W.G. Grace (proper name = William Gilbert Grace, referred to widely in history books as "WG", family nickname = Gilly) earned this title. He was born 18 July 1848 in Downend, Bristol. As a young man he was a splendid natural athlete, making considerable achievements in running, shooting, hunting, lawn bowls -- oh yes, and cricket.
His sheer talent at cricket, and very high scores, helped caused the game to become a popular spectator sport. In spite of becoming a heavyset man in later years, WG was a top scorer, bowler, and fielder. He played cricket avidly, for his county and the national team, for over 40 years of his adult life.
What's more, WG was actually a doctor by profession; he played cricket as an amateur. He is responsible for many of the ideas of how the sport is set up today in Britain, including opportunities for professionals and amateurs to play together.
WG died October 23, 1915 in Mottingham, Kent.
There are a lot of relevant statistics and anecdotes about WG Grace. He set most of the batting, bowling and fielding records in the late 1800s. His highest ever seasonal aggregate scoring total was 2739 (in 1871). He once hit a ball that travelled 36 miles after landing on a passing train. His portrait was used as God's face in a Monty Python film.