Sooner or later, ANY ongoing discussion about Negro League legends comes to the one and only James “Cool Papa” Bell, one of the greatest players of all-time regardless of league:
One of the most popular players of the Negro Leagues, Bell put in over
20 years, starting out with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, for whom he
played through the 1931 season, before playing for various other teams
including the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.
An 8-time all-star, he finished with a Negro League career batting average of .316, yet he originally came up as a pitcher!
As a matter of fact the genesis of his all-too-familiar nickname came
about because of a strikeout against legend Oscar Charleston early in
But once he was switched to the outfield, it was ON!
Perhaps the fastest player to ever run the base-paths, the anecdotes and legendary stories of his speed are endless.
One of my favorites:
“Bell was so fast he could turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark.”- Satchel Paige.
Even at the age of 43, Bell was raking it, as evidenced by his .402
batting average over 95 games for the Homestead Grays in 1946! The year
before? A cool .380!
A great player, and from everything I have read from his contemporaries, a great man.