An intro to Double Duty

Radcliffe, Theodore-Bismarck

Photo courtesy Negro Leagues Baseball Hall of Fame

OK, back online again, hopefully. Got a few things to serve up over the next week or so, including research into the family history of the great Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, about whom I’m writing a story for a newspaper in Mobile, Ala., his hometown.

I’ve already made some interesting discoveries along those lines, but before I dig into the nitty gritty, I just had to do a post about a lengthy interview Ted gave in 2001 for The History Makers, because the interplay between Ted and the interviewer is by turns hilarious, sarcastic, poignant and just plain fun.

The conversation really reveals what a character Double Duty was and puts on display his wildly colorful, brash and endearing personality. There were more than a couple points in the interview that had me laughing out loud. The man had brass ones, that’s for sure.

There’s a few notes to make before digging in. One, I left the language intact, including the n-word, because I think it helps portray the man, his time and his personality.

Two, it might be hard to read about how he felt about Ernie Banks, given that Mr. Cub recently passed. But again, Ted’s thoughts reveal what’s in his mind and his own view of the world and the people in it.

Third, this is a long post, largely because it was a lengthy interview and there are so many great nuggets in it.

Fourth, I personally found a little bit of hypocrisy in how Ted bragged a fair deal about how much money he demanded and received as a player and then how he severely criticizes today’s players for essentially doing the same thing, only on a much larger scale.

Finally, Double Duty’s comments are quite frequently, for this day and age, decidedly un-PC. His views on women, especially, reflect the personality and uniqueness of a man who was born in 1902 — many, many decades ago. In many ways he viewed women as sexual objects, and his comments about men and women do make you wonder what his thoughts were on homosexuality and the evolution of gender roles in today’s society.

He also, at one point, talks about how he was happily married to a wonderful woman for 60-plus years, then brazenly brags about his numerous adulterous sexual exploits throughout his career. All in all, then, it can be a difficult read at times. But that’s Double Duty, uncensored and unvarnished.

So, as a way to return to active blogging and to hopefully brighten your day, I give you some of the best quotes from Ted Radcliffe’s 2001 interview with The History Makers …

On growing up in Mobile:

“I remember when I was in Mobile … we lived right next to a field — two doors from a field. We used to play ball day and night. We used to soak a ball in kerosene all day and play with it. … So we could see it at night. … We’d light it and play with it. We had gloves on to catch it. And we’d play too.”

“I never worked on no boats. I never worked in Mobile. I used to hustle round the railroad station … A friend of mine was working down there and they carried me down there to make … two or three dollars a day. Which was good money then. But I ain’t never had a job in my life. … I don’t know what work is. … I didn’t work on no banana boat, none of those places. Because I had too much sense.”

On his playing prowess:

“And then I went to the coast. And I started to play. And I played twelve years on the coast. We played every big league … player you could name. Ted Williams — we whipped them all. And they recognized me. … “[E]verybody wanted Double Duty back then. Everybody wanted me.”

“Illinois Giants had … all nations here. White, colored and Chinese. I was the only black. But I was hell, I was hell and all of them had to follow me.”

“I did a lot of help for ballplayers. Because I had more guts. And of course I’d ask the white folks for their eye teeth. They didn’t pay me, I’d quit. When I say something, I mean it. I made a good name for myself, I’ll admit that. I’ll admit because I pitched and caught. I was the only man that could pitch and catch.”
“I went down to Cuba. I stayed down there for a year for twenty-five hundred a month. And then when I got … in a position to get what I wanted, I didn’t care where I played. And so they gave me some money.”

“… I beat the best. Some of the best Negro players that ever lived. But I throwed that thing at them. Dance by my music or don’t dance at all. Ain’t that right (laughs)?”

On his predilection for the ladies, beginning with his time playing for the Illinois Giants:

“But there wasn’t no coloreds there but me. And I started going with the white girls. They didn’t bother me. They didn’t bother me. Them white girls come looking for me and I’d be waiting for them (laughs), give them what they wanted.”

“[An agent in San Francisco] was the president. He was the mayor of the town and he ran it. When [Ted and Satchel] said we wanted a girl, he’d get her for us. That’s the truth, because we was up there. Some of the people that wanted to object to us fooling with white women, but he would get them for us anyway. When we’d come, he’d have them in bed waiting for us. I’d say, ‘God bless America.’”

“Listen, how you gonna live with … you can’t live without women. … You can’t live without a woman. A woman can’t live without a man. … A man don’t love women, something wrong with him.”

“They claimed that I had more women than anybody. But I didn’t have them. I’d just tell them … I just put my cards on the table. You understand. And tell them what I wanted. I got it. Ain’t that right, partner?”

“[Jackie] was as nice a fellow God ever put breath in. He was a nice man. He was a gentleman. But he always wanted me to get him wom- … he didn’t have enough nerve. He didn’t have nerve like me. I said, ‘Come here …’ I’d called her one — I called her a bitch in a minute. I’d say, ‘Come here bitch.’ And she’d come. And she come there and come there. I said, ‘I want you to get this other girl and wait downstairs.’ She’d be waiting when I come there. And I’d take them on to the hotel (laughs).”

On a related note — why he liked Bill Clinton:

“Because he liked women. … Didn’t I tell the truth? [as the interviewer laughs]. … But you know one thing. I met Clinton twice … He is a nice man, him and his wife. And she stuck with him. because most of them would have left him. And she’s still with them. He’s a good man. But he loves his women. He wanted some outside. He wanted to test the field (laughs).”

On his ability and renown as a manager:

“Oh I was responsible for everything. But when I said something, I meant it because they knew I’d let them go. When I speak, I don’t speak but once. I tell them what I want. I got to have it. If the owners don’t back me, I’d leave the team. … [Y]ou’re boss and you put me in to manage a team. … I say something, I’ve got the last word. And when I say something, if you don’t back me up, I don’t fool with you.”

On specific players:

“When I played against Ty Cobb when he went to Cuba in ’25, and I was playing down there. he came down there. And he tried to steal second, I throwed him out both times. he quit. He said, ‘I ain’t gonna play against no nigger. Ain’t no nigger gonna throw me out.’ I said, ‘Well you ain’t gonna run no more. And I won’t have a chance to throw you out.’ I said. ‘Every time you run I’m gonna throw your ass out.’ …

“He was a hatred. He didn’t like coloreds. He was a racist. And I was gonna throw his ass out if he ran. …”

“Satchel was a great pitcher. He was a nice man too. But he was ignorant. You had to talk to him because he didn’t like white folks. He’d fight in a minute. But he could pitch.”

“Look, now … Jackie wasn’t the best ball boy be we gotta [unclear] he the best baseball player. We had some ballplayers better than Jackie. I caused Jackie playing ball. Because Jackie was getting ready to go into medical school. But I got him to play.”

“Jackie was a good ballplayer and he was a gentleman. But he loved women, but he didn’t have no nerves. He always wanted me to get them.”

“I wouldn’t of scouted [Ernie Banks]. No, because he didn’t do enough for coloreds. See, he only worked for white folks. He was born in Texas and he showed he was a Southern Negro. But all of the rest of the ballplayer[s] cooperated. But Banks never cooperated. Even though he’s a good friend of mine. But he stayed his distance and I stayed mine. And, you know, if they don’t do right, I don’t want them. If you can’t help your people, you can’t help nobody. Can you? If you don’t help your people … now, any colored organization I donate my time to for them now. But I ain’t gonna donate none for no white man, because he then made enough money without doing that.”

“And [the Cubs] asked me about Ernie Banks because I played against him for a year. I told them the truth. He was a good ballplayer. But he never did nothing for his people. That’s the only thing that hurt me. He never did nothing for his people.”

On his philosophy as a backstop:

“You had to know the hitters. … [Y]ou study a hitter when you’re playing pitching and catching. And you know what they like best. High or low … if they like high baseball, you come inside on them or outside with a curve ball. You know. You use some psychology on them. And they that say I was the smartest catcher that ever lived. And I thank them for it because I used to talk to them and make them feel good and then throw somethin’ at them.”

On the modern-day ballplayer:

“I see things that never happened when I pitched. Some ballplayers … don’t give all out. Some of them don’t hustle. When a ball gets by, they walk at it almost. When a ball got by a ballplayer in my day, they hustled more than they did before it got to them. But it’s different now — it’s money now. If you ain’t giving them money, you don’t get nothing.”

“But some of them don’t hustle like they used to. If they get to make a name for themself now … they get some money, they don’t care. They give some ballplayers … ain’t no ballplayer worth no million dollars a year! Ain’t no ballplayer … I wouldn’t give a son-of-bitch over a hundred thousand, I don’t care who he was. If you can’t live off a hundred thousand, you couldn’t live. You used to live off five thousand, didn’t you? They just making things go up more. A ballplayer ain’t worth that kind of money.”

General thoughts on life, beginning with why he left the Illinois Giants for greener pastures:

“Because it was more money. It takes money to make you happy don’t it? … Don’t money make you happy? … I made good money all my life. Thank God.”

“I never fool with a low class person.”

“[Baseball] made it good for me. It made a name for me and I’m proud of it. I made a good living all of my life. And I’m well respected today. Some people forget about players. But they don’t forget about players like me. They still think about me, because I could do something.”

“… I wouldn’t have been [good] without [God’s] help. I don’t believe I could have did it without God’s help. Because I’ve been in situations pitching and catching all over the world, where I come out ahead. So it must be good to me. God has been good to me, and I thank him. I thank God for being good to me.”

“That’s life, ain’t it? Huh? Anywhere you live and be happy you’re living good. Ain’t that right? Ain’t that right?”

One thought on “An intro to Double Duty

  1. Pingback: Ratcliff becomes Radcliffe: Double Duty’s roots | The Negro Leagues Up Close

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