News » Ask a Negro Leaguer

Do I have to give somebody a present just because they gave me one?

Week of December 28, 2006

Hey Joe: What do I do when someone gives me a present and I didn't get anything for them? It happened this year and it's so awkward.
Bill Gates, Seattle, Washington

Send them a nice thank you card in return. Then, the first opportunity you get to return the favor, respond. It's not that awkward. It's nice to be thought of. Then, too, you're not a mind-reader. Each kind deed deserves another. Everybody loves kind treatment.

Hey Joe: Every year, I print out a two-page letter to put within each Christmas card. The letter updates everyone on each member of my family: the kids, the dog, me and my husband. I've heard people calling them "brag letters" behind my back but I think they are time savers. Plus, you don't have to spend time to make the cards all, you know, personal. Do you think it's bragging or a good idea?

Kelly Ripa, New York

I don't know whether it's a good idea or not, but one thing I do know is if people that you send them to call them "brag letters," don't follow up the next time. Those who indicate it's a good idea, stick with it.

Hey Joe: What do you want for Christmas?
Santa Claus, North Pole

If I had the power to wave a magic wand and turn all the sadness into beauty, this would be my greatest want.

Hey Joe: You know when you go into a coffee shop and they've got those tip cups up there by the register? Don't you think it's kind of rude that they imply that you should tip something? I mean, making coffee and handing it over the counter is their job for Chrissakes! You don't tip doctors for removing your appendix, so why should these people get tipped on top of their hourly wage?
Stingy McCheapy, St. Louis

I've never experienced such service and if so, I never paid it any attention. All my tips have been given to the person that served me or left for them on the table, before being checked out at the counter. Though I have patronized businesses that placed some sort of container near the register for the purpose of charitable donations, this was made clear before hand. Anyway I'm not an avid coffee drinker, therefore, I can take it or leave it. Most times, I'm leaving it.

Apparently, the type of place you speak of doesn't make thing too clear regarding the cup near the register, because you say they imply that you should tip something. Since I'm not familiar with the shop's policy, it would be hard for me to make a snap decision, but it's your prerogative to speak your mind and you did. The only suggestion that I have to offer is if you can't stand the atmosphere, change climates.

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 If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.