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Man of A Century
Michael Bamberger
July 15, 2002
Nemesis of Ty Cobb, close friend of Satchel Paige, a Negro leagues legend remains the life of the party as he celebrates his 100th birthday
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July 15, 2002

Man Of A Century

Nemesis of Ty Cobb, close friend of Satchel Paige, a Negro leagues legend remains the life of the party as he celebrates his 100th birthday

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Radcliffe is the subject of an amazing book, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, by Negro leagues historian Kyle P. McNary, which is invaluable if you want to get a handle on Duty's far-flung career. Radcliffe seldom stayed with the same team for more than two or three years, going to whatever club offered him the most money. From 1920 until his retirement in 1954, he played for 42 teams. Sifting through box scores from 45 newspapers—including the Philadelphia Afro-American and other defunct black publications—McNary determined that Radcliffe was a career .303 hitter for the 658 games he could document. But McNary estimates that Radcliffe played in 3,800 games. McNary documented 128 career wins and 48 losses for him in 224 games pitched, but he estimates that Radcliffe was on the mound in 875 games. In McNary's most dedicated piece of research he determined that in 22 exhibition and off-season games against major league pitchers, Radcliffe had a .403 average.

But what old-time baseball people remember best about Duty is his storied career as a ladies' man, despite a 52-year marriage to his late wife, Alberta. Alfred (Slick) Surratt played for a black Canadian team managed by Radcliffe in the early 1950s. Surratt was making $50 a week and needed more money. On that team Duty drove the bus, handled the cash and pinch-hit if need be. Surratt waited for the perfect opportunity to ask his manager for an advance: when the skipper was having dinner with one of his lovely young dates.

"Duty, can I speak to you?" Surratt asked.

"Of course," the manager said. "How can I help?"

"Well, Duty, I really need some money."

"Now you just tell Duty how much you need."

"I could use $150."

Duty got out his thick stack of cash and said, "You need one-fifty? Here's two. You send some of that home to your missus, and you make sure to tell her it comes from ole Double Duty Radcliffe."

The next day, Duty let Slick have it. "Don't you ever do that again," he said. "Imagine, you talking like that to me when I'm with my lady."

Surratt had caught his manager at a susceptible moment Generally, Radcliffe was an alert man, and generally, he remains alert, despite two strokes. He often goes to Comiskey Park, just over a mile from his house, sometimes driving himself there in his tan Mercury Grand Marquis. He's always welcomed as a guest of the White Sox, and he occasionally visits the clubhouse and chats with the players. On Sunday, Duty's 100th birthday, he threw out the first ball to Buck O'Neil and enjoyed a party in a ballpark suite with more than 500 guests.

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