Holway: Cool Papa Bell, fast as lightning

From the late James “Cool Papa” Bell as told to SABR member John Holway at The National Pastime Museum on December 12, 2013:

The best year I ever had on the bases was 1933. I stole one hundred and seventy-five in about one hundred and eighty to two hundred ball games, all of them against other Negro League teams.

In 1935, I played against Rogers Hornsby’s all-stars in Mexico. They had Jimmy Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Boob McNair, and Max Bishop in the infield, Heinie Manush and Doc Cramer in the outfield, Steve O’Neill catching, and Whitehill pitching. It takes about a week to acclimate to the altitude and they’d been down there about two weeks while we’d just arrived, be we had them beat, 6-4, with two out in the ninth, when Manush was safe on first. Foxx took a 3-2 count and then he got a ball up around his letters and hit it into the bleachers for a home run. The umpire called the game. The sun was up in the sky, but they called the game. That night we all had dinner at an American restaurant, and Foxx told us that the third ball the umpire called was a strike, but he said he wasn’t going to argue.

Next day Hornsby hit a ball way over my head. I ran back and caught it over my head. He said, “Come here, Lefty. That was the hardest ball I ever hit. How come you caught it?”  Earle Mack, Connie Mack’s son, said, “If the door was open, you’d be the first guy I’d hire. I’d pay you seventy-five thousand dollars a year to play ball.”  They beat us the last two games, so the next year we said we’re going to get a good team and beat Hornsby.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/james-cool-papa-bell-fast-lightning

Originally published: December 12, 2013. Last Updated: December 12, 2013.