Cecil Cole

This article was written by Rich Bogovich

After his playing days, Cecil Cole watched a lot of baseball games in his hometown of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, with local sportswriter Jim Kriek. “A brief chat with him could make the day brighter,” Kriek recalled. “We had a lot of good conversations and laughs, not only about baseball, but everything in general.” Kriek was well aware that Cole’s pitching career peaked with the Negro National League’s Newark Eagles the year before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Kriek once asked Cole whether he ever pondered the possibility of having become a major leaguer himself if he’d been a few years younger.1

The question made Cole smile. “Yeah, on occasion I wonder what I might have done if I had had the chance, but you can’t dwell on things like that,” he replied. “I had my chance to play professionally with the Eagles and I had a good time doing it.”2

Cecil Edward Cole was born in Connellsville on September 23, 1919, to Virginia and Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Cole. His brother, Elmer, had been born about a year earlier. The 1920 and 1930 censuses show that the four of them lived with A.J.’s parents, Reuben and Minnie, on Connellsville’s west edge among Italian immigrants and their families. Connellsville, which is about 45 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, had a population hovering around 13,500 during the 1920s.3 Minnie Cole ran a laundry business out of their home. Reuben had lost his right arm in a mining accident around the turn of the century but was a dairyman on the side.4

A.J. Cole had made a name for himself by mid-1914 while attending Dunbar Township High School. In March he appeared with four white students in a photo on the front page of nearby Uniontown’s Morning Herald. They were members of the Fricksonian Society, a competitive speech team.5 His oration, a tribute to mothers, was so highly regarded that it was reprinted in Connellsville’s Daily Courier 35 years later.6 Soon enough, he was mentioned in the context of a committee of Union Baptist Church, and then served a few months in the military in 1918, at the end of World War I.7

Between the 1919 and 1921 city directories the family’s address changed from 206 North Twelfth Street to 201, where Cecil Cole lived at least until his marriage in 1946.8 As a result, he had easy access to Connellsville’s Twelfth Street Field for baseball games and the like. A game of “mushball” (16-inch softball) at that field in mid-1932, when Cecil was 12, was reported in the Daily Courier, and that may have been the first time the Cole brothers were mentioned in any newspaper. Cecil and Elmer’s H.D. Club defeated a “junior” team of the Betters Athletic Club, 7-6.9 The Cole brothers’ team may have been attached to a local Home Demonstration Club, an equivalent to the 4-H Clubs that still exist today.10 In any case, less than a month later the brothers were again on the winning side of a mushball game, except with the U.B. Juniors. That may have been a Union Baptist team. In both instances the newspaper helped drum up additional contests for the Cole brothers. “Teams desiring games with the Juniors are requested to call No. 986 on the telephone and ask for Cecil or Elmer Cole,” the latter account concluded.11

Based on first initials, it appears that in 1933 Cecil Cole pitched for the Liberty Heights Juniors (caught by a kid from his same block, Mickey Delligatti), while in 1934 both Cecil and Elmer were on the DePaul All Stars. In November of that year a C. Cole and E. Cole were also in the lineup of the Liberty Heights Juniors’ football team.12

Connellsville High School didn’t have a baseball team while Cecil Cole attended, so as an athlete he was known there primarily as a javelin thrower.13 In May of 1936 he was among the 52 students who represented his school at a county track and field competition.14 About a year later, in a summary of a dual meet against Georges Township High School, Cole was listed among the top three finishers in the pole vault and high jump as well as the javelin.15 Three weeks later he repeated that performance against Scottdale.16 On June 5, 1937, Cole graduated from Connellsville High.17

The very next month he burst onto the local baseball scene. In a seven-inning Works Progress Administration-YMCA Junior Baseball League game on July 7, 20 of the 21 outs he recorded on the mound were by strikeout and he yielded only one hit. From the box score it appears that the remaining putout was a baserunner thrown out by Cole’s catcher. Cole’s Bowmans upset the “highly touted Cubs,” 14-2. “He completely baffled the hard hitting Cubs with his curves and blinding speed,” wrote the Daily Courier after calling Cole the “new pitching sensation in the Junior League” and crediting him with “one of the most dazzling performances of twirling yet seen at Fayette Field.” The paper characterized attendance as very high.18 Less than two weeks later, in another seven-inning game but against a different team, he struck out 17 opponents and gave up only two hits. Then, on August 9, he again dominated the Cubs. In a six-inning nightcap he struck out 14 and again limited them to one hit in a shutout.19

In 1938 Cole wore two different baseball caps. During the first half of May he was twice listed by his local newspaper on the roster of the Connellsville Tigers. It was only after a game later in May that the Courier mentioned the fact that the Tigers were a “Negro” nine. Cole played shortstop in that game against a Merchants team. In mid-June Cole was the winning pitcher against the Scottdale Grays at that foe’s ballpark. He also pitched the Tigers to victory in Normalville during July.20

Cole’s other team that summer was the American Legion’s squad in the WPA-YMCA Junior Baseball League. On June 28 he reminded fans of his success a year earlier by striking out 11 Dunbar batters on his way to a four-hit shutout that the Courier called “masterful.” He followed that up on July 5 with a one-hit shutout in which he struck out 16.21

On July 19 Cole continued to astound, with a 5-0 no-hitter against a team called the Pirates in which he fanned 17. One walk kept him from a perfect game. He began August with a 2-0 two-hitter in which he whiffed 12 foes. In a game on August 24 he suffered an ankle sprain that forced him to leave the mound in the fourth inning of his start the next day, and that signaled the end of his staggering accomplishments for the season.22

Oddly, Cole was hardly mentioned by first name during the 1939 season. His time on area diamonds was seemingly limited to the local Church Softball League, hurling for a new team organized by the Payne African Methodist Episcopal Church.23 Cole was their pitcher in the box score printed by the Daily Courier on June 2; most of his teammates’ surnames match the rosters of the Connellsville Tigers a year earlier.24

Reuben Cole was in poor health throughout the first half of 1939, but he and Minnie celebrated 50 years of marriage in May. He died in July at the age of 77. The family was so overwhelmed by the resulting sympathy, kindness, and floral tributes that it placed a classified ad to express its gratitude. Minnie died in February of 1943, at the age of 67 or 68, days after suffering a stroke. 25

In 1940 Cecil was working 44 hours a week as a janitor for a retail grocery, according to the federal census. His military draft card that year specified his height as 5-feet-10 and his weight as 161 pounds. He apparently pitched for two teams that summer, as he had two years earlier. “C. Cole” pitched for Payne A.M.E. again,26 but by the end of June he also debuted with the West Side team of the City Recreation Center-YMCA Schoolboy Baseball League. In his first outing he immediately re-established his credentials as a pitching star by not yielding a hit in a 1-1 tie. He struck out 12 opponents in the seven-inning contest, and their only run resulted from an error.27

On August 20 Cole his match against his league’s Davidson team, when both pitchers tossed a two-hitter and struck out 19. Cole’s team was shut out and Davidson scored three times with the aid of three errors, four walks, and a hit batsman. Nevertheless, Cole impressed enough that season to be one of only two pitchers to hurl for “Team One” in both league all-star games on consecutive days in late August.28

In November Cole was named in a Daily Courier article about local men who were potentially facing military service, and in February of 1941 the paper identified him among 13 new volunteers. Word of this reached a newspaper in New York, where it was noted that the Newark Eagles had been working to recruit “the promising rookie hurler.”29 According to Cole’s Application for World War II Compensation, filed in 1950, he began domestic service on February 24, 1941.

On August 2, 1941, the Daily Courier printed a letter that Cole wrote from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to Fred Snell, assistant county supervisor of the WPA recreation program. Cole was assigned to the 368th Infantry. The newspaper prefaced the letter by noting that for the previous three summers Cole “was the leading pitcher in the Recreation Center-Y.M.C.A. Baseball League which is a city playground loop for boys of high school age. At the time Cole was inducted into the service he was under contract to play for the colored Elks [sic] of Newark, N.J.” Cole began with an upbeat tone, and then described his duties. “I’m attached to Headquarters Company, and my work consists of map reading and radio coding,” Cole wrote. “We go to school for radio coding. I am a radio operator.”

After remarking about the beauty of the Arizona landscape, he reported on baseball: “I am now playing on the Regular 368th baseball team and we are undefeated in the six games played,” he wrote, and listed the opponents, noting that he limited the Tucson Air Corps team to two hits. “Since I’ve been on the team here in camp, I have really learned a few things in baseball that will help me,” Cole added. “I have developed a little more speed and control and my batting is a great deal improved.” In closing, he asked Snell to say hello for him to colleagues Walter Miskinis and Joe Mullen.30

In October a profile of the 368th team was published in a few papers around the country, and Cole was one of three pitchers named. The article also noted his contract with the Eagles. The starter at first base was Sergeant Thomas Turner, formerly of the Dayton (Ohio) Monarchs, who played for the Chicago American Giants in 1947.31 That same month, the Arizona Republic reported on a loss by the 368th team in which “Coles” was one of their two pitchers.32

Later in October a Daily Courier columnist summarized another letter from Cole to Snell. Enclosed with the letter was a clipping from a Tucson paper that sang Cole’s praises. “The club won 20 out of 24 games,” wrote John H. Whoric. “Cole pitched 11 and won nine.” One of those victories was a one-hitter. “The local lad hopes he’ll still be in Arizona around the first of the year when he’d like to attend the Rose Bowl in Pasadena next January 1,” Whoric concluded.33

A photo of Staff Sgt. Cecil E. Cole holding a rifle was printed in a “souvenir edition” of the Daily Courier on July 17, 1942, and one month later the paper confirmed his promotion in a story about him. In November the paper reported that both Cecil and brother Elmer, a corporal stationed at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, were back in Connellsville on furlough.34 On February 19, 1944, Cecil Cole was shipped to the Pacific Theater, according to the Application for World War II Compensation.

At some point Cole was assigned to the 318th Engineer Combat Battalion and spent considerable time in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Morotai Island (off the Dutch East Indies).35 In a letter to Cole, Brigadier General Leonard R. Boyd of the 93rd Infantry Division expressed his appreciation for “outstanding performance of duty as first sergeant,” specifically from March 31 to April 2, 1945. “The manner in which you accomplished all assignments of duties was a material aid to the accomplishment of the division’s missions,” Boyd wrote.36 On April 4 the decision was made for the 93rd to invade Morotai.37 World War II in the Pacific ended on September 2, 1945, with Japan’s formal surrender, and Cole continued overseas until December 27. The extra service time allowed him to play some additional baseball; during his military service, he reportedly hurled five no-hitters.38

Cole’s active duty ended on January 9, 1946, and thus began the most momentous year of his life. Three days later the Daily Courier announced that both Cecil and Elmer had returned home. The paper noted that each brother had received “decorations for meritorious service.”39

Cecil Cole soon received a letter, dated January 19, from Newark Eagles co-owner Effa Manley. She informed him that Charles C. Williams, his baseball manager in the Army, had visited her and recommended Cole to her. “I told him you had agreed to play with us just before you entered the army, and I was expecting to hear from you when you were discharged,” she wrote. She passed along Williams’s address in case Cole wanted to contact him. Cole wrote a reply on January 26, stating, “I was more than glad to hear from you, as anxious as I am to try out for the team.” He informed her that he was 26 years old, 5-feet-10½-inches tall, weighed 175 pounds, and threw and batted right-handed. He summarized his baseball experience and concluded by asking if a frequent teammate in Connellsville, James Keith, could also try out. Mrs. Manley replied four days later. In response to Cole’s inquiry about pay she wrote, “On the strength of your recommendations I feel safe in saying I will start you at $200 a month.” She added that Keith could try out if he paid his own way. “It costs about $25.00 a week for a man in camp,” she wrote.40

In the meantime, Cecil Cole married another Connellsville High School graduate, Rose Perie Carter, an elevator operator in the Second National Bank Building. On February 20, the day before the ceremony, the Daily Courier reported in detail about a shower held in her honor. A few days later the paper also reported details of the wedding itself, and even the Pittsburgh Courier devoted four paragraphs to the event. The best man was one of Cole’s cousins, Connol Reid.41

An article in the Newark Sunday Call on March 24 may have contained the earliest print reference connecting Cole to the Eagles that year. The focus of the article was the abundance of military veterans on the team’s roster. On April 13 the Newark News reported on spring training in Jacksonville, Florida, and named Cole among three rookie pitchers “showing great promise.” Alas, the next day the Call reported that Cole “was confined to his room with an attack of chickenpox.” Nevertheless, the paper asserted that he was “almost certain to win a starting assignment with the Eagles.”42 Other papers praised Cole as well, reporting that he had “fine control, a good fast ball and handle[s] himself like a veteran on the mound. He is also a powerful hitter and can be used in the outfield.”43

The first regular-season game for Newark was on May 5, but Cole didn’t debut until May 30, against the Philadelphia Stars. Accounts in three newspapers differed in some respects, but Biz Mackey apparently broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning by driving in a runner from third base while pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Rufus Lewis. Cole retired the first two Stars he faced in the ninth and reached a full count against the third. Accounts state that this batter was opposing pitcher Henry McHenry, but one box score indicates that Goose Curry batted for him instead. Whichever man batted, the result was a home run. Cole then allowed additional runs before Max Manning came on in relief to secure the final out. Thus, Cole’s debut resulted in a blown save and a loss.44

Cole’s second game – and first start – came on June 10 against the New York Cubans at Dexter Park in Queens, New York. Cole lasted six innings in a 4-1 loss. “Three of the four runs the Cubans scored came with the aid of errors and bases on balls,” said Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “but his lack of control proved to be his downfall.” A wild pitch plated the first run for the Cubans, and the six walks Cole issued hurt as well.45

Cole started again on June 15, this time against the Baltimore Elite Giants at Dunn Field in Trenton, New Jersey. Cole and the Eagles won, 7-4. Details are scarce. One newspaper said Leon Ruffin pitched at some point, but Ruffin was a catcher; also, statistics published in the New York Amsterdam News on July 7 suggest that Cole pitched most of the game, if not all of it, and was the winning pitcher.46

More details about Cole’s next game are available. He started against the New York Black Yankees in the second game of a doubleheader at Newark’s Ruppert Stadium. The Eagles scored at least twice in four different innings, and the Yankees never had a chance. “Cecil Coles [sic] turned in a brilliant two-hit shutout in the nightcap,” wrote the Newark News. “Alex Newkirk singled in the second inning and Emil [actually Ameal] Brooks touched his offerings for another single in the sixth for the Yanks’ only two hits of the game.” The final score was 11-0.47

Over the next few weeks Cole started and relieved at least twice each, but his next noteworthy outing was on July 28 at Griffith Stadium in Washington, when he started the second game of a doubleheader against the Homestead Grays in front of a crowd of 6,000. He scored the game’s first run after tripling to left field and came home on a teammate’s single. He pitched six scoreless innings in Newark’s 4-3 win, but credit for the victory likely went to either Warren Peace or Max Manning after the Grays tied the score late in the game.48 This was presumably the only time Cole pitched in that ballpark, and he recalled the site and occasion vividly many years later.

Cole was asked how many homers he surrendered to Josh Gibson. “I can truthfully tell you that Gibson never hit one home run off me,” he replied, then paused, chuckled, and added, “and for two very good reasons. We were playing Gibson’s team in Griffith Stadium, and I think the only field that had a deeper centerfield was the Polo Grounds in New York City. Anyway, I put a fastball up there, a little on the outside, about belt high, and Josh got hold of it. I thought the ball was going to clear the fence in center, but fortunately there was a lot of room to run and Larry Doby was playing center for us. Doby went back as far as he could, leaped, and gloved the ball. So, thanks to Larry Doby and that deep centerfield, I can always say that Gibson never homered off me.”49

For the next four weeks Cole was used sparingly, but he made an important relief appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 26 against the New York Cubans. Cole entered the game in the eighth inning with the Cubans in the midst of a four-run rally that tied the score. In Cole’s two-thirds of an inning he at kept them from taking the lead. Newark soon pushed across two runs, and Cole was the winning pitcher.50

Cole’s last hurrah for 1946 was apparently on September 6 at Dunn Field in Trenton. This was another game for which details are scant, but Cole received credit for the 11-7 win against the Cubans. Seven of the Cubans’ nine hits were for extra bases. Monte Irvin helped counter that with four hits in five times at bat. The attendance was reported as 1,427.51

A sportswriter’s profile of Cole in 2012 noted that there was inconsistent reporting of his record for 1946. “For example, the Negro Baseball Encyclopedia lists Cole with a record of 2-2,” wrote George Von Benko in the Uniontown (Pennsylvania) Herald-Standard. “Baseball-Reference.com lists Cole with a record of 0-3 and a 9.00 ERA. In a Nov. 5, 1946, newspaper story, Cole is credited with a record of 6-2.” All told, documentation compiled by SABR researchers exists for at least 13 games pitched by Cole, of which he won four and lost three. “Cole said his record was 4-3,” Von Benko noted, and he had “earned three of the victories in starting assignments.”52 As far as is known, Cole did not play in the 1946 Negro World Series, which Newark won. Nevertheless, he was one of seven pitchers on the Manleys’ list of players who were to receive commemorative tie clasps bearing their surname and a letter or two designating their position.53

On December 15, 1946, Cecil and Rose Perie welcomed their first child, Cynthia.54 “If you don’t have it made in baseball at 26, you’d better find something else to do,” Cecil decided at that point. “I was making $350 a month and that wasn’t enough to be dragging a new wife and a baby all over the country.” Therefore, he quickly set aside further pursuit of a professional baseball career. After a short stint at a local enamel plant, he worked for the Connellsville Housing Authority for 40 years as a maintenance man.55

On the side, though, Cole always maintained a passion for baseball. By mid-1947 he was an all-star pitcher in the local Fay West Baseball League, and he continued to pitch for teams in Connellsville until at least 1967.56 A poignant high point occurred in 1955, when he was named to a local all-star team that played a reconstituted Homestead Grays squad. One of his teammates, who was also named an all-star, was the father of major-league pitcher Bob Galasso.57

As his pitching career wound down in the Connellsville area, Cole began a long tenure as a regional scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His most notable signing occurred early on. Bruce Dal Canton recalled, “[O]ne of my teammates was a guy named Cecil Cole and he was a bird dog for the Pirates and he kept bugging them to take another look. Finally it was arranged for me to have a private workout at Forbes Field. The result of that workout was a contract.”58 Dal Canton began in the minors in 1966 and debuted with the Pirates the next year. He had an 11-year career as a major-league pitcher and spent more than 25 years as a pitching coach. Cole’s work for the Pirates also created opportunities to reminisce with 1946 teammates and opponents. For example, on separate occasions in 1971 he was in a position to reconnect with Larry Doby and Monte Irvin for the first time in many years.59

The Coles became parents again in mid-1951 with the birth of daughter Marva Jo. Late that decade he was ordained a deacon of the Union Baptist Church. By the early 1960s he and his brother Elmer were members of a singing group called the Amalgam Male Chorus.60

By the mid-1960s Cecil Cole had become a popular magician locally, sometimes billed as “The Silent Knight of Magic.”61 This sideline happened to connect with his scouting in a 1979 article about a Pirates good-luck charm. Executive Vice President Harding Peterson was a bit embarrassed to confess that when the Pirates faced trouble, he turned to a rectangular red pen that Cole gave him about five years earlier. “When Cecil gave it to me he told me, ‘Anytime things aren’t going too good, just pull out this pen and hang onto it,’” Peterson said. “So a couple weeks ago when things weren’t going too good (during the Pirates’ stretch race with Montreal in the National League East), I got it out of my drawer and I’ve been using it ever since.”62

In 1968 the Cole family celebrated Cynthia’s graduation from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, West Virginia, and did likewise in 1973 when Marva Jo graduated from Lock Haven State College in Pennsylvania.63 Elmer Cole died in 1969 and A.J. in 1970. Virginia died in 1975. Cecil Cole had three grandchildren and lived long enough to know three great-grandchildren. Marva Jo died in 1999. Three years later, Cecil died at the age of 82 on June 21, 2002.64 Jim Kriek had written much about his friend Cecil Cole over the years, and on this occasion he declared that “the world in general, but the world of baseball in particular, is so much the poorer for his passing.”65

Notes

1 Jim Kriek, “After Talking with Cole, Day Got Brighter,” Uniontown (Pennsylvania) Herald-Standard, June 25, 2002.

2 Ibid.

3 “Connellsville Will Come Back Stronger Than Ever,” Connellsville (Pennsylvania) Daily Courier, May 10, 1930: 4. The city’s population declined by more than 500 residents from 1920 to 1930.

4 One source for Cecil’s date of birth is his military draft registration card in 1940. One source for Virginia Cole’s maiden name is her Social Security Death Index entry. Information about Reuben Cole is partly from his obituary (in which his first name was misspelled as Reuban): See “The Grim Reaper,” Daily Courier, July 10, 1939: 6.

5 Uniontown (Pennsylvania) Morning Herald, March 21, 1914: 1. See also “Dunbar Societies” on page 8 for praise about “Andrew Coles.” For earlier instances of his developing and deploying leadership skills, see Lavada Burd, “Connellsville,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 21, 1911: 2 (where he was presumably the “Andrew Coles” mentioned), and “Connellsville,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 6, 1912: 2.

6 “Oration of 35 Years Ago Has Mother’s Day Message,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 7, 1949: 8. The 1940 census confirmed that Andrew did in fact complete four years of high school.

7 “Card of Thanks,” Connellsville Daily Courier, April 3, 1916: 7. Regarding his military service, Pennsylvania WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files indicate that Andrew J. Cole of Connellsville was inducted on August 3, 1918, and honorably discharged on December 26, 1918, without overseas service. He was also listed in “Negro Draftees Bound for Camp Get an Ovation,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 3, 1918: 1.

8 That was identified as his address a month before his marriage, in “Area Soldiers Get Discharges at Fort Knox,” Connellsville Daily Courier, January 18, 1946: 5. His parents lived there until their deaths in the 1970s. His mother died after his father, and Virginia’s address was mentioned in an announcement of her hospitalization just before her death. See “Mount Pleasant,” Connellsville Daily Courier, March 10, 1975: 13.

9 “H.D. Club Beats Betters Juniors,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 15, 1932: 12.

10 For one overview (available on the internet) of how the Home Demonstration and 4-H programs engaged and served African-Americans in Eastern states at the time, see the Atlanta University thesis of Lillian Camilla Weems, “A Study of the Negro Home Demonstration Program in Georgia, 1923-1955” (1956). ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. Paper 692.

11 “U.B. Juniors Win Mushball Contest,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 8, 1932: 8.

12 “Sipe’s Specials Conquer Juniors of Liberty Heights,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 20, 1933: 10. “DePauls Conquer Findley Club, 9-1,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 16, 1934: 9. “Liberty Heights Juniors Win Ninth Gridiron Contest,” Connellsville Daily Courier, November 19, 1934: 8.

13 George Von Benko, “Cecil Cole Enjoyed His Time in Baseball,” Uniontown (Pennsylvania) Herald-Standard, August 21, 2012: C3.

14 “Announce Entries and Officials for Track Meet,” Uniontown (Pennsylvania) Daily News Standard, May 8, 1936: 15.

15 “Cokers Win over Georges in Dual Meet,” Connellsville Daily Courier, April 24, 1937: 5.

16 “Cokers Triumph over Scottdale Hi [sic],” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 13, 1937: 12.

17 “Class of 1937, C.H.S.,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 5, 1937: 10.

18 “Cole Whiffs 20; Bowmans Upset Cubs,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 8, 1937: 9. Cole’s catcher was named Marcondi, which was the surname of C. Cole’s catcher on the 1934 DePaul All Stars.

19 “Bowmans Top Bears, Occupy First Place,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 20, 1937: 7; “Bowmans Win, Lose in Junior Loop,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 10, 1937: 8.

20 “Tigers Baseball Team Seeks Games,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 5, 1938: 10; “Tigers Baseball Team Will Meet Wednesday,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 10, 1938: 10; “Merchants Win Exhibition Game from Tiger Club,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 28, 1938: 10; “Tigers Topple Scottdale Grays,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 16, 1938: 8. “Tigers Annex Two Victories,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 11, 1938: 10.

21 “Legion Moves Ahead, Spills Dunbar Team,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 29, 1938: 8; “Cole Allows One Hit, Legion Wins,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 7, 1938: 8.

22 “Cecil Cole Has No-Hitter, Legion Ahead,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 22, 1938: 13; “Cole Blanks Dunbar Team,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 3, 1938: 5; “Dunbar Whips Legion, St. Rita Ties for Lead,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 27, 1938: 8.

23 There was no American Legion team in the City WPA-YMCA Schoolboys League standings during 1939 e.g., see Daily Courier, August 12, 1939: 8. The Davidson team had an outfielder named Cole in box scores occasionally but he apparently never pitched. The fact that the Payne team was new to the church league was reported in “Church Softball Loop to Open Season Friday with Exhibition Game,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 17, 1939: 7.

24 “Christians Trip Paynes in Softball,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 2, 1939: 13. “C. Cole” was also their pitcher in a brief account a few days later, “Christians, Paynes, Methodists Capture Church Loop Games,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 6, 1939: 8. Two other examples of Cole pitching: “Payne A.M.E. Defeats Christians in Second Game of Church Series,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 14, 1939: 12; “Christians Win First Half Softball Crown; Beat Payne Methodists,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 23, 1939: 10. (The game to decide the first-half championship kept getting delayed, and ultimately was played close to the end of the second half.) In late August “Cecil Cole” was assigned to umpire some league playoff games, as reported in “Brethren Defeat I.C. for Participation in Second Half Play-Off,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 24, 1939: 10.

25 “The Grim Reaper,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 10, 1939: 6; “Announcements,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 14, 1939: 14; “The Grim Reaper,” Connellsville Daily Courier, February 15, 1943: 2. Minnie’s obituary stated her date of birth as May 22, 1875, but her findagrave.com entry shows May 22, 1874.

26 As examples, see box scores accompanying these two articles: “May’s Softball Club Shuts out Payne A.M.E.,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 13, 1940: 7; and “Paynes Topple Merchant Team in Second Game,” Connellsville Daily Courier, September 27, 1940: 16.

27 “Pitches Hitless Ball Yet Gets Only Deadlock in City Softball Group,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 26, 1940: 10.

28 “Gough, Back in Line-Up, Wins Game,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 21, 1940: 10. Accounts of the two all-star games were printed on the same day and page: “Team One Victor in First Game” and “Team Two Evens All Star Ball Series,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 30, 1940: 14.

29 “50 More Conscriptees Given Questionnaires for Selective Service,” Connellsville Daily Courier, November 8, 1940: 13; “13 Volunteers Fill Next Draft Quota; Will Report Monday,” Connellsville Daily Courier, February 18, 1941: 1; Dan Burley, “Confidentially Yours,” New York Amsterdam Star-News, March 15, 1941: 18.

30 “Map Reading and Radio Coding Work Done by Cecile [sic] Cole, Who Writes He Likes Life in Army,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 2, 1941: 10. See also “Fred Snell Member of Advisory Body, Allegheny Fair,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 27, 1940: 7.

31 “Army Camp News,” Evansville (Indiana) Argus, October 3, 1941: 2, 7. A shortened version of this article was printed in the New York Age on October 11, 1941: 11, under the headline, “Baseball Popular at Ft. Huachuca.” For more on Turner and this team, see thomasturnernegroleague.org/fort-huachuca-arizona.php and Brent Kelley, Voices from the Negro Leagues: Conversations with 52 Baseball Standouts of the Period 1924-1960 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1998), 244-249.

32 “Birds Rout Soldiers, 9-3,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix), October 6, 1941, section 2, page 2.

33 John H. Whoric, “Sportorials,” Connellsville Daily Courier, October 23, 1941: 6.

34 “Men of Region Battling for Perpetuation of American Way of Life,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 17, 1942: Section 2, page 3. “Cecil Cole Made First Sergeant,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 17, 1942: 1; “Brothers Get Furloughs,” Connellsville Daily Courier, November 4, 1942: 2. On June 26, 1943, the Courier’s front page featured an eloquent letter from Elmer, by then a Staff Sergeant with an engineer battalion in North Africa, appealing to a reported “400,000 slackers” to consider volunteering for military service. See “Soldier at Front Asks Miners for ‘Break,’” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 26, 1943: 1.

35 “Former Local Boy Pitches for Newark,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 27, 1946: 9.

36 “Sgt. Cecil E. Cole Wins Warm Praise,” Connellsville Daily Courier, March 11, 1946: 1.

37 See Stephen D. Lutz, “The 93rd Infantry Division: The Only African-American Division in the Pacific Theater,” warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-93rd-infantry-division-the-only-african-american-division-in-the-pacific-theater/, December 15, 2017.

38 Von Benko: C3; see also note 34 above.

39 “Personal Mention,” Connellsville Daily Courier, January 12, 1946: 2. Elmer served in Tunisia, in the Rome-Arno campaign of 1944, and in Central Europe.

40 On February 7 Cole typed up a brief reply, and on March 21 Manley sent him a one-page letter confirming details about traveling as a team to their camp from Newark. Thanks to SABR member Bob Golon for providing scans of these letters from the Manley Papers at the Newark Public Library.

41 “Rose Carrie [sic] Carter, Bride-Elect, Honored,” Connellsville Daily Courier, February 20, 1946: 2; “Miss Rose Perie Carter Weds Cecil E. Cole, Former Sergeant,” Connellsville Daily Courier, February 25, 1946, 2; “Popular Pair Marries at Bride’s Home,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 9, 1946: 9. Among the out-of-town guests named was Lieutenant Scipio White. See Chris Buckley, “Retired Monessen Mail Carrier, Veteran, Still Loves to Travel the World,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 1, 2015 at triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmonvalley/yourmonvalleymore/9010287-74/monessen-war-army, which sheds light on Cecil Cole’s service in the South Pacific.

42 Fred Bailey, “Leon Day, ETO Star, Back to Newark,” Newark (New Jersey) Sunday Call, March 24, 1946: part II, page 2. “Rookie Pitcher Impresses Eagles,” Newark News, April 13, 1946. “Fast Pitcher with Eagles,” Newark Sunday Call, April 14, 1946.

43 “2 Rookie Slabmen Bolster Eagles,” Baltimore Afro-American, April 20, 1946: 30. The same text also appeared in that day’s New York Amsterdam News.

44 Only a short narrative was provided in “Stars, Eagles Split, 7-4, 6-3,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1946: 31. However, the accompanying box score seems to indicate that Curry batted for McHenry. On June 8 the New Jersey Afro-American printed two narratives about the doubleheader, under the headlines “Eagles Break Even with Philly Stars” and “Eagles, Philly Stars Divide Two.” The former wasn’t accompanied by a box score but provided the most detail about Cole’s inning. It named Lewis as the pitcher, but at the end of the preceding paragraph the account noted that Mackey had batted for Lewis. That paper’s other account did name Cole, and added the details about Manning, though it omitted Cole from the box score (not particularly surprising given that he didn’t bat). Both Cole and Manning were included in the box score that accompanied “Eagles Split,” Newark Star-Ledger, May 3, 1946: 17.

45 “N.Y. Cuban Nine Trounces Eagles in Dexter Game,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 11, 1946: 14.

46 “Eagles Win 3 Games, Move Closer to First Half Title,” New Jersey Afro American, June 22, 1946. See also “N.Y. Cubans Tighten Lead in N.N. League,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 22, 1946, 35. League statistics published in the New York Amsterdam News, July 7, 1946: 10 showed Cole having pitched in four games, totaling 25 innings, and that he had decisions in all four: two wins and two losses. Outings of approximately one, six, nine, and nine innings would total 25.

47 “Eagles Win Two,” Newark News, June 22, 1946.

48 Ric Roberts, “Grays and Newark Eagles Divide Twin Bill 3-0, 4-3; Fields Blanks Newark,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 3, 1946: 17. “Grays Split with Eagles,” New Jersey Afro American, August 3, 1946.

49 Kriek, 2002.

50 “Eagles Nose out Cubans, 8 to 6, Wilmington (Delaware) Morning News, August 27, 1946: 16.

51 “Eagles Down Cubans,” Trenton (New Jersey) Evening Times, September 8, 1946: 28.

52 Von Benko: C3.

53 Manley Papers at the Newark Public Library. Cole was shown sporting a 1946 Newark Eagles Negro World Series ring late in his life. See New Pittsburgh Courier, January 10, 1998: 7. Its origin is uncertain. REA catalog description auction preview tells a fascinating story about a unique ring: The 1946 Newark Eagles Negro League World Championship Ring, sportscollectingnews.com/excl1.htm.

54 “Starting Down Baby Lane,” Uniontown Morning Herald, December 17, 1946: 5.

55 Von Benko: C3.

56 Herman Welsh, “Fay-West Baseball Stars Will Clash Sunday Afternoon at Scottsdale,” Connellsville Daily Courier, July 18, 1947: 6; Jim Kriek, “Sports Notes,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 2, 1967: 6. For a particularly long profile while Cole was still pitching, see Jim Kriek, “Sports Notes,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 8, 1964: 6.

57 The game received steady buildup: “Big Ten All-Stars Meet Grays June 26,” Uniontown Morning Herald, June 15, 1955: 18; “Youth, Speed Characterize Homestead Gray Aggregation,” Uniontown Evening Standard, June 23, 1955: 10; “Big Ten, County Stars to Face Stellar Visitors in Exhibition,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 25, 1955: 4. For the results, see “Big Ten All-Star Club Downs Homestead,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 27, 1955: 6. In August Cole’s own team was scheduled to face the Grays. See “Homestead Grays Will Field Diamond Stars in Clash with Levin’s,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 4, 1955: 6 and “Levin’s to Host Grays Tomorrow at Trotter,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 6, 1955: 4. On August 8 the Courier reported that the game was rained out; despite stated intentions, it apparently wasn’t rescheduled. This obscure Homestead Grays aggregation was managed by Walt Hughes, who played on at least two teams in the short-lived United States Baseball League and was the brother of an early member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Charlie Hughes. “Galasso’s father, Bob Galasso Sr., pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates chain in 1949,” according to baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Bob_Galasso.

58 Von Benko: C3. It’s possible that Cole played baseball with another future Pirate, Bob Robertson, shortly before that slugger’s pro debut. See “Two Fay-West Grads Playing for Pirates,” Connellsville Daily Courier, September 19, 1970: 7. When Cole’s Negro World Series ring – see note 52 above – was auctioned off, the auctioneer’s profile of Cole said, “After [a] five-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles as a scout, he enjoyed the same position with the Pittsburgh [Pirates] for 35 years.” See robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2010/spring/1723/1946-newark-eagles-negro-league-world-championship-ring/. However, Cole’s name wasn’t in any of the lists of Baltimore Orioles scouts printed in that team’s media guides from 1954 through 1967. See mlb.com/orioles/history/media-guides.

59 Jim Kriek, “Sports Notes,” Connellsville Daily Courier, November 3, 1971: 6.

60 “Three Births at Hospital,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 29, 1951: 1; “Baptists Will Ordain Deacon at Service,” Connellsville Daily Courier, May 22, 1959: 24; “Musical Program Given at Meeting of Cameron PTA,” Connellsville Daily Courier, December 6, 1962: 18.

61 For example, see “50 Attend WSCS Dinner and Program,” Connellsville Daily Courier, March 23, 1965: 5. He was identified as “a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.” See especially “Black Arts events,” Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) Express, March 9, 1972: 6, above which was a large photo of Cole.

62 Pohla Smith, “Charms Big with Pirates,” Huntingdon (Pennsylvania) Daily News, October 12, 1979: 5.

63 “English Major,” Connellsville Daily Courier, June 18, 1968: 3; “Accepts Position,” Connellsville Daily Courier, September 12, 1974: 24.

64 “Death Notices,” Uniontown Evening Standard, October 16, 1969: 29; “Obituaries,” Connellsville Daily Courier, August 5,1970: 17; “Funeral Notice,” Daily Courier, March 24, 1975: 4. Regarding Marva Jo, see billiongraves.com/grave/MARVA-JO-cole-DEBEARY/3731648. See also “Cole,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 22, 2002, D4.

65 Jim Kriek, “After Talking with Cole, Day Got Brighter,” Uniontown Herald-Standard, June 25, 2002.

Full Name

Cecil Edward Cole

Born

September 23, 1919 at Connellsville, PA (US)

Died

June 21, 2002 at Connellsville, PA (US)

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