Theodore Roosevelt Radcliffe
Nickname: Ted, Double Duty
Positions: c, p, manager
Teams: Detroit Stars (1928-1929, 1931), St. Louis Stars (1930), Homestead Grays (1931, 1933, 1936, 1946), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932), Columbus Blue Birds (1933), Cleveland Giants (1933), New York Black Yankees (1933), Bismarck, North Dakota (1934-1935) Chicago American Giants (1934, 1941-1943, 1949-1950), Brooklyn Eagles (1935), Cincinnati Tigers (1936-1937), Memphis Red Sox (1938-1939, 1941), Mexican League (1940), Birmingham Black Barons (1942-1946), Kansas City Monarchs (1945), Harlem Globetrotters (1947), Louisville Buckeyes (1949)
Height: 5' 10'' Weight: 190
Born: July 7, 1902, Mobile, Alabama
Died: August 11, 2005, Chicago, Illinois
Nicknamed "Double Duty" because he would pitch the first game of a double header and catch the second game, Radcliffe was one of the most colorful players in black baseball. He was truly unique and never received the full credit due him for his contributions to baseball. In three consecutive years he played on three of the greatest teams in black baseball history, first with the St. Louis Stars of 1930, then with the Homestead Grays of 1931, and finally with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of 1932. His "double duty" produced impressive numbers for those seasons, including batting averages of .283, .298, and .325 and corresponding pitching records of 10-2, 9-5, and 19-8.
With the Stars he was the regular catcher for the first half of the season, but when the pitching staff wore thin, he stepped in and proved to be one of the top two hurlers on their championship squad. The 1931 Grays, featuring Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Jud Wilson, and Smokey Joe Williams, is the team that Radcliffe selects as the all-time best. After the 1931 season he was one of several stars (along with Gibson, Charleston, and Ted Page) who formed the nucleus of Cum Posey's ballclub and who were lured away when Gus Greenlee raided the Grays to stock his Pittsburgh Crawfords and turn the franchise into an immediate powerhouse for the 1932 season.
Before joining the St. Louis Stars, he had played two years with the Detroit Stars as a catcher, hitting .266 and .310 in 1928-1929. The nomadic Radcliffe played with four teams during the 1933 season, and followed his instincts to the Midwest in 1934, where he played with a predominantly white semipro team in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was one of several black stars who were signed by Neil Churchill to build a superior ballclub that dominated the baseball scene in the Midwest. In 1935 Bismarck won the Wichita Tournament, with Radcliffe, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Chet Brewer, and Quincy Trouppe among the players on the team.
Always quick to jump a team if more money was offered, he played with the Brooklyn Eagles in 1935, hitting .268 and posting a 4-6 record on the mound, and landed with the Cincinnati Tigers in 1936, where the right hander hit a solid .333. The next season he contributed a .356 batting average and managed the team to a first-division finish during their only season in the Negro American League.
In 1938 he signed with the Memphis Red Sox as playing manager, guiding them to the first-half title and ensuring a spot in the ensuing playoffs against the second-half winners, the Atlanta Black Crackers, for the Negro American League championship. In the opening game Radcliffe took the mound against Atlanta's ace hurler, Chin Evans, and won the first game. After the Red Sox won the second game, the management of the respective clubs became embroiled in a dispute that resulted in the Series being cancelled without a final determination of an uncontested champion. He returned to the Red Sox in 1939, with incomplete statistics showing aggregate marks of .263 batting and 7-5 pitching for the two seasons.
Meanwhile, he continued his nomadic ways, traveling for the 1939-1940 winter to Cuba, where he pitched for Almendares and bested Martin Dihigo with a 5-hit shutout in a head-to-head matchup. In the summer of 1940 he journeyed to Mexico, playing with Vera Cruz, batting .247, and posting a 5-6 pitching ledger, with a 5.93 ERA. Back in the United States, he oscillated between Birmingham and Chicago for a couple of years before settling with the American Giants, and was selected as the Negro American League's MVP in 1943.
When the Negro American league champion Birmingham Black Barons lost the services of their regular catcher to the military draft shortly before the impending World Series, Radcliffe was loaned to the Black Barons, with the permission of the Homestead Grays, to play in the World Series against the Grays. After a winter playing with the Baltimore Giants, Radcliffe returned to Birmingham for the entire 1944 season, contributing a heavy .215 batting average and invaluable leadership as the Black Barons repeated as Negro American League champions and faced the Grays in a losing World Series rematch.
In 1945 he was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs, who were desperate for catching help, to share the workload behind the plate.
A dangerous hitter in the clutch, his knowledge of the batters, skill at calling a game, and ability to handle pitchers made him a valuable asset to the team. As a bonus he won 3 victories as a pitcher without a loss. After the end of World War II the players who were in the service returned to crowd the rosters, and Radcliffe signed with the Homestead Grays, primarily as a pitcher, posting a 7-4 record while also batting .222 and providing some catching relief for a fast fading Josh Gibson in his last season before his death.
He appeared in six East-West All Star games, dividing them equally as a catcher and pitcher, batting .308, and winning his only decision in All Star competition. In the 1944 game, with his mother in the stands, he contributed a crucial home run to the West squad's 7-4 victory. As a smart, strong-armed catcher he was a good hitter, and as a pitcher he mastered the emery ball and utilized other pitches of dubious legality. When catching he was able to work well with other pitchers because, as a pitcher himself, he "thought along with them."
Frequently in his career he became "triple duty," adding the title "manager" to complete the triad. As manager of the Chicago American Giants in 1950 he signed three white players in an effort to find a "reverse" Jackie Robinson, but the players lacked the requisite skills to perform at a major-league level. That season, "Duty" rounded out a colorful twenty-three year career spent with more than a dozen different teams in the Negro Leagues.
There have been better pitchers, better catchers, and better hitters, and there may have been a more colorful player, but there has never been another single player embued with the diverse talents he manifested during his baseball career. "Double Duty" was unique in baseball annals.
Baseball Career Highlights:
In the 1932 Negro World Series, Radcliffe played several positions without missing a beat. In the first game of a doubleheader, he caught Satchel Paige, then pitched a shutout in the second game. Radcliffe's ability to flawlessly move from one position to the next led sportswriter Damon Runyon to nickname him "Double Duty."
Radcliffe was truly an entrepreneur. He and Satchel Paige formed All Star Negro Leagues teams and independently booked exhibition games against white major league stars. These ventures were extremely lucrative for both men. Radcliffe was not only a catcher and pitcher, he became a playing manager with the Memphis Red Sox (1938) and the Chicago American Giants (1943). In "double duty" fashion, Radcliffe signed three white players to the Chicago American Giants in an attempt to find a "reverse" Jackie Robinson, but the players' skills were not major league caliber. Today, Radcliffe, the oldest living Negro Leagues star, is still as flamboyant as ever.
Awards, Honors, Titles, Championships,
• Negro American League's "Most Valuable Player" - 1943
• Negro League's World Series - 1944
• Six East-West AlI Star Games
NLBM Legacy 2000 Players' Reunion Alumni Book, Kansas City Missouri: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Inc., 2000.
James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.
Ted "Double Duty"