Nowlin: The story of Jim Zapp, the Negro Leaguer who was brought back to life

From SABR member Bill Nowlin at The National Pastime Museum on July 10, 2016:

Jim “Zipper” Zapp played a big role in getting the Birmingham Black Barons to the 1948 World Series against the Homestead Grays—the last time there was a World Series in the Negro Leagues. The season had seen a young rookie named Willie Mays spell him in the second game of a doubleheader. Zapp was a big right-handed outfielder, standing 6 feet, 2 or 3 inches and weighing 215 to 230 pounds.

He might have played more but got branded as temperamental. “But I didn’t call it temperamental,” he told Brent Kelley. “If I didn’t think the owners was treating me right, I’d quit, ask for my release, or whatever, as long as they didn’t give me my money. Sometimes they did not.”

James Stephen Zapp was born in Nashville on April 18, 1924. Because of the racial mores of the day, his family history is a little difficult to understand. His father, Burt Zapp, was a baker by trade; his birth mother was Ardina Jordan. Jim Zapp was born to a white man and a black woman. As James Zapp Jr. explained late in 2015, “My granddad was of German-English descent . . . as white as snow. My grandma was black. My dad was born in what you call ‘out of wedlock’ because back in those days white guys could not be with black women.”

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Originally published: July 11, 2016. Last Updated: July 11, 2016.