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date: 05 April 2020

Bell, James Thomas “Cool Papa” locked

1903–1991 African American Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder in the Negro Leagues who is said to have been the fastest base runner of all time.


James “Cool Papa” Bell's speed on the base paths was legendary. He was so fast it was said that he could flip the light switch and be in bed before the room went dark. Bell once stole an estimated 175 bases during a 200-game season, but the fine details of his career, as for so many other Negro Leagues stars, are poorly documented compared to those of his major league counterparts.

Bell began his career as a pitcher with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, at the age of nineteen. During his rookie year he struck out intimidating power hitter Oscar Charleston earning the nickname Cool from his teammates Bell s manager feeling the nickname lacked something added Papa The name stuck Shifted to the outfield to take advantage of his considerable offensive talents Bell spent more than two decades hitting for a high average and tearing up ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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