The white sailors in their dress whites roared.
The old black man in the fedora is Theodore Roosevelt (Double Duty) Radcliffe, born in Mobile on July 7, 1902. He is the oldest living Negro leagues player and in his mind the oldest living ballplayer, period. (At least one ex-major leaguer, pitcher Ralph Erickson, is older, by 12 days.) His nickname was coined by renowned New York City sportswriter Damon Runyon after Runyon watched Radcliffe work both ends of a Negro leagues doubleheader in 1932. The Pittsburgh Crawfords, Radcliffe's team, were playing the Chicago American Giants at Yankee Stadium. In the first game Radcliffe caught his childhood friend Satchel Paige and the Crawfords won 4-0. In the second game Radcliffe pitched and the Crawfords won 5-0. Runyon wrote that "it was worth the price of two admissions to see 'Double Duty' Radcliffe play." For the 70 years since, Radcliffe has been called Mr. Duty at church and at funerals and other formal gatherings, and simply Duty in more casual ones. There's almost nobody left who remembers him as Ted.
In an interview in early April, six weeks before he died at age 78, Joe Black, who pitched in the Negro leagues and for the Brooklyn Dodgers, addressed the question of Negro leaguers who belong in the Hall of Fame. "There are only three former Negro leaguers who aren't in Cooperstown who should be," Black said. "Biz Mackey, Verdell Mathis and Duty. Duty is the most deserving of them. He was a great defensive catcher, one of the best ever, always talking to the hitters, distracting them, always encouraging his pitchers, never negative. He was a good pitcher, with a nice little breaking ball, and he could always hit. When I faced him, he was already an old man, but everybody said, 'Pitch him carefully, he can still hit.' They had it right."
When Black traveled from his home in Phoenix to visit family in Chicago, he'd get together with Radcliffe. In April, with his health failing, Black didn't know if he'd ever see Duty again. "Is there anything you'd still want to ask him?" Black was asked.
"His secret for living such a long and happy life," Black answered. "Not just long—long and happy."
In memory of Joe Black, who inspired the question, and with a nod to Paige, composer of a similar list, here are Double Duty Radcliffe's Nine Manly Rules to Lead a Long and Happy Life, collected by your correspondent while driving Radcliffe from his South Side apartment to Gladys' Luncheonette, his favorite soul-food restaurant, on May 31, 2002.
1. Carry big bills—hundreds and so forth. Small change is for poor people.
2. Don't eat pizza.
3. Eat at McDonald's all you want.
4. Run around the block once every morning, but just once.
5. Go to church on Sunday if you're feeling good. Don't if you're not.
6. Many a good woman.