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The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell: Speed, Grace, and the Negro Leagues

The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell: Speed, Grace, and the Negro Leagues

by Lonnie Wheeler


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The first full biography of the star Negro Leaguer and Hall of Famer

James “Cool Papa” Bell (1903–1991) was a legend in black baseball, a lightning fast switch hitter elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. Bell’s speed was extraordinary; as Satchel Paige famously quipped, he was so fast he could fl ip a light switch and be in bed before the room got dark.

In The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell, experienced baseball writer and historian Lonnie Wheeler recounts the life of this extraordinary player, a key member of some of the greatest Negro League teams in history. Born to sharecroppers in Mississippi, Bell was part of the Great Migration, and in St. Louis, baseball saved Bell from a life working in slaughterhouses. Wheeler charts Bell’s ups and downs in life and in baseball, in the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, where he went to escape American racism and MLB’s color line. Rich in context and suffused in myth, this is a treat for fans of baseball history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419750489
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publication date: 02/09/2021
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 301,407
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lonnie Wheeler (1952-2020) was the author or co-author of many books on baseball including I Had a Hammer with Hank Aaron, Pitch by Pitch with Bob Gibson, Sixty Feet, Six Inches, with Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson, Long Shot with Mike Piazza, Bleachers: A Summer in Wrigley Field, and Intangiball, winner of a 2016 SABR Baseball Research Award.

Table of Contents

Author's Note vii

Prologue: Looking over Jordan 1

Chapter 1 Jamie Nichols 13

Chapter 2 The Slaughterhouse 21

Chapter 3 Tricky Ball 27

Chapter 4 The Turkey Stearnes Effect 39

Chapter 5 The Stars Come Out 49

Chapter 6 Willie's Girl 59

Chapter 7 We'll Always Have Cuba 69

Chapter 8 Lighting Up Big Leaguers 79

Chapter 9 "The Greatest Negro Baseball Team Ever Seen" 89

Chapter 10 Mutiny 101

Chapter 11 Beholding Josh Gibson 113

Chapter 12 See You in Chicago 123

Chapter 13 Snookering Satchel 133

Chapter 14 The Quintessential Crawfords 145

Chapter 15 Limbo 157

Chapter 16 The Dictator's Campaign for Reelection 167

Chapter 17 Railroad Tracks in the Outfield 179

Chapter 18 The Land of Opportunity 189

Chapter 19 Fishing on the Fourth of July 201

Chapter 20 Slugger in a Straitjacket 211

Chapter 21 Ground Balls to Jackie's Backhand 223

Chapter 22 Stepping Aside 235

Chapter 23 A Basket of Fruit 243

Chapter 24 Obscurity 257

Chapter 25 The Call That Changed Everything 267

Chapter 26 Cool Papa Bell Avenue 279

Epilogue 295

Acknowledgments 303

Bibliography 305

Photography Credits 323

Index 327

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