Were there any Prince Alberts in the Negro League locker rooms?

Week of August 10, 2006

Harry Caray

Hey Joe: You're referred to as "Prince" Joe. When I listen to baseball games on the radio, that Shannon fellow refers to Pujols as "Sir" Albert. Wouldn't "Prince Albert" be catchier? Were there any Prince Alberts in your Negro League locker room?

Pierce Weiner, St. Louis

Although I'm no Mike Shannon admirer, I think he made the right choice in calling Pujols "Sir Albert." Ever hear of this case where this guy has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit because he says people are mistaking him for Michael Jordan (I see no resemblance there)? Well, there's no resemblance between Pujols and the Prince Albert tobacco company. But a lawsuit could certainly generate publicity for the tobacco industry. Greed seems to dominate our lives today. No, there was no Prince Albert in Negro League locker rooms.

Hey Joe: Do you think a former prison chef or deli manager could, in a few months' time, raise his or her culinary game to the point where he or she could assume the reins of a five-star restaurant in Vegas?

Gordon Ramsay, Los Angeles, California

Yes, if they had enough funds for advertisement. Aunt Jemima's pancakes and Uncle Ben's rice did it, although they had no part of the advertising process. Their thing was a creation of someone else.

Hey Joe: It's hotter than a deep-fried turkey and we got no a/c. I say mass quantities of iced-down Busch Light make it easier to fall asleep. The wife disagrees — right upside my head. Any tips on staying cool?

Joe Sixpack, Pontoon Beach, Illinois

During the mid-'40s, the late Harry Caray was the radio broadcaster for St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. During the same period of time, an alcoholic beverage named Griesedieck, which he advertised, was among the area's most popular beers. Caray had a thing of saying "Holy cow!" behind every exciting play or occasion that took place during the course of a game. Unfortunately, due to some unknown reason, he and his wife parted ways. So the standing joke among people concerning their breakup was that there was too much "holy cow" and not enough Griesedieck.

In answer to your question, the fact that your wife went upside your head suggests that from now on, no matter how hot it gets, you should keep your mouth closed. Or, in slang terminology: stay cool.

Hey Joe: Where all de white women at?

Cleavon Little, Squaw Tit, New Mexico

Even Mortimer Snerd wouldn't have submitted such a question. Regarding "de white women," my answer is: "Damned if I know!!!"

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'.

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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