Showing posts with label Negro League Baseball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Negro League Baseball. Show all posts

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How Pete Nice brought Double Duty Radcliffe into the hip hop realm

Peter Nash, known to many as Pete Nice from the legendary hip hop group 3rd Bass, posted on Twitter a copy of a letter he penned to Def Jam executives for payment to Negro League legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe for his appearance on Nash’s 1994 solo album, “Dust to Dust.” The track, “Double Duty Got Di**ed,” which featured Radcliffe dropping knowledge on the segregated league over a funky drum break, put some hip hop flavor behind the ruminations of one of baseball’s greatest storytellers.

Nash, whose love for baseball and collecting memorabilia extends well before the advent of his 3rd Bass days, found it only natural to involve this chapter of baseball history in his music. Speaking with Nash recently via telephone, we discussed the origins of the Double Duty track, which was spawned from an attempt to include a song about Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell on their 3rd Bass album.

“It was almost like I had two songs,” Nash said. “I changed the song to ‘Cool Papa Got Di**ed Down.’ I had the idea I was going to do a Negro League song. I pitched it to [MC] Serch and he was interested.

“We both wanted to do this song and then we got through the second album and the concept didn’t make it; then we broke up. Ultramagnetic MCs came out with their Negro League song (The Saga of Dandy, The Devil, and Day), so I was like they already did it. Back then it was competition; you didn’t want to bite. They beat us to it. That was in 1993.”

The ensuing break up of 3rd Bass allowed Nash to revisit the idea of paying homage to the Negro Leagues on his solo album. He linked up with Richard Berg, who was the President of the Negro Leagues Players Association, an organization created to help the living Negro League alumni have proper financial dealings as the league experienced a resurgence of public interest and popularity.

“I contacted Richard Berg to get in touch with him about getting in and recording something with [Radcliffe],” he said. “Richard Berg said that it was going to be really tough because [Radcliffe] was so old and not really traveling a lot. He said, ‘Hey, I have all these interviews I did with him and other guys.’ He gave me the master tapes and I listened to it and I pulled right off there. You couldn’t get any better than that!”

Double Duty Radcliffe Signed Photo / National Pastime Museum

Nash still had to wrestle with the idea of how to differentiate his effort from that of the Ultramagnetic MCs. During that era, anything considered copying or being labeled with the tag of “biting” was the genre’s curse of death. After listening to Berg’s tapes, Nash’s vision became much clearer.

“Going into my solo album, I thought how I could do this in a totally separate manner,” he said. “That’s how I came up with the whole spoken word idea. That’s how it changed to Double Duty when I got the vocals from Richard. I was looking at a lot of different players, but his was the best. You can’t beat Double Duty.”

Nash’s preservation of the letter requesting Double Duty’s payment is an important link to the Negro Leagues and the hip hop community. Nash recalled Double Duty initially balking at the amount of money involved because of Nash’s ethnicity, but when all things were settled, both sides walked away with a smile.

“When it came down to actually paying him, the record company was willing to pay $500 or $1000 out of the budget,” he said. “They were really just licensing part of this interview that Richard did. Double Duty said something like, ‘Who’s this white boy doing this?’ He said he wanted more money because I white. He said a whole bunch of dismissive stuff. I didn’t really care; I was glad that he was getting some money. He was happy that it was useful and he liked the song too.”

The ability to access Berg’s master tapes was as close as Nash could get to having Radcliffe in the studio. In some ways, it was a blessing for Nash to be able to keep Radcliffe from the studio, as he felt the nonagenarian’s penchant for chasing women would have kept him from ever reaching the recording booth.

“It would have been cool to have him in the studio, but he would have been trying to pick up every woman that he saw on the way,” he said.

When Nash met Radcliffe in Cooperstown, New York in the early 1990s, he watched as Radcliffe tried to hit on the waitresses at the Otesaga Hotel. Sports Illustrated later noted that even when Double Duty turned 100, he was trying to charm the waitresses at his favorite lunch spot. It is this colorful way that he lived his life that made the story of Double Duty even that more vivid. Radcliffe passed away in 2005 at the age of 102, but the tales that Duty spun have further spread the legend.

“You never knew what Double Duty would end up saying if you sat him down and let him roll.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Negro Leaguer Bill Greason returns to Oklahoma City 60 years after barrier breaking debut

Bill Greason throwing out the first pitch in Oklahoma - Facebook
Rev. Bill Greason, former pitcher for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, (where he mentored a 16-year old Willie Mays) and later the St. Louis Cardinals, spoke during a tribute in his honor in Oklahoma City with about becoming the first black player for the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League in 1952.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Greason in 2008 about his historical 1952 season in Oklahoma City. He was sold directly from the Black Barons to Oklahoma City shortly after returning from his service in the Korean War. He spoke frankly about the hardships he faced and how he handled them.

"They gave you a hard time, even from the stands. A couple of places especially. When you know who you are and you have talent, you don’t worry about what people say. Sometimes it encourages you to do better and work harder. ... When people call you names, and you know who you are, you don’t worry about what they say. It gives you more determination to succeed."

The 87-year-old Greason was honored on August 30th by the Oklahoma City Redhawks, commemorating the 60th anniversary of his debut. Berry Tramel of provides an excellent video interview with Greason about his barrier breaking entry into baseball, his military service, and career in the ministry.

His appearance was heavily covered by local media outlets, spearheaded by Tramel's coverage.
Celebrating a Deserving Pioneer in OKC - Jenni Carlson
The Reverend Returns - Brendan Hoover
Oklahoma City's Jackie Robinson returns - Berry Tramel 
Bill Greason: Owner Jimmie Humphries paved the way - Berry Tramel
Reverend Bill Greason: A memorable night at the ballpark - Berry Tramel


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stanley Glenn, 84, Negro League catcher and president

Stanley "Doc" Glenn, a catcher with the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues died Saturday, April 16, 2011 due to natural causes at his home in Yeadon, Pennsylvania. He was 84.
Born Sept 19, 1926 in Wachatreague, VA, Glenn was a star at John Bartram High School in Philadelphia where he quickly drew the attention of the Stars Hall of Fame player / manager Oscar Charleston. Charleston signed him off of the sandlots in 1944 shortly after graduating from high school. Within a week of graduating, he was making $175 per month playing in the Negro Leagues.
Stanley Glenn (r.) at 2007 Judy Johnson Night / N. Diunte
Glenn played with the Stars through 1950, facing the likes of countless Hall of Famers in the Negro Leagues including: Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, Ray Dandridge, Roy Campanella, Hilton Smith, and Willard Brown. He expertly detailed his recollections of not only his career, but of all of the greats he encountered in the Negro Leagues team-by-team in his 2006 autobiography entitled, "Don't Let Anyone Take Your Joy Away: An Inside Look at Negro League Baseball and Its Legacy."
His career, like many ballplayers at the time, was interrupted by World War II. He served as a technician in the Army Medical Corps during from September 1945 through November 1946, taking time off to play with the Stars when the opportunity presented itself. Upon his return from military service, he earned the nickname "Doc" for his physical therapy work performed during the war.
Glenn as a member of the Philly Stars
After Jackie Robinson's signing with the Brooklyn Dodger organization, many teams saw their top talent raided by major league organizations looking for the next baseball superstar. During the 1950 season, the hands of the Boston Braves scout Honey Russell reached down and signed Glenn to their Class-A affiliate in Hartford. As a catcher in the Braves organization, he faced stiff competition from the likes of Walker Cooper and Del Crandall. Nonetheless, Glenn played four seasons with Braves minor league outfits in Quebec, Lincoln, as well as Hartford before moving on to a career in the electrical supply business.
Glenn's Hartford teammate Gene Conley, who would go on to win championships in both MLB (Milwaukee Braves) and the NBA (Boston Celtics), was in his first year in pro ball when he pitched a game with Glenn as his catcher. Conley's performance that night was reminiscent of another lanky Negro League hurler.
"Stanley was my catcher the first season I played in A-ball," Conley recalled in a 2008 interview. "I liked him. I pitched a lot to him. I won my 20th game against Wilkes Barre. He was behind the plate when they gave me a night in Hartford. It was Gene Conley night. I pitched a shutout and beat Wilkes Barre 2-0 that night. After the last out, Stanley comes running out to the mound. Remember Podres jumping into Campanella's arms? He jumped up on me and said, 'I love you like a brother. You reminded me of Satch tonight!' He used to catch ol' Satch. I'll never forget that. It was a warm feeling. It was a good thing that he did; it made me feel good. The whole thing was nice. It was my 20th win, they gave me a night, and Stanley came out there and grabbed me. I tell people my first catcher told me I reminded him of Satchel Paige!"
Later in life with the resurgence of interest in the Negro Leagues, Glenn took the position as the president of the Negro League Baseball Players Association. He advocated for the rights of many of the former players and helped to create opportunities for them to share in the profits that many companies were making off of the renewed interest in the former league. He was a fixture at many events in the Philadelphia area, generously appearing to spread the word about the league and its history. 
Stanley Glenn Negro League Art Card / Author's Collection
Glenn was ceremoniously given his first baseball card by the Topps Company in 2007, when he was included in their Allen and Ginter set. His inclusion in the set opened up his career to a new generation of fans and collectors alike. He received a tremendous amount of fan mail after the printing of the card with requests for his signature and information on his career.
Mr. Glenn often appeared at the Delaware Blue Rocks annual Judy Johnson Tribute Night, where he graciously signed autographs and spoke about the history of Negro League baseball for many hours throughout the ballgame, often giving fans his home phone number to contact him with their questions. He was honored by the club in 2008 with special artwork bearing his image that was given to fans entering the stadium that evening. His passing dims another beacon that was able to illuminate the rich history of the Negro Leagues.
2010 Judy Johnson Tribute Night

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Butch McCord leaves behind a baseball legacy of a lifetime

Baseball lost another great ambassador last week with the passing of Clinton “Butch” McCord. His baseball career spanned from 1948-1961, starting in the Negro Leagues with the Baltimore Elite Giants. reaching as high as Triple-A for four seasons. Let Butch McCord narrate the story of his baseball career, however, he’d reply with a more modest answer.

“I call myself a backup singer,” McCord stated in a 2009 interview. “You know what that is? [You] sing good, but nobody watches you. That's the way I was in baseball. When I was playing, there were only eight teams in each league. It was hard to even get a break.”

For McCord, he almost didn’t even have a chance to play the game that he loved so much. In addition to growing up in the segregated south prior to Jackie Robinson’s signing, neither his high school nor his college, Tennessee State University had a baseball team. It was only through the intervention of one of his football coaches that McCord moved to baseball.

“I was a football player at TSU. I learned baseball from playing in the sandlots. We won the Negro National Championship in 1946. In 1947, Jackie signed and one of our football coaches said, ‘If I were you, I wouldn't play anymore football.’ So I signed with Tom Wilson, who had one of the few black owned ballparks here in Nashville, Wilson Park,” McCord revealed.

Butch McCord - Louisville 1957
Wilson’s untimely death in 1947 put a damper on McCord’s plans to join the Elite Giants. “He asked me to play in 1947, but he died in 1947. His secretary that took over told me to stay and play with the Nashville Cubs. I stayed and played first base for them.”

True to their word, the Elite Giants signed McCord for the 1948 season, but there was a twist. He was going to be playing the outfield, a position he had never played before. McCord described his entry to the legendary ball club. “When I played for Baltimore, they had a first baseman by Johnny Washington, so Henry Kimbro “learned” me how to play the outfield. With them, I played right field.”

In Baltimore, he found himself surrounded by a bevy of talented players, better than any assembly he would play with, including at the Triple-A level in the Dodger organization. “We had such a good team in Baltimore. We had Joe Black, Leon Day, Pee Wee Butts, Henry Kimbro, Junior Gilliam, and Lennie Pearson with us. That was the best team of all the teams I played for,” explained McCord. He probably was right. Day went on to the Hall of Fame, Black and Gilliam were both Rookie of the Year award winners for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Butts, Kimbro and Pearson were repeat All-Stars in the Negro Leagues.

Like many others who entered the Negro Leagues, McCord experienced baptism by fire during his debut. "My first game in 1948 with Baltimore was against the Homestead Grays. Buck Leonard was at first base, Sam Bankhead was at shortstop, Luke Easter was in the outfield and Luis Marquez was in center field," McCord recalled. "I hit a ball to the left side, a slow ball down the left side. I was a left handed hitter, so I thought, 'I got this one made.' I thought I could run. He [Bankhead] threw me out by about two steps! I said to myself, 'Welcome to the Negro Leagues!'"

If facing the legendary talents of the Negro Leagues wasn't difficult enough, McCord and his teammates endured the Jim Crow laws to persist in playing baseball. McCord told a story when his white teammates with the Chicago American Giants weren't allowed to take the field. "When I was with the Chicago American Giants, we integrated in reverse. One of the white players was Louis Chirban, he was my roommate," remarked McCord. "We go to Birmingham; Willie Mays was still playing with them. Before we got off the bus, the police chief said, 'I hear you have some white players on the team. If you put them in uniform, I will close the concessions and close the ballpark; they'll be no game here tonight.' The white players asked, 'Well can we sit on the bench?' The chief said, 'You have to sit in the stands with the white folks.'" That was the way of life in South. We dodged it a lot of times."

In 1951, McCord signed with the Paris Lakers of the Class-D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. He feasted on the pitching in the league, batting .363 in 1951 and an astounding .392 in 1952. So beloved was McCord in Paris, that he was honored with a "Clinton McCord Night" that featured Harry Caray who was a young broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals at the time.

His fine play saw him promoted to Denver of the Class-A Western League, where he played stellar defense at first base and batted .358 in 1954. One of his teammates in Denver would go on to make the Hall of Fame as a manager, Earl Weaver, who McCord described as a "pepper-pot" and one of the main contributors to their pennant winning season. It was McCord's steady play that would send him off to Triple-A the following season, one step away from the "big show."

McCord would spend the next three seasons (1955-57) at the Triple-A level playing for Richmond, Columbus and Louisville. He posted batting averages above .258 all three seasons and earned a reputation for being one of the top glove men in all of minor league baseball. It was during this time that McCord would reconnect with one of the biggest stars of the Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige.

"The biggest crowd in the minors was the game we played in Miami. There were 55,000 people. It was a benefit game. I got two hits off of him. I got a triple off of him when I was 16. The ones in Miami didn't count; he was an older man then. His main thing was his control by that time."

By 1958, McCord was already 33 years old and fading away from prospect status. That didn't prevent McCord from holding on to his passion. He signed with the Class-A Macon Dodgers, who at the time was managed by Danny Ozark. Ozark would go on to manage many years in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies. When asked about McCord in a 2008 interview I conducted, the late Ozark responded, "I had Butch McCord in Macon. He was a super guy. Good contact hitter, didn't strike out much. He hit over .300. He became the most popular player on the team and the MVP."

McCord would spend a few more seasons in the Dodgers organization, bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A until retiring after the 1961 season with Victoria of the Texas League. He earned two Silver Glove awards for his wizardry around the first base bag. Even until they had to take the uniform off of his back, McCord still thought he had a chance to break through. “I always thought I’d do my best and somebody would give me a chance. Even when I decided to retire, I always thought I was going somewhere.”

McCord returned to Nashville and worked for the United States Postal Service until his retirement in 1988. He remained a fixture in Nashville area baseball, working tirelessly with the Nashville R.B.I. program to promote baseball to the youth in the urban area. He had the baseball field at Tennessee State University named after him following his efforts to revive the program.

McCord wanted to leave me with some advice regarding his longevity. The following words serve as an example of his humor and spirit. "I've been married 58 years to the same woman. I always ask the youngsters, 'Do you know how to be 83 like me? Do you have an idea how you can get there?' Here's the punchline. 'Just don't die.' Going to church, not drinking and all of that is fine, but you can have an accident and die. If you don't die, you might make it!" Don't worry Butch, you made it and in a way much louder than any backup singer could.

More Information -

Clinton "Butch" McCord - The Marsh Collection

McCord recalls his time with the Paris Lakers - Tribune Star

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Negro Leaguers to discuss the first Negro League game at Yankees Stadium on July 25 in NYC

A panel of former Negro League players and historians will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first Negro League baseball game at Yankee Stadium this Monday at the Museum of the City of New York on July 25th. For more details on the event, click here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Negro Leaguer James "Red" Moore Honored with Hartland Statue

Former Negro League first baseman with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Newark Eagles and Atlanta Black Crackers, James "Red" Moore has been honored with a famed Hartland statue. The statue which is pictured above, comes autographed and is limited to 100 copies. Moore is 93 years old and one of the Negro Leagues living treasures, frequently making appearances in the Atlanta area to spread the history of Negro League Baseball. To get more information on the Hartland Statue, click here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review - Black Barons of Birmingham: The South's Greatest Negro League Team and Its Players - Larry Powell

"Black Barons of Birmingham: The South's Greatest Negro League Team and Its Players "
Larry Powell
McFarland Publishing, 2009
220 pages

Hall of Fame icons Willie Mays and Satchel Paige resonate deeply with baseball fans, as both were prime examples of perfection at their respective positions. They both share a common bond, as they played for one of the Negro Leagues most storied franchises, the Birmingham Black Barons. University of Alabama professor Larry Powell provides not only a history of this Southern staple of Negro League Baseball, but first hand narratives from the players who lived to tell it.

Staring in 1920, Birmingham was home for such Negro League greats as Mule Suttles, Willie Wells, Bill Foster, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, Piper Davis, Artie Wilson, Charley Pride and Dan Bankhead who was the first African-American pitcher in Major League baseball. The team was a fixture in an area that had very few options for African American athletes and fans. They provided hope and entertainment for many during the Depression and Jim-Crow segregation.

Birmingham's consistent presence in black baseball allows Powell to take the reader on the roller coaster ride that was Negro League Baseball, as the league peaked and then tried to hold on as key players were scooped up by Major League Baseball. He separates the book into pre and post-era integration, as the Black Barons were one of the few Negro League teams that played from the inception of the Negro National League in 1920 and survived until the Negro Leagues complete demise in 1960. This gives Powell the opportunity to isolate the perspective on how the league changed once the door opened to Major League Baseball.

The book is dominated by the interviews of the living Black Barons, most who played after 1950 when the league was considered less than Major League caliber. Such is the function of writing a narrative on the Negro Leagues in 2009, as there are only a few surviving players from the 1930's and 1940's. Many of the teams had disbanded and Major League Baseball was raiding the top talent of the league. While the competition may not have been as strong in the heyday of players like Davis, Paige and Suttles, their stories share the same hopes of making it big, the conflicts of playing for little pay versus working in local steel mills, and persevering in spite of the strong arm of the Jim Crow laws in the segregated South.

You will be intrigued by the tales of the play of these great men, and moved by their experiences of fighting against segregation to play baseball. You will discover names of the greats that you never saw play, and by the end of the book you will wish you had been there to see them. These are the stories of the Birmingham Black Barons, and they are the ones that our future generations need to hear.