James “Cool Papa” Bell
James “Cool Papa” Bell was one of baseball’s greatest and noted as the fastest man to ever play the game.
Bell was born in Starkville, Mississippi on May 17, 1903. He began playing professional ball at the age of 19. As a rookie he was so confident and relaxed in front of large crowds he earned the nickname “Cool Papa Bell”.
Because of the lack of schools in his hometown Bell moved to St. Louis with his brother to complete school. James “Cool Papa” Bell was discovered and signed to the St. Louis Stars for $90 a month. The St. Louis Start went on to win championships in 1928, 1930 and 1931. Bell went on to play for the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 – 1936 and the Homestead Grays from 1943 – 1945. Cite
James “Cool Papa” Bell played over 20 years in professional sports. He was part of various leagues within the United States and Latin America. According to information obtained from blackpast.org Bell held well over a .300 career batting average and he batted over .400 in his first and last seasons in the American Negro Leagues. In one span of 200 games, Bell stole 175 bases.
Living through discrimination and being unable to play in the major leagues James Bell is still hailed as one the greatest. In 1974 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The NY Times reported that when he heard of the induction, he stated that it was his biggest honor, but not his biggest thrill. According to Bell his biggest thrill was when they opened the door in the Majors to black players.