'Double Duty' Radcliffe dies

'Double Duty' Radcliffe dies

CHICAGO -- Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, a Negro League legend and thought to be the oldest living professional baseball player, died Thursday at the age of 103 from complications of a long battle with cancer.

Radcliffe was a big part of Chicago history. He hitchhiked to the area from his hometown of Mobile, Ala. at the age of 17 and signed his first professional contract with the semi-pro Illinois Giants in 1920. He joined the Negro Leagues in 1928.

Given the nickname "Double Duty" by sportswriter Damon Runyan in 1932 during the Negro League World Series, Radcliffe spent much of his career splitting time as both a pitcher and catcher. That World Series was a perfect example of Radcliffe's range of skills as he played both games of a doubleheader where in game one Radcliffe caught a Satchel Paige shutout and in the second game pitched a shutout of his own.

Double Duty played for or coached 30 teams throughout his career while amassing an estimated 4,000 hits and 400 home runs, winning 500 games and collecting 4,000 strikeouts as a pitcher. Radcliffe appeared in six East-West All-Star games, pitching in three and catching in three.

During his later years, Radcliffe became a well-known fixture around U.S. Cellular Field and loved to visit with players while sharing many stories from his illustrious career.

"Double Duty shared such a love for baseball and a passion for life," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "We all loved to see him at the ballpark, listen to his stories and share in his laughter. He leaves such a great legacy after experiencing so much history and change during his long life. He will be missed by all of us with the White Sox."

A man responsible for helping start to break down color barriers in baseball, Radcliffe was the first black man to manage white players when he was a player-manager for the integrated Jamestown Red Sox in 1934. He earned the Negro League MVP award in 1941 and roomed with Jackie Robinson when they were teammates with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. In 1997, Radcliffe's career was capped off by his induction into the "Yesterday's Negro League Baseball Players Wall of Fame" in Milwaukee.

Since turning 99 in 2001, Radcliffe celebrated each of his birthdays by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field. Even struggling health didn't prevent Radcliffe from celebrating his 103rd birthday on July 6 by tossing the first pitch to Willie Harris.

Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.