Cool Papa Bell – baseball player
Cool Papa Bell is known as one of the fastest base runners of all time. In 1974 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
James Thomas Nichols was born on May 17, 1903 in Starkville, Mississippi to Jonas Bell and Mary Nichols. James had two sisters and four elder brothers. His mother was Mary Nichols, and his father was Jonas Bell. When James was seventeen, he changed his name to Bell and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to join his four brothers in the amateur baseball team, Compton Hill beginners. In 1920 James married Clarabelle Thompson.
James Bell was given the nickname “Cool Papa” when he was 19-year-old pitcher. He made the name for himself when he struck out slugger Oscar Charleston at a crucial point in a game.
At the time, African Americans were not allowed to play for major league teams. They played instead for teams in the Negro leagues. Bell retired shortly before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Between 1922 and 1950 James Bell played for teams across the Midwest.
In 1940 he won the Mexican League’s triple crown, leading the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.
His speed prompted legends, and Satchel Paige famously claimed that Bell was so fast he could switch off the lights at night and be under the covers before the room went dark. It is believed that he once stole 175 bases in less than 200 games.
Bell finished his baseball career in 1950 as a player-manager of a team in Kansas City.
In 1959 Maxwell Club of Philadelphia established the Bert Bell Trophy for its most valuable player.
Cool Papa Bell died on March 7, 1991 in Missouri.
In 2001 he was featured in The Game of Their Lives HBO special James “Cool Papa” Bell.