August 22, 2004

reprinted with permission

Negro League tribute features former player

Staff reporter / The News Journal /

WILMINGTON -- Ted Radcliffe, a 102-year-old former Negro League player, stood up from his wheelchair and, from about 15 feet away, tossed the ball home in the ceremonial first pitch Saturday night at Frawley Stadium.

Radcliffe was the chief honoree for the ninth annual "Judy Johnson Night: A Tribute To Negro League Baseball," during the Blue Rocks' home game against Lynchburg. He is believed to be the last living teammate of Johnson, for whom the Blue Rocks field is named. Johnson died in 1989.

Radcliffe fondly remembered Johnson. The two were teammates on the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932.

"He was a great man. You could depend on him. He was a good friend of mine," Radcliffe said. "Judy Johnson, he was the greatest player who ever lived."

Radcliffe did some great things, too. His most famous feat came when he was the catcher in a shutout thrown by Satchel Paige in the first game of a doubleheader, then pitched his own shutout in the second game. That earned him the nickname "Double Duty."

Radcliffe had another duty Saturday besides throwing out the first pitch. He also helped unveil the replica plaque Johnson received after being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. The plaque, donated by Johnson's daughter, is a small copy of the one hanging in the baseball Hall. It will be added to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame at Frawley Stadium.

"We wanted to wait for a special event to unveil this. It was probably one of Judy's most prized possessions," said Joe Mitchell, president and founder of the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation, which sponsors the annual event.

Two years ago, Wilmington resident and former Negro League player "Toots" Ferrell was honored. He has since died.

"It brings us together, even if it's just once a year, and I'm just thankful they don't forget me," said his widow, Marjorie Ash-Ferrell.