Friends say goodbye to a ‘Prince’ of a guy

By Betsy Taylor
Updated: January 9, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Family, friends and baseball fans mourned the death of former Negro Leagues player “Prince” Joe Henry, known for his skills at entertaining crowds while he was a player.

Henry’s funeral Thursday at the Lovejoy Civic Center in Brooklyn, Ill., was followed by burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.

He died Jan. 2 at age 78, according to the Officer Funeral Homes in East St. Louis, Ill. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he died of pneumonia.

Henry grew up in Brooklyn, Ill. He joined the Memphis Red Sox in 1950, and played in the minor leagues from 1952 to 1954. He later played for the Detroit Stars, Indianapolis Clowns and Detroit Clowns, where his baseball career ended in 1959, according to a biography.

Teams like the Indianapolis Clowns were known for on-field antics to entertain crowds.

“He was among those players, and that tradition,” said Raymond Doswell, curator of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., that preserves the history of African-American baseball.

“He wore shorts as part of his uniform, his hat bill turned around crooked and was animated at the plate,” he said.

Henry later worked for American Motors Corp., becoming one of the first African-Americans in United Auto Workers’ history to serve as a chief steward. Beginning in 2005, he wrote a column for the Riverfront Times in St. Louis called “Ask a Negro Leaguer.”

Henry is survived by his wife, daughter and extended family.

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