond fell in a tackle and broke his arm.
Marine's passage into the second qualifying round of the FA Challenge Cup was a far easier affair, with a 5-0 home victory over the Cheshire side, Timperley, on 3rd October. However, their interest in this particular trophy ended two weeks later when they lost 3-1 to Prescot away from home before 5,000 spectators.
Marine had been Liverpool County Combination champions for the 1930-31 season but, by Boxing Day 1931, it was fairly clear that they were not going to retain the league title when they lost 3-1 at home to their bogey team, Everton A. On 12th March 1932, they had to field two teams in an endeavour to reduce the extraordinary fixture congestion as a result of their continuing interest in several cup competitions, At the end of the March, Marine were bottom of the league although they had played fewer games than their closest rivals. However, by the end of the season, they had managed to climb to fifth position in the league.
Marine began their league campaign with a 5-2 victory at home on Saturday, 3rd September 1932 over league newcomers Liverpool Trams. The following Saturday, they overcame Peasley Cross Athletic away from home by three goals to one, only to drop a point in their next game when they drew 3-3 with Liverpool Cables. Billy played at left-back in those three games.
On Saturday, 24th September, Marine slipped to their first defeat when they lost 2-1 away to Liverpool A. Billy was a doubtful starter, but was selected at left-back. Although they had lost their unbeaten record, Marine still remained top of the league.
Billy then missed a number of games through injury, returning at left-back for the home game against Skelmersdale on Saturday, 12th November. Skelmersdale scored after two minutes and went on to win 3-1. This was Marine's fifth defeat in the league, leaving them in fifth place.
The following Saturday, Marine completed their first double and gained their first away win of the season when they defeated league leaders Liverpool Cables 2-1.
Everton A were Marine's opponents for their Boxing Day game at College Road and they completed the double over the Mariners with a 5-2 victory. Everton scored all their goals before the interval virtually killing any further interest for the large crowd. Billy did not play well.
Whiston could be forgiven for believing that Marine was their bogey team. In the last game of the 1931-32 season, Marine robbed Whiston of the league title when they defeated them 1-0. Whiston had only needed one point to become champions but their defeat handed the title to Everton A.
And then, on Saturday, 4th March 1933, Whiston travelled to College Road as joint league leaders but were well and truly beaten 4-1 by Marine, who scored three goals in the second half. That defeat meant that Whiston slipped two points behind Everton A, albeit with two games in hand. However, at the end of the season, Whiston were crowned as champions, with Everton A the runners-up.
Marine then had back-to-back games against New Brighton Reserves. The first match at College Road on 11th March ended in a 2-2 draw, whilst they lost the away game 2-1. According to the match reports, Billy was the star defender on both occasions.
Marine faced Liverpool A for their final home league game on Saturday, 22nd April. They had to start with ten men as Billy arrived late. Despite going a goal down two minutes into the second-half, Marine won by two goals to one. Again, Billy, along with Kerr, his partner at full-back, was singled out by the Press for his excellent defensive display.
As losing finalists in the previous year's FA Amateur Cup, Marine avoided the qualifying rounds for the FA Cup and went straight into the draw for the first round proper. They were drawn at home to Hartlepool United, who were next to bottom in the Northern Section of the Third Division. The game was to be played on Saturday, 26th November 1932 and Marine's had high hopes of progressing into the next round. In the end, Marine were outplayed by Hartlepool, losing 5-1. Billy was at left-back.
Marine got off to a great start in the FA Amateur Cup when they beat Northern Nomads 7-2 in the first round at College Road on Saturday, 12th December. Centre-forward Constantine scored five of the goals. Billy and his partner Kelly played well, according to the match report.
In the second round, on Saturday, 14th January, Marine faced South Bank from Middlesbrough, who they had eliminated on the way to the final the previous year. They could not repeat that success, however, losing 1-0 at home.
The club started its defence of the Lancashire Amateur Cup on Saturday, 3rd December, easily defeating The Pemblians at College Road. They then progressed to the semi-final beating South Salford and Blackburn Technical College on the way. Billy played in both games and was "outstanding" against Blackburn.
Marine's opponents in the semi-final, played at Orrell on Saturday, 18th February, were Formby. Billy was at left-back again. Formby went ahead in the third minute, only for Marine to equalise soon afterwards. Despite having a strong wind in their favour and pressing Formby's goal incessantly, Marine could not score again before the interval. Facing the elements in the second half, Marine were thought to be a beaten side, but they snatched a second goal. Billy ensured that Marine went through to the final when he cleared the ball off the line with his goalkeeper beaten.
In the final, on Wednesday evening, 12th April, Marine faced Cadby Hall at Anfield. They were two up at the interval and with no further goals in the second-half, Marine won the Lancashire Amateur Cup for the third year in succession. Billy and his partner Kerr were described as a "brilliant pair of full-backs" by the match reporter for the Waterloo and Crosby Herald.
The day after their Lancashire Cup victory, a party of 25 players and officials, including Billy, embarked on the club's first Easter tour for 40 years. The party left Lime Street Station for London on the 5.25pm train and stayed at the Regent Hotel in Piccadilly.
The team played three drawn matches against top teams from the London area - 2-2 on Good Friday against Wimbledon, the Isthmian League champions; 0-0 the following day against Leyton, whom they had eliminated in the quarter-final of the FA Amateur Cup the previous season; another goalless draw, on Easter Monday, this time against Enfield, who, like Leyton, were members of the Athenian League. The hospitality Marine received during the tour was exceptional and, all in all, the trip was considered to be a great success.
Marine easily defeated league newcomers, Northern Nomads in the first league game of the season at College Road on Saturday, 26th August. They then won 2-1 at Hoylake the following Saturday, but only just managed to preserve their unbeaten record at Whiston on Saturday, 23rd September. They led by the only goal at half-time but, just before the break, Billy received a knock and, after treatment, resumed at outside-left, little more than a passenger. Early in the second-half, George Davies put Marine two up but injured himself scoring and had to leave the field. Marine continued to play extremely well and were actually leading 4-1 when outside-right White was injured. Whiston took advantage of their numerical superiority to reduce the arrears to 4-3 and then equalised with a few minutes to go when goalkeeper Drury misjudged a long shot. Under the circumstances, Marine did extremely well to get a draw.
Marine played their fourth league game on Saturday, 7th October, beating Ellesmere Port 3-0 at home. At this stage, they were third in the league behind Everton A and Liverpool A, both of whom had played two games more than Marine.
Billy did not play against Ellesmere Port as he had not recovered from the injury that he received in the Whiston game. However, he returned to the team the following week for an FA Cup qualifying round match against Glossop, in which Marine won 2-1.
He took his place at left-back in the league game against Hoylake the next Saturday when Marine strolled to a Hoylake 7-2 win.
Billy must have aggravated the injury that he received at Whiston because he did not play again until February the following year and various reports in the Waterloo and Crosby Herald stated that he was unfit to play.
In the meantime, by the end of the year, Marine had lost only one League game, by two goals to one at home to Whiston. On the last Saturday of the year, they beat Everton A 4-3 away from home, which put them at the top of the table with the same number of points as Everton A, but with a better goal average.
After many weeks absence through injury, Billy returned to first team duties in the League against Northern Nomads away on Saturday, 17th February. A number of key players were absent representing Liverpool County against Cheshire and the team struggled to beat the Nomads by two goals to one.
Marine's championship hopes suffered a severe setback when the team, which included Billy, were defeated 2-1 at home by Skelmersdale on Saturday, 3rd March.
Marine then had a run of six victories to win the League championship for the third time in the nine years since joining the Liverpool County Combination. Everton A were runners-up, three points behind Marine.
The game that probably did most to secure the title was the 1-0 defeat of Everton A on Easter Monday, 2nd April, at College Road. The result was in doubt until three minutes from time when Garvey scored for Marine. Billy was praised for his excellent defensive work in the match report.
Marine did not make it through the qualifying rounds to the first round proper of the FA Cup and their interest in the FA Amateur Cup was also short-lived. After beating Cockfield 2-1 at College Road on Saturday, 9th December, they were defeated by South Bank in the next round. Billy missed both games through injury.
However, Marine did have cup success, winning the Liverpool Amateur Cup for the sixth time. In the first round, they beat Linacre Gas Works on Saturday, 20th January 1934. This was Billy's first game for three months, but he was clearly not fully fit, and did not appear again for another three weeks, this time in a League game.
He was able to play in the second round of the Liverpool Amateur Cup on Saturday 24th February at home to Olympic. The highlight of the game was a remarkable revival by Marine. They turned a 3-1 deficit at half-time into a 4-3 victory.
Marine gave one of their best displays of the season in the next round on Saturday, 24th March, to beat West Derby Union 5-1. In the quarter-final, two weeks later, Marine struggled somewhat to win 3-0 at home against Kirkdale, a side that had been beaten 8-1 by Marine's A team a week earlier. Billy was at left-back in both those cup-ties.
The semi-final was played at Formby on Saturday, 21st April; Marine's opponents were Liverpool Cables. The half-time score was 1-1 but, after the interval, Billy missed his kick completely, allowing Cables right winger to score an easy goal. However, Marine levelled the score and won the game in the second half of extra time with a third goal.
Billy did not play in the final at Goodison on Saturday, 12th May, when Marine defeated Garston Protestant Reformers; he was probably injured. Farmer was at left-back.
Marine were unable to repeat the previous season's success in the Lancashire Amateur Cup, being eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Collegiate Old Boys, losing 3-2. They had had difficulties in selecting a team as a number of regular players, including Billy, were missing.
On Saturday, 1st September, it was announced in the Waterloo and Crosby Herald that Marine had re-signed all of the previous season's successful team and, in addition, had signed several prominent new players. However, Billy did not appear in the team during the remainder of 1934 and he was not mentioned in the account of that season in "The Mighty Mariners" by David Wotherspoon. He may well have retired from playing football, as he had obviously suffered a serious injury, missing all but two of Marine's games between 23rd September 1933 and 17th February 1934. He had also missed a number of matches in the first half of the previous season because of injury.
In Billy's time at Marine, the club were FA Amateur Cup finalists, twice winners of the Lancashire Amateur Cup, winners of the Liverpool Amateur Cup on one occasion and also champions of the First Division of the Liverpool County Combination. So, he had had a very successful time there. He was clearly a hard-tackling full-back, and had received many glowing reports in the local newspapers.
Billy Rankin's pen-picture in "The Mighty Mariners" by David Wotherspoon mentions that he was an international baseball player. Then, baseball in Britain was effectively confined to Cardiff and Newport in South Wales and Liverpool in the North West of England. The English game was run by the English Baseball Association (EBA), although a rival organisation, the English Baseball Union (EBU), emerged in the early 1930s, and also organised an English League competition.
The rules of the British version of the game varied in a number of ways from its American counterpart. For example, the ball is thrown underarm, while in the American version, it is delivered overhand or sidearm; there are 11 players in a team, but only nine in American baseball; the bat has a flat striking surface, while the American bat is entirely round. The scoring system is probably the most important difference. In British baseball, a player scores a run for every base he reaches after hitting the ball but he does not score when moving around the bases on another player's hit. The equivalent of a home run scores four runs. In America, a player scores a run only on a successful circuit of all four bases, whether on his own or another player's hit.
The first reports of Billy Rankin playing baseball appear on the Liverpool Post and Mercury in the 1932 season, which ran from May to August. He was a member of the St. Margaret's team in the English League run by the EBA. The other eight teams were: British Enka, Cowley, Crawford's Athletic, Crystal, New Brighton, North Western, Oakfield Social and Oakmere. During the 1931 season, St Margaret's had swept the board of trophies, winning the league, the English Cup, the Lewis Cup and the Robert Marks' Cup.
1932 proved to be much less successful for St Margaret's. They lost the league title to Crystal, who also beat them in the final of the Robert Marks' Cup; they were beaten in the second round of the Lewis Cup by the eventual winners, Oakmere; but, they did win the English Cup.
Billy was one of the backstops for St. Margaret's; the other was Cyril Roche, the club captain and an England international. Billy normally batted at number eight or lower.St. Margaret's progressed through the earlier rounds of the English Cup to the semi-final on Saturday, 23rd July at Green Lane, Liverpool, where they met Crystal, who had beaten them by five runs a week earlier in the Robert Marks' Cup Final. On this occasion, it was St Margaret's who triumphed, by five runs with three men still to bat. The scores were St Margaret's 120 (49 and 71), Crystal 115 (50 and 65). Billy scored nine runs in the first innings, followed by six in the second.
The final was played at the North Western Ground, Liverpool, on Saturday, 6th August. St. Margaret's had held the trophy for the previous two years, whilst their opponents, Oakmere, had never won it. Despite this, Oakmere were probably the favourites, as they had won two of the three meetings between the teams that season. But, St Margaret's emerged as Cup winners for the third consecutive year. The extent of the victory, 58 runs, was rather surprising in view of Oakmere's previous good form. There were ten runs between the teams at the halfway stage, St Margaret's scoring 67 against Oakmere's 57. St Margaret's consolidated their position in the second innings by making 85, whereas Oakmere failed at the critical time, being dismissed for 37. Billy only scored one run in the first innings and failed to score in the second.
St. Margaret's started off the season in good form, winning their first four league games, including a two-run victory over League champions, Crystal. At half-time, it looked as if St Margaret's would win easily as they had scored 119 runs to Crystal's 64, a lead of 55 runs. However, they only managed a total of 23 in their second innings, while Crystal responded with 76 runs, falling just two short of St Margaret's overall total. Billy, batting at number 10, scored five and four in his two innings.
Their next four games were a complete contrast - two defeats in the league by Oakmere and British Enka and losses in the Robert Marks' and Lewis Cups at the hands of Oakmere and North Western.
They did get back to their winning ways in the League, but the champions, Crystal, were going strongly and a victory over North Western on Saturday, 12th August would have secured the League title for them, but North Western were surprise winners.In the end, a play-off was necessary to decide the league title as Crystal also lost their final game of the season. The play-off involved St. Margaret's and British Enka over two evenings, Monday and Tuesday, 4th and 5th September, at the North Western Recreation Ground, Green Lane. St Margaret's went in first, batting with only nine men, as Roberts was playing for Liverpool FC and Billy was missing; Billy may have been playing for or training with Marine FC, as their season had started too. St Margaret's reached 48 with their nine players; British Enka replied with 69. On the Tuesday evening, St. Margaret's scored 57, with eleven men - Roberts had turned up, but Billy was still missing. This left Enka with 37 runs to get to win the championship, which they accomplished for the loss of only four men.
Earlier in the season, on Saturday, 8th July, St Margaret's had easily beaten New Brighton by an innings and 39 runs in the semi-final of the English Cup. Billy scored 11 runs, batting at number 10.They faced North Western in the Final on Saturday, 29th July. When North Western were set 114 to win in their second innings, it looked as though they would be easily beaten. They started badly by losing eight men for 28 runs, but they rallied to reach 79, still 34 runs short of the required total. This meant that St. Margaret's had won the English Cup for the fourth year in succession.
This was St. Margaret's poorest season for some years, as they did not win a single trophy. They were joint runners-up in the League, four points behind champions, Oakmere; they were defeated in the semi-final of the Lewis Cup and the second round of the English Cup by Oakmere on both occasions; and they lost to Crystal in the quarter-final of the Robert Marks' Cup. Oakmere were certainly St. Margaret's bogey team that season, beating them in two cup-ties and in both League games.
Billy's best batting displays that season were all in the League. The first was on Saturday, 9th June in the defeat by British Enka, when he notched nine and eight runs batting at number 11. A week later, in another defeat, this time by Oakmere, he was batting at number nine and scored five and 17 runs. And then, on Saturday, 30th June, he scored one and ten runs in an unexpected victory over North Western.
It would seem that this was the first baseball season that Billy had not been involved with football.
St Margaret's enjoyed a far more successful season this year, probably aided by the fact that the previous season's champions Oakmere had folded due to the loss of key players, who had joined St Margaret's. They were undefeated in the League, winning the title by six points from runners-up Crystal.
St. Margaret's did not have it all their own way in every encounter for there were two matches in which they achieved victory by the narrowest of margins, a single run. The first of those was on Saturday, 13th July against Crystal. The scores were 39 and 41 for Crystal and 46 and 35 for St. Margaret's. The good work by Billy at backstop was mentioned in the match report in the Liverpool Post and Mercury. In the second of those games, on Wednesday, 24th July, St. Margaret's opponents were Crawford Athletic.
St Margaret's were also successful in two of the three Cup competitions. Probably their most satisfying achievement was winning the English Cup for the fifth time in six years. They beat Crawford Athletic, St. Oswald's and Windsor to reach the final, against Crystal at the Liverpool Police Athletic ground, Prescot Road, Liverpool, on Saturday, 3rd August. League form suggested a victory for St. Margaret's as they had won both fixtures. And so it turned out, with St Margaret's winning by two runs and two men to bat. Billy scored three and one batting at number 11.
St. Margaret's also won the Lewis Cup that season, but not without controversy it should be said. Their semi-final against North Western ended on an unhappy note, when their opponents left the field with St. Margaret's requiring eight runs for victory and with three batsmen not out. The reason for North Western's early departure was not reported but, according to the competition rules, once the North Weatern players had left the field, the tie had to be awarded to St. Margaret's. The scores were - North Western 104 (49 & 55), St Margaret's 97 (24 & 73 for 8). Billy scored four and three batting last man.
The final was played on the Bank Holiday Monday, 5th August. Going in first, St. Margaret's scored 60 runs, and then dismissed Crystal for 25. The St. Margaret's captain decided not to enforce the follow-on and batted again. This time, St. Margaret's were dismissed for 37, leaving Crystal to get 73 to win. However, they were dismissed for only 47, falling short of the required total by 25 runs. Billy scored six runs in his first innings, but failed to score in the second. It was St. Margaret's fourth win over Crystal that season.
St. Margaret's were unable to make a clean sweep of all the competitions, despite reaching the final of the remaining trophy, the Robert Marks' Cup. Again, their opponents were Crystal, holders of the Cup for the previous three seasons. The final was played on the North Western ground, Green Lane, Liverpool, on Saturday 20th July. St. Margaret's only managed 30 runs in their first innings; Crystal replied with 70. Going in a second time, the Saints scored 54, leaving Crystal to get 14 runs to retain the trophy. They reached the required total for the loss of four men. Billy, batting at number five, failed to score in both his innings.
Despite the failure to win the Robert Marks' Cup, the Saints had had a very successful season winning the English League and the English and Lewis Cups.
The showcase baseball event each year was the international game between England (effectively Liverpool) and Wales (drawn from players in Cardiff and Newport), which alternated between venues in the two countries. Billy was selected as No.3 base fielder and second backstop for the England team for the 1935 international to be played at Breck Park Greyhound Track, Townsend Lane, Anfield, on Saturday, 6th July.
England had only beaten Wales on three occasions - 1914, 1923 and 1933 - whilst Wales had triumphed on 13 occasions, four times by an innings. Against the odds, however, England defeated Wales comprehensively by an innings and 68 runs. England scored 162, while Wales only managed 41 and 53. Batting at number 11, Billy scored four runs.
This was Billy's most successful season in baseball; his selection for the England team that beat Wales was the icing on the cake.
St. Margaret's lost Alex Scott, their main bowler, when he went over to the American code, signing for Liverpool Giants.
They started their defence of the League title with two wins, beating newly promoted Windsor by an innings and 27 runs on Saturday, 9th May, and then getting the better of Crawford's Athletic a week later with a 45 run victory. Billy played in both matches, but only managed to score four runs in his three innings, batting at number 11.
On Saturday, 23rd May, the surprise of the day was the defeat of St. Margaret's at home by British Enka in a high scoring game, in which 323 runs were scored. St. Margaret's scored 38 and 121 in their two innings, whilst Enka replied with 116 in their first innings and 48 for 5 in their second, to win by five runs with six men to bat. Billy did not play in this game, leaving St Margaret's with only ten men, something of a handicap.
British Enka were the only undefeated team in the League at this stage, and they remained unbeaten for the rest of the season, securing the League title with two games to spare. St. Margaret's and Crystal shared second place.
British Enka had achieved the double over St Margaret's in the League, but the Saints gained their revenge in the final of the English Cup on Saturday, 25th July. They overwhelmed Enka by the astonishing margin of an innings and 61 runs. St. Margaret's scored 127, with Enka managing only 24 and 42 runs in their two innings. Billy scored three at number 11. This victory meant that St. Margaret's had won the Cup seven times in the previous nine years.
Crystal had also completed the double over the Saints in the League, and again, St. Margaret's obtained their revenge in a Cup-Final. This time it was the Lewis Cup and they emerged victorious by 41 runs. The scores were 118 and 52 for St. Margaret's and 69 and 60 for Crystal. Billy failed to score in his first innings and managed only a single run in his second. This was the second successive season that Saints had won the cup and on both occasions they had beaten Crystal.
Billy was selected for the international match against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, 11th July but, unfortunately, had to withdraw because of an injured hand. His withdrawal had little or no effect on the team, for they beat Wales for the first time in Wales by an innings and six runs.
St Margaret's showed really inconsistent form in the League, which was won by Crystal.
The surprise of the day in the first round of the English Cup on Saturday, 29th May, was the defeat of St Margaret's by Crystal. The Saints had won the trophy seven times in the previous nine seasons, including the last two. Crystal went on to win the Cup for the first time since 1926.
The final of the Robert Marks' trophy, between Crystal and St. Margaret's, was scheduled for Saturday, 24th July, at the North-Western ground, Green Lane. It was postponed to Wednesday, 11th August, however, because of a wet pitch.
In the re-scheduled game, Crystal were dismissed for 29 runs in their first innings. St. Margaret's made 55 in their first innings, with Billy scoring nine. Batting a second time, Crystal reached 67, leaving St. Margaret's to get 42 runs for victory the following evening, Thursday, 12th August. The Saints must have been fairly confident of reaching that total to record their first win of the season over Crystal and lifting the Robert Marks' Cup for the third time. But, it was not to be. St Margaret's were dismissed for 19 runs with only four players scoring runs; Billy was not one of them.
That season, Crystal also won the Lewis Cup, which meant that they had a clean sweep of the four trophies available, equalling the record set by St Margaret's in 1931.
Although his club had had a poor season by their standards, Billy was again selected for the English team to play Wales in the 20th international between the two countries on Saturday, 10th July. The venue was the Stanley Greyhound Track, Prescot Road, Fairfield, Liverpool.
England beat Wales for the third time in succession, creating another record in winning by an innings for the third time in a row. In Wales' most successful period, when they won nine consecutive games, they did not win by an innings in two successive games.
Wales won the toss and, batting first, scored 54 runs. England then replied with 99 runs, giving them a lead of 45 at the interval. Wales' second innings was closed at 37 runs, leaving England winners by an innings and eight runs. Billy Rankin scored four, batting as last man and starred at backstop according to the match report in the Liverpool Post and Mercury.
St. Margaret's were more successful this year, winning the League and the Robert Marks' Cup, and finishing runners-up in the English Cup.
They began the season on Saturday, 21st May, with an emphatic victory away from home over Windsor by an innings and 33 runs. They had made the highest score of the day when they declared at 132 for the loss of six men. Windsor were out for 34 in their first innings and, then, following on, made 65. Billy was the top scorer for St. Margaret's with 32.
In their next League game, two weeks later, they defeated British Enka by five runs and four men to bat. Batting first, Enka scored 25, whilst, in reply, St Margaret's reached 77 to lead by 52 runs. In their second innings, Enka gave a vastly improved performance, scoring 87. The Saints, requiring 36 runs, lost seven men in reaching a winning total. The leading batsmen for St. Margaret's were Burnham with 19 and Corner and Billy with 13 each.
The outstanding game on Saturday, 18th June, was the meeting between the two unbeaten teams Crystal and St Margaret's at Leyfield Road, West Derby. Surprisingly, the Saints ran out easy winners by an innings and 24 runs. St. Margaret's scored 72 and then dismissed Crystal for 30. Following on 42 runs behind, Crystal were all out a second time for 18. Billy only managed to score one run batting at number 11.
St Margaret's were undefeated in the League until Saturday, 13th August, when they lost surprisingly to British Enka, who fielded five reserves. St. Margaret's scored 31 and 36 in their two innings, whilst Enka replied with 33 and 38 for six, to win by four runs with five men to bat. Despite this defeat, the Saints still led the table by two points from Crystal; British Enka were third, four points behind St. Margaret's, having played a game more. As mentioned earlier, St Margaret's went on to win the League.
St Margaret's reached the final of the Robert Marks' Cup, which was played at the North Western Ground, Green Lane, on Saturday, 16th July, when the Saints faced the holders, Crystal. In what proved to be a low scoring game, Crystal, batting first, could only make 26 runs, but St. Margaret's were somewhat disappointed to find themselves with only a first innings lead of 37 runs. However, batting a second time, Crystal were dismissed for 34 runs, which meant that the Saints did not have to bat again. Billy scored one run at number 11.
St Margaret's faced Crystal in the final of the English Cup over two evenings, Monday and Tuesday, 16th and 17th August. St. Margaret's won the toss, elected to bat and scored 74 in their first innings. Billy contributed four runs to their total, batting at number 11. Crystal replied with 86, including 22 extras. On the second evening, St Margaret's only made 31 runs and Crystal lost five men in scoring the required 22 runs to retain the trophy. Billy failed to score in the Saints' second innings.
The highlight of Billy's season, of course, was his selection for the annual international against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, 30th July. More than 2,000 spectators watched England win a most exciting game by two runs with two men to bat.
Winning the toss, England batted first, scoring 85 runs, including a contribution of nine runs from Billy. Wales replied with only 43 and, following on, reached 88 in their second innings. Left with 47 runs to get to win, England collapsed to 21 for eight. Rice and Davies then scored 15 not out and 12 not out respectively to secure a great victory, which looked impossible at one stage. This was England's fourth successive and narrowest win over Wales. Billy failed to score in the second innings.
St. Margaret's opened their bid to retain the league championship on Saturday, 13th May with an away game against Rootes Securities, who had been promoted to the First Division as champions of Division Two. They won comprehensively by an innings and five runs. Billy was St Margaret's highest scorer with 16 runs.
The following Saturday, St. Margaret's had another easy win, this time by an innings and 41 runs over Windsor, and then, on Saturday, 3rd June, the Saints recorded their third successive victory by an innings when they beat Crystal, who were also undefeated in the league, by an innings and 28 runs at Aigburth.
St. Margaret's then beat Croxteth Albion by 14 runs and seven men to bat and followed this up on Saturday, 17th June, with a fairly easy home win over British Enka by 18 runs and eight men to bat. Billy scored 12 runs in the first innings. So, after five games, St. Margaret's were undefeated and top of the league, two points ahead of Crystal and four ahead of Rootes Securities.
St Margaret's achieved the double over British Enka on Saturday, 24th June, winning by 45 runs at Ormskirk Road, Aintree. The Saints scored 66 and 50, a total of 116 runs, whilst Enka could only muster a total of 71 from their two innings. Billy scored five and three. The following Saturday, St. Margaret's retained their unbeaten record, winning by two runs against Rootes Securities in an exciting finish. The Saints now led the league table by six points from Crystal, who had played a game fewer.
St. Margaret's assured themselves of the league championship for the second successive season on Saturday, 15th July, with an easy victory over Windsor by an innings and 60 runs. St Margaret's scored 93 in their only innings, whilst Windsor could only manage 19 and 14 in their two innings.
St Margaret's could not repeat their outstanding league form in any of the three cup competitions, finding themselves eliminated in the first round of each.
That season, Billy was selected for his fourth, and what proved to be his final, international appearance for England against Wales. The game was played at the Stanley Greyhound Track, Fairfield, Liverpool, on Saturday, 8th July.
In torrential rain, England gained their fifth successive win over Wales, and their eighth overall in the 22 matches played between the two countries. Wales won the toss and put England into bat first. England scored 65 runs and, in reply, Wales could only manage 32. England made 71 in their second innings, leaving Wales to score 105 to win. They fell short by 45 runs. Billy batted at number 11, scoring five and four in his two innings.
Some reports of baseball matches did appear in the local papers in 1940, including those involving St. Margaret's. They did not feature every week and did not include a team listing. So, it is not known if Billy Rankin continued to play that season. Because of the Second World War, however, competitive baseball ceased for six years, until it was revived in 1947.
It would appear that Billy did not begin playing again after the war because his name is not included in the team listings in the local papers when St. Margaret's featured in any of the cup finals. However, according to Colin Williams, the EBA historian, his name re-appeared in the Spring of 1956 but, this time, as a referee. Williams was himself a baseball player, starting out in 1959, and he remembers Billy refereeing, and he considered him to be "a good referee, very fair minded".
Billy refereed for a number of years and was appointed referee for the England v Wales International, played at the Edinburgh Park, otherwise known as the Dockers Club, in Townsend Lane, Liverpool, on 29th July 1961.
Some years ago, Colin Williams interviewed a George McIllwrath, whose father was one of the founder members of the St. Margaret's baseball team. According to McIllwrath, Billy Rankin never wore a face mask or gloves when playing backstop; he considered it unmanly. Although the ball was bowled underarm over a distance of 50 feet, it reached a speed of between 50 and 60 mph and the backstop stood less than a yard behind the batsman. Therefore, it could be quite dangerous for the backstop. So, it proved for Billy one day. Playing in a final for St. Margaret's against Oakmere, the batsman failed to strike the ball cleanly; it snicked off the bat and broke Billy's nose. He then condescended to wear a face mask, but gloves were still for cissies. Indeed, two of his daughters, Elsie and Teeny, thought that their father was nicknamed, "The Man with the Iron Hands" because of his refusal to wear gloves.
Colin Williams never saw Billy Rankin play, but in his conversations with the older generation of players "his name was always broached as one of the better backstops of yesteryear".
As a young man, Billy served his time as an armature winder and, for some years, worked at Plesseys in Liverpool. Later, he was employed by the Liverpool Corporation as a turncock or waterman, and lived with his family at 1 Brook Road, Crosby, a house owned by the Corporation, which went with Billy's job. He was still working as a turncock when he retired. His job was a protected occupation, so he was not called up during the Second World War.
Billy's hobby was electronics. His son, Billy, recalled his father building a 9" television, radio and record player and French-polished cabinet. It "was the first TV ever seen in Waterloo", according to his son. He also built a radio in a cabinet as a wedding present for his son Billy and his wife, Wyn. His daughter Margie also remembered her father repairing wireless sets and making electric motors for toy trains when he retired.
His two eldest sons, George and Billy, followed their father into sport. George was the more successful, playing football professionally with Everton and Southport for some ten years. Billy signed for Everton as a youth and then played for Southport for two seasons. He did not make the first team but, on several occasions, played with his brother, George, in the Reserves. Both George and his brother Billy were good golfers.
Andy, his youngest son, did not take an interest in sport in general and football in particular because, "I got too much football and I could never compete with my father."
Billy was married twice. He married Florrie Dolphin in 1926 and they went on to have four sons and two daughters. Some two years after Florrie's death he married again; there were no children from this marriage. Billy died in ?? at the age of ??; his second wife survived him by about two years.