Ask a Negro Leaguer

Week of August 3, 2005

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Hey Joe: Baseball purists have long maintained that it is bad form to have sex the night before a game. What has your experience taught you about this bit of folklore?

Jackie Treehorn, Wood River

Boxing purists held the same belief about boxers not engaging in sex the night before a fight -- feeling that if they did, it would sap their strength. So strongly did they hold this opinion that fighters were alienated from the general public and carted off to some desolate location to do their training weeks before a fight.

During the early '50s, I was assistant boxing trainer to a stable of aspiring Golden Glovers in my hometown of Brooklyn, Illinois. Of the various weight classes, we had a novice heavyweight who exhibited great potential. He was a virgin, stood six-foot-five, weighed 230 pounds, had a head like a Rockefeller cantaloupe and could hit harder than lightning could bump a stump. On the night of his first fight, we had him in tip-top shape. His opponent was a rather large white kid.

Once the bell rang, the white kid bolted from his corner into the corner of our fighter (as if jet-propelled), stuck his head in the chest of our fighter and commenced throwing lefts and rights to his body until he spit out his mouthpiece and hollered for us to come get him. Our fighter hit the canvas like a fallen California Redwood. When we arrived back in Brooklyn, I had to ride him around town 'til the wee hours of the morning, because he was afraid to go home. He said if his father knew he lost the fight, he would kill him. Therefore, he wanted me to go home with him. I promised I would. Before I did, however, I concocted a big lie about the fight being taken from him. This is what I told his daddy, while standing by the door with it opened.

So my feeling about this opinion of boxing purists is that it's hogwash.

Now, on to the baseball purists: Having sex the night before a game is as common as apple pie. I've known guys who, after having sex three hours before games, hit the ball so hard that their teammates hollered out to infielders of the opposing team to have their married men play deep, so they wouldn't get hurt. My philosophy about this is the same as the Isley Brothers, the group that recorded the song about, "It's your thing; do what you wanna do. I can't tell you who to sock it to!" So, therefore, I couldn't care less if he stuck [his wang] in a deep freezer.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didnt know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsmans Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henrys most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, theyd arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to [email protected]. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

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