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Renaissance Man

Few players--in any league--were as well-rounded as Double Duty Radcliffe

A FEW YEARS AGO, when he was a lad of 99, I had the privilege of taking the epic Negro leagues ballplayer and ladies' man, Theodore Roosevelt (Double Duty) Radcliffe, out for dinner (SI, July 15, 2002). He lived in Chicago, and he had a great appetite. We went to Harry Caray's, and Marv Levy, the retired football coach, came by to shake the hand of Radcliffe, whose fingers were all twisted and gnarled from decades of catching. When I wheeled Radcliffe into the men's room, the attendant rose from his stool and said, "Mr. Duty!" In this country, if you've done something in baseball, it follows you around for the rest of your life.

Mr. Duty, who died last week at age 103, grew up in Mobile with Satchel Paige; was given his nickname by Damon Runyon after working both ends of the battery in a doubleheader; and once threw out the racist Ty Cobb in an exhibition game while wearing a chest protector that read THOU SHALL NOT STEAL. Complete records don't exist for his 34-year career, which began in 1920, but he is credited with 128 wins in a quarter of his estimated appearances, and he hit .303. Yet he is not in the Hall of Fame. One of the game's great injustices would be made right if Mr. Duty met up with Paige and Cobb again, in Cooperstown. --Michael Bamberger




Radcliffe (inset, in 2002; with ball in 1944) had the hands of a catcher but pitched too.



 [See caption above.]