Among the most accomplished pairs of brothers in Negro league history are Ted and Alex Radcliffe. Ted is by far the most famous of the two now, thanks to the “Double Duty” nickname he received from Damon Runyon as well as his post-baseball reputation as a gregarious, prolific storyteller; but Alex, an 11-time All-Star third baseman, may have been the better ballplayer.
For all that they were brothers who both played baseball for a living, though, Ted and Alex had little to do with each other professionally. They rarely played on the same team; in the Negro leagues, they played alongside each other for the American Giants a couple of times (1934 and 1943), and they appeared on the same All-Star team on a few occasions. They even spelled their names differently—Ted was “Radcliffe,” while Alex appears as “Radcliff,” at least in official documents.
The great baseball artist Graig Kreindler recently asked me about a photo of the two wearing a uniform with a lion on the jersey, with no letters or other identifying markings.
Graig was trying to figure out what team this was. He also found what is evidently a photo of the same team at the National Pastime Museum.
The Radcliffes did play in the Cuban League on the same team, once—for the 1938/39 Habana club. This team finished 29-25, a distant second to Josh Gibson’s champion Santa Clara team. Martín Dihigo was the Habana ace, with a 14-2 record. Double Duty went 5-8 as a pitcher, while Alex hit .266 as the team’s third baseman. According to James Riley, the Habana manager, Miguel Angel González, released Alex because he lacked hustle (Biographical Encyclopedia, p. 647). Perhaps, but the Radcliffes both played the full season, returning to the United States aboard the SS Evangeline on January 31, 1939, two days after the last game (accompanied by teammate Barney Brown):
Double Duty did return to Habana for the ‘39/’40 winter season, but this was Alex’s only foray into Cuban baseball.
Habana was, of course, known as “los Leones”—the Lions—and sometimes sported a lion on their uniforms (though usually on the sleeve). The front of their jerseys typically featured a stylized “H”:
In his Cuban Baseball book, Jorge Figueredo published a photo of “Cuba,” the third-place club in ‘38/’39:
Comparing the team photo Graig found, it’s clear that it is taken in almost exactly the same spot in La Tropical:
As it happens, Christie’s has the photo currently on sale, as part of a collection of Cuban team photos. On the reverse there is a list of the players in the photo; it seems mostly erased or faded, but you can clearly see “Gilberto Torres” (a first baseman and pitcher), “B. Griffith” (Bob Griffith, pitcher), and “Tom…De…” (Tomás de la Cruz, pitcher), all players for ‘38/’39 Habana. Further down I think you can see “J. Rojo” (the veteran Julio Rojo was the team’s second string catcher).
In the end, the photo of the two brothers is cool in two ways: first, as a rare photo of the two together in baseball attire (in fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen another picture of them together at all); and second, as an example of an unusual and little-known Habana uniform.
UPDATE 4/21/2018: I found a photo of Martín Dihigo in the 1938/39 Habana uniform: