Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of June 15, 2006

Jun 14, 2006 at 4:00 am
Hey Joe: Do you think criminal penalties should be stiffer for transvestite prostitutes than for anatomically correct ones?

Dave Stewart, Oakland, California

Such a question brings back memories of the late black comedian "Moms" Mabley. She said once she was headed for home and had to pass a dark alley. Some fella ran out of the alley, put his arms around her waist from behind, told her it was a stick-up and said to give him all her money. She said, "Baby, Moms don't have no money. Moms don't have no money." And then he slipped his hands up from around her waist, put his hands around her breasts and started patting them as if shaking her down. He again asked Moms to give up the money, and again she told him, "Baby, Moms don't have no money. But if you keep doing that, Moms will write you a check."

I doubt if transvestites have breasts, but whether a switch hitter or not, prostitution is prostitution.

Hey Joe: Recently Major League Baseball's Web site,, had a "live chat" with a number of Negro League players. Your columns strike me as articulate and thoughtful, and I think you'd be perfect for something like that. I know you've had your disputes with MLB, but I was wondering if they've ever extended any such invitations to you.

Aaron Armstrong, St. Louis

First let me say that it is very kind of you to express the above remarks on my behalf. Other than being invited to a Chicago White Sox ballgame this month, as well as a Kansas City Royals game, I've never received an invitation for an event such as you mention.

As for the invitations I did receive, I take them as an embarrassment. At one time there were offers of $500 to appear and sign autographs. Now both teams offer nothing but a suite to watch the games after signing autographs. Travel expenses are left up to the former players. If all former Negro Leaguers felt like me, they would take the advice that Johnny Paycheck gave, which was "Take this job and shove it!" That's exactly what I told the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals: "Take your games and shove them!"

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 didn't 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 Sportsman's Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry's 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, they'd 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'.

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