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James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell

  • Birth 17 May 1903 Starkville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, USA
  • Death 7 Mar 1991 Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
  • Burial Normandy, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
  • Memorial ID 1804

Hall of Fame Baseball Player. Nicknamed "Cool Papa" for his composure and grace under pressure, he played and coached professional baseball for 29 years. Of his early life, little is known, however, he began playing baseball for the St. Louis Stars, in the Negro League in 1922 as a left-handed pitcher. But he found his talent worked wonders in center field, and was quickly moved to that position. As a center fielder, he was known for his blazing speed, once being timed at running from home plate through all the bases and back to home plate in an astonishing 13.3 seconds (he claimed he could do it in 12 seconds under good conditions). Josh Gibson, a baseball star himself, once said of him, "Bell was so fast that he could get out of bed, turn out the lights across the room, and be back under the covers before the lights went out." His quick speed made him a stolen base artist, stealing 175 bases in one season. After leading the Stars to league titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931, he moved to the Detroit Wolves in the East-West League, when the Negro League disbanded. The Detroit Wolves soon folded, and he quickly moved on to the Kansas City Monarchs and the Mexican Winter Games. In Mexico, the source of the only reliable records, he batted an astonishing .437 (it is estimated that his lifetime average was .341). In 1942, he returned to the US to play for the Homestead Grays, leading them to win the League title in 1942, 1943, and 1944. In 1946, he played for the Detroit Senators, and later, he would manage the Kansas City Stars. In 1974, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bell died at his home on Dickson Street in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1991. In his honor, the city renamed the street as "James 'Cool Papa' Bell Avenue."

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1804
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell (17 May 1903–7 Mar 1991), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1804, citing Saint Peter's Cemetery, Normandy, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .