A few weeks earlier Radcliffe was watching the White Sox play the Texas Rangers, sitting in a wheelchair in the handicapped section, even though he can get around reasonably well with his walker. Duty arrived in the third inning of a sloppily played game. His patience for such baseball is limited. Within 10 minutes of his arrival, he picked up on the single most interesting thing there was to see in the ballpark that night. On the out-of-town scoreboard, in abbreviations and yellow lights, was the score: TB 9, NYY 3. The New York Yankees were getting shellacked by the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays through five innings. Radcliffe raised his trembling, spotted, 99-year-old right hand, his fingers crooked from years of catching, pointed his lit cigar at the letters 400 feet away and said, "Ain't that something?"
Radcliffe lives in a clean, modern, government-subsidized high-rise off Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, in a 15th-floor two-bedroom apartment with the unmistakable aroma of El Productos. He lives alone, but there are people, most particularly a loyal nurse and friend, Claire Hellstern, and a devoted niece, Debra Richards, who look in on him regularly. (Radcliffe says he had three children with Alberta and that "they have all passed.") He has been living for years on Social Security payments, card-show earnings and a $10,000-a-year baseball pension for former Negro leaguers. He has, he says, numerous girlfriends in his building, which is populated by senior citizens. He goes out for lunch most every day, often to Gladys'. He was there the other day, eating chicken with collard greens and black-eyed peas and drinking a Pepsi. From the start of the meal he had his eye on his waitress.
"What's your name?" he said when she delivered the check.
"Alicia," the waitress said.
"You're a fine-looking girl." She smiled, revealing two rows of perfect bright-white teeth. "Don't you know me?"
"I remember you from last time," the waitress said. "You said the same thing to me last time."
"I'm the oldest living ballplayer."
"I know," the waitress said.
"They told you?"
"You told me, last time you were here."