I recently ran across the following note in a column called “Tavern Topics” in the New York Amsterdam News (October 17, 1942):
For several of these players (Williams and Thomas in particular) their careers as bartenders/raconteurs are well-known; some of the others I (at least) hadn’t heard of before. As it happens, men over 45 had just registered for the draft a few months earlier (April 1942), so you can see their places of employment. Here are Joe Williams and Clint Thomas:
Oscar Levis was not old enough to be part of this particular draft registration phase (the only one from World War II that has been made public so far). I don’t know who John Crain is. Brooks, of course, could be Irvin Brooks, though there was also the catcher Ameal Brooks (John Beckwith’s half-brother), who lived in New York at the time. Here is Irvin’s draft card again:
I was able to find this ad in the Amsterdam News (August 9, 1941), announcing the Harlem Moon Bar and Grill’s grand opening, and giving the name of Irvin Brooks’s employer, Eugene Prince, as one of the bar’s proprietors:
But the most interesting find here (to me, anyway) is “Knux” James, a well-known infielder from the 1900s and 1910s whom I hadn’t pinned down in any records. In Riley he is listed as “W. “Nux” or “Gus” James; the nickname is also sometimes rendered as “Knucks” (it pretty obviously comes from “Knuckles,” though I haven’t yet found an origin story for it). Here’s another Tavern Topics item about the Orange Blossom Bar and Grill, again from the Amsterdam News (March 14, 1942):
And here is the draft card for one William James, employed by Edward Crolley at 570 Lenox Ave:
Here’s his World War I card:
UPDATE 4/4/2009 Back when I first wrote this I should have linked to this post on Williams’s post-baseball career by Mark Gretchen at his Smokey Joe Williams blog. It includes a photo showing the Cornell Bar at 547 Lenox Avenue in about 1940 (as well as one showing the building in 2007).