Nickname: Alex, Alec
Positions: 3b, ss, of, p
Teams: Chicago Giants (1927), Cole's American Giants (1932-1935), New York Cubans (1936), Chicago American Giants (1936-1939, 1941-1944, 1949), Palmer House All Stars (1940), Birmingham Black Barons (1942), Cincinnati Indianapolis Clowns (1944-1945), Memphis Red Sox (1946), Detroit Senators (1947)
Height: 6' 0'' Weight: 205
Born: July 26, 1905, Mobile, Alabama
Died: July 18, 1983, Chicago, Illinois
The hard-hitting third baseman of the Chicago American Giants for most of his fifteen-year career, Radcliffe was virtually a perennial All Star, making eleven All Star appearances during his career. He played in every All Star game from its inception in 1933 through 1946, except for the 1940-1942 seasons, registering a .341 average in All Star competition. He is the lifetime All Star leader in at bats and hits, and is second to Buck Leonard in games played, runs batted in, and runs scored.
A good clutch hitter, this right handed slugger used a 40 ounce bat and had power to all fields. Noted as being a good curveball hitter with the ability to execute the hit and run, Radcliffe earned his acclaim with his bat, but he did everything well. He was an adequate fielder with a strong arm, and although not fast, he was a little better than average as a base runner for his size. He was a "Sunday player" and at his best in front of a big crowd, but he was not known for his hustle and was considered a bit lazy, a quality that prompted his manager in Cuba, Mike Gonzales, to discontinue his team's association with Radcliffe despite a solid batting performance.
He began playing baseball as a youngster in Mobile, Alabama, but moved in 1917 to Chicago, where he served a stint as the batboy for the Chicago American Giants. After honing his baseball craft on the sandlots of the city, he began his professional career in 1927 with the Chicago Giants, a team of lesser status than the league teams. He joined Robert A. Cole's American Giants in 1932, when they were playing in the Negro Southern League, and contributed a .283 average to their successful pennant race while holding down third base and hitting in the second slot in the batting order. At the end of the season he played in the California winter league, where he compiled a .381 batting average.
In 1933 the new Negro National League was formed, and the American Giants captured the league's first pennant, making two consecutive championships in Radcliffe's first two seasons with a top ballclub. Hitting fifth in the order, he enjoyed a superlative season, batting .431 and delivering key hits in the clutch. In 1934, with Radcliffe hitting .309, the American Giants almost made it three straight pennants. But after winning the league's first half title, they lost a seven game championship playoff to the Philadelphia Stars, winners of the second half.
In 1935 Radcliffe hit for an average of .354 as the American Giants played their last season in the Negro National League. In 1936 the ballclub played as an independent team, and Radcliffe signed with the New York Cubans, but returned to the American Giants in midseason, batting a combined .352 for the year.
In 1937 the Negro American League was formed, and the American Giants joined the new league in its inaugural season, playing their way into the playoffs but losing to the Kansas City Monarchs. Radcliffe hit third in the batting order for both the 1937 and 1938 seasons and moved into the second slot in 1939, with incomplete statistics showing averages of .231, .219, and .292. After a winter in Havana, where he batted .266 in the Cuban league, he returned to United States but left the American Giants to join the Palmer House All Stars, a Chicago based independent club, as the player manager. In addition to holding down the job at the hot corner, he took an occasional turn on the mound, and was credited with topping all batters with a .404 average for 1940.
In the next two seasons he was a bit unsettled but rejoined the Chicago American Giants in 1941 and, while hitting in the cleanup spot much of the 1942 season, he is credited with an average of .211 for the year. In 1943 he was back to his usual batting level, hitting .354 in his last full season as a regular with the American Giants.
He joined the Cincinnati Indianapolis Clowns in 1944, and played with them for two years near the end of his career. Each season, he led the Negro American League in home runs, with accompanying batting averages of .281 and .325. A 1945 press release credited him with never hitting under .320 in fourteen years, but in view of available statistics, this apparently included non-league games or was simply media hype. In 1946 he played with the Memphis Red Sox, hitting .272 and, after playing with lesser teams, he closed out his career.
Even considering all his accomplishments, Alex had to play in the shadow of his older and more colorful brother, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, for most of his career, thus detracting from the full recognition that was his due as the best third baseman in the history of the Negro American League. In the 1944 All Star game, with his mother in the stands, he slammed a two-run triple, but "Double Duty" hit a two-run homer to overshadow his performance. After retiring from baseball he worked as a bouncer in his brother's bar in Chicago.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.