Negro Leagues Symposium offers glimpse into a different era FanFest notebook ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

July 14, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The 25 heroes from another baseball era sat in a semicircle of chairs on the stage, relating their biggest thrills.

One of them, Monte Irvin, who had the thrill of putting on a New York Giants uniform for the first time in 1949 after years in the Negro Leagues, said, "There's $100 million worth of talent here by today's market."

The oldest of the old stars at the Negro Leagues Symposium at the Upper Deck All-Star FanFest at Festival Hall yesterday was Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, who turned 91 last Wednesday. Radcliffe played for 36 years and once played four games in one day at three sites, but that wasn't why he was nicknamed Double Duty.

In 1936, when he was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he caught one end of a doubleheader and pitched the other. He caught Satchel Paige's shutout in the opener, then went outside to the bus, figuring he was through for the day.

"I was trying to line up a date for myself when the owner came out and said I had to pitch the second game," said Radcliffe. "I said, 'But I just pitched last night.' When he said he'd give me a raise, I said, 'Give me the ball.' We won, 6-0."

Double Duty it was from then on. But it was at the Negro Leagues' East-West All-Star Game in 1944 at Chicago's Comiskey Park that he had his greatest thrill.

"I hit a home run 440 feet," Double Duty said. "Then, by darn, they let my mother come down and greet me at home plate."

Buck O'Neil, 81, who was the first black coach in the majors, with the Chicago Cubs in 1962, "thought I had seen it all" when he watched the Babe Ruths and Ty Cobbs as a youth. Then he saw the black stars.

"I had never seen anyone run as fast as Cool Papa Bell," said O'Neil, now a Kansas City Royals scout. "Or hit a ball as hard and far as Josh Gibson. Or throw as hard as Satchel Paige. Or run down a fly ball like Bill Wright. Or hit like Buck Leonard.

"They played for teams like the Baltimore Elite Giants and Kansas City Monarchs. Those guys reinterpreted the way baseball could be played."

Josh Gibson Jr., although he played baseball himself, said his biggest thrill was simply being the son of the legendary slugger.

"When I was growing up, I resented it when my father was referred to as the black Babe Ruth," Gibson said. "I used to ask him, why wasn't Babe Ruth called the white Josh Gibson?"

FanFest's 100,000th fan

Judy Clarkson of Davidsonville won two All-Star Game tickets as the 100,000th person through the FanFest turnstiles yesterday. She was accompanied to the game by her daughter, Joy Azzato of Kensington.

Officials estimated FanFest's five-day attendance at 110,000, obliterating the record of 85,000 set last year in San Diego.

Autograph lines were still long yesterday afternoon. The wait to get Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller's signature was two hours. There were hundreds of people in line to buy personalized baseball photo cards.

Congressional next

Former Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich, at FanFest to sign autographs, is more than halfway toward his goal of playing the 100 best golf courses in the country.

"Fifty-six down, 44 to go," said Grich, noting he'll play Congressional Country Club this week. "It's taken me four years to get this far."

Grich still hasn't been able to wangle an invitation to play the course at Augusta, Ga., site of the Masters.

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