John Barton "Bart" King (October 19, 1873 – October 17, 1965) was an American cricketer, active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. King was part of the Philadelphia team that played from the end of the 19th century until the outbreak of World War I. This period of cricket in the United States was dominated by "gentlemen cricketers"—men of independent wealth who did not need to work.
A skilled batsman who proved his worth as a bowler, King set numerous records in the continent of North America during his career and led the first-class bowling averages in England in 1908. He successfully competed against the best cricketers from England and Australia. King was the dominant bowler on his team when it toured England in 1897, 1903, and 1908. He dismissed batsmen with his unique delivery, which he called the "angler", and helped develop the art of swing bowling in the sport. Sir Pelham Warner described Bart King as "one of the finest bowlers of all time", and Donald Bradman called him "America's greatest cricketing son."
King was born in Philadelphia in 1873. Early in his life, he worked in a linen trade. Although this was the family business, his father later allowed him to leave to enter the insurance industry. King was not a member of the aristocratic and wealthy families of Philadelphia that produced many of the era's top cricketers.
Bart King was regarded by many of his contemporaries as an affable person. Ralph Barker called him the Bob Hope of cricket thanks to his quips and stories. King was also noted for making jabs at opponents, but leaving them laughing at themselves. The same held true when he would question umpires that turned down his appeals. He is said to have spoken for ninety minutes at a dinner during his last tour to England, punctuated every few seconds with laughs. The dinner guests were kept laughing even while King spoke with a dead-pan expression. One man who attended the dinner noted that King "told his impossible tales with such an air of conviction ... that his audiences were always in doubt when to take him seriously. He made their task doubly difficult by sprinkling in a fair mixture of truth with his fiction."
Though King focused on bowling throughout his career, he was also a very fine batsman. In 1905, he established a North American record batting record by scoring 315 at the Germantown Cricket Club. The following year, he scored 344 not out for Belmont against the Merion Cricket Club, setting a North American batting record which still stands. He scored 39 centuries in his North American career, and he topped 1,000 runs in six seasons. He took over 100 wickets in eight seasons, including a double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in four seasons. In his whole career, he scored 19,808 runs at an average of 36.47, and took 2,088 wickets at an average of 10.47. He took all 10 wickets in an innings on three occasions, and took 9 wickets in an innings five times. One of these occasions, in the Gentlemen of Ireland's first innings in 1909, was followed by a hat-trick in the second innings.
Thanks to his dominant performance over his career and his renown in the world of cricket, King was elected an honorary member of the Incogniti Cricket Club in 1908 and an honorary life member of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1962. When Plum Warner was asked to name the greatest bowler who ever lived, he said that John Barton King, "at the top of his power and speed, was at least the equal of the greatest of them all."
King is credited as one of the first bowlers to utilise swing bowling deliberately. Other bowlers in his time could sometimes get the ball to swing, but King was one of the first to do so at will with an old or new ball. He made use of a lethal delivery which he called the "angler", a product of his experience as a baseball pitcher, to confuse the English batsmen. He was famous for his late swing—in and out—and would produce the in-swinger with his right hand coming down from a point over his left shoulder. He described it as an in-swinger which, if properly bowled, would change direction sharply in the last 10 or 15 feet (4.6 m) of flight. King used this ball only sparingly and only against good batsmen.