1989: Ted Radcliffe, Oldest Living Negro League Veteran

On November 20, 1989, Mike Royko wrote about the plight of Negro Leaguer Ted Radcliffe. He explained: “It was Radcliffe’s misfortune to be born in 1902. When he was old enough to be a remarkable ballplayer, they didn’t make the incredible money today’s star athletes can demand.

And there was the matter of skin color. Radcliffe had the wrong kind. Beige instead of pink. Not that it bothered him. But being a Negro, as he was called in those days, made him unsuitable to the wealthy bigots and cowards who owned major league franchises. . . .

So Ted Radcliffe spent 32 years as a star of the old black baseball leagues. He became something of a legend among his peers-a barrel-chested man who would catch the first game of a double-header, then pitch the entire second game. His nickname was “Double-Duty.”

They were the wrong 32 years. By the time the doors opened for Jackie Robinson and the blacks who followed, “Double-Duty” Radcliffe was too old to be a slugging catcher or a dominating pitcher.

That’s why, instead of being a household name, he and his wife sit behind double-locked doors in a deadly Chicago public housing project, wondering how they got in their present mess and when they will get out of it. Radcliffe, 87, lives in the Ida B. Wells housing on the South Side.”

Double Duty said: “When we moved in here 26 years ago, it was beautiful. There were flowers and everything. But now there’s the dope and the gangs. They kill. It seems like they kill somebody around here every day.

“Last Sunday, my wife came from church, got out of her car, and some guys cussed her out, then they broke her car windows. The gangs, they’re running things around here. They run everybody’s life. The other day, the cops had a raid and got sawed-off shot guns and everything.

“I’ve been held up twice in front of my house and in my car. They beat on me. You’re always living in doubt, like something’s going to happen. When you go out your door, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

It’s a poor comment on the workings of government, in Chicago and elsewhere, when Royko went on to talk about Radcliffe’s desire to move into housing for the elderly. Royko wrote:
“That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but Radcliffe has been waiting for a long time. He first applied seven years ago. By now, he should have been moved. But it appears that a careless bureaucrat transposed numbers on his address, so he was passed over because he couldn’t be found at the wrong address.

So he went back on the bottom of the list and started waiting again. He thought his break came when he met Mayor Washington at a political gathering, and Washington promised to help. But Mayor Washington died, and that move fell through.
Just a suggestion, but maybe someone in Mayor Daley’s office could pick up a phone and make a helpful call.”

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 6:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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