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Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...


Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...


Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...



In 1955 Ernest Banks, known to millions as Ernie Banks, set a record in American professional baseball by hitting five grand-slam home runs in a single season. Among other notable achievements, Banks was the first player in the National League (NL) to be named most valuable player two years in a row (1958–1959). A shortstop and first baseman, Banks played with the Chicago Cubs for his entire nineteen-season career, earning the nickname “Mr. Cub.” He possessed an infectious enthusiasm for the game and was known for his favorite saying: “Let's play two today!”

Banks was born in Dallas, Texas. As a child he excelled in high school baseball, Basketball, and Track and field. He chose to pursue baseball, signing with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League in 1950. After a 1951–1953 stint in the army Banks finished ...


Ronald Eniclerico

baseball player. One of the most successful major league baseball players never to play on a championship team, Banks earned a reputation during his nineteen-year tenure with the Chicago Cubs as one of the most solid, dependable players in the game. He was known for his affable, optimistic attitude, epitomized by his well-known catchphrase: “It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two!”

Banks was born in Dallas, Texas, to a poor family. In his autobiography, Mr. Cub (1971), he relates the story that, when he was a child, a boy from his neighborhood stole a chicken that had been intended for the Banks family's Thanksgiving dinner. Banks's mother had killed the chicken herself, and Banks had to wrestle the boy for the bird in a nearby basement apartment to reclaim the family's dinner.

Banks began playing softball in high school where he first played shortstop ...


Caryn E. Neumann and Jill Dupont

[This entry includes two subentries, on the Negro Leagues and on integrated professional baseball.]


In June 1866 sailors from the United States who were importing Sugar from Cuba invited local Cuban dockworkers to play baseball. Thus began the Caribbean's initiation to the game, less than thirty years after its North American inception. In the few years that followed, baseball was pushed to the fore of Cuban consciousness by visiting North American businessmen, U.S. Marines, and wealthy Cuban students who had played at schools in the United States. By decade's end the development of a local talent pool was under way, and with the emerging political turmoil in the Caribbean around the turn of the century, both migrating Cubans and occupying Marines took the new pastime across the Caribbean basin.

At first baseball was played by Cuba s wealthy class lending it the exclusivity of polo cycling cricket soccer and other European sports that had taken root in the clubs of the Caribbean s urban ...


Question: “Just tell me, why do you think there is still that much prejudice in baseball today?”

Answer: “No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.”

Guess the year those words were uttered. 1930?1950?1970?1987. The further irony is that the context was a late-night talk show commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). On top of that, the interviewee was Al Campanis who at the time was vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers Campanis was interviewed because he had played and roomed with Robinson and on many occasions actually defended him against racial onslaughts Campanis was fired the next day The event was a stunning reminder of the perhaps more subtle ...


Paul S. Boyer and Ronald Story

Americans had played bat-and-ball games for decades when, in 1845, Alexander Cartwright of New York devised the rules—foul lines, nine innings, three outs, ninety-foot basepaths—that created modern baseball. Cartwright's game quickly became popular with young clerks and urban craftsmen. By 1860, baseball had spread throughout the Northeast, and by 1870 to the rest of the nation.

The first teams were amateur, organized by men's clubs, the games ending with dinner and drinks. Some players earned good money from ambitious clubs, which charged admission in order to pay the players. The first wholly professional team was the Cincinnati (Ohio) Red Stockings of 1869, whose manager, Harry Wright, hired every player. Taking advantage of the burgeoning railroad system to tour the country, they challenged and defeated all teams they faced that year. In 1876, entrepreneurs formed the National League (NL), with salaried players and profit-seeking owners.

Baseball ...


Richard L. Pacelle

Bell, Cool Papa (17 May 1903–07 March 1991), Negro League baseball player, was born James Thomas Bell in Starkville, Mississippi, the son of a farmer; his parents’ names are not known. Because Starkville offered few opportunities for blacks, his mother sent him to live with his sister and four brothers in St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended high school for two years and worked in a packing plant. During this time Bell played semiprofessional baseball; he was “discovered” in 1922 by the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League, against whom Bell pitched. The Stars signed him to a $90-a-month contract.

Bell played for many different teams in the Negro Leagues but he is generally associated with the St Louis Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords Bell got the nickname Cool for his demeanor under pressure while pitching for the Stars at the age of 19 His manager ...


James A. Riley

baseball player and manager, was born James Thomas Bell in Starkville, Mississippi, the son of Jonas Bell, a farmer whose father was an American Indian, and Mary Nichols. James had six siblings, two sisters and four brothers, and said that his mother taught him to be an honest, clean-living man who cared about other people.

He was reared in the Oktoc community near Starkville and began playing pickup games on the local sandlots while attending the local school through the eighth grade. There was neither a high school nor gainful employment in his hometown, so in 1920 Bell moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with his older brothers and attend high school, completing two years before ending his formal education. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he met Clarabelle Thompson, and they were married in September 1920 The marriage lasted seventy years but was childless ...


Rob Fink

Hall of Fame Negro League baseball player. The son of a farmer from Starkville, Mississippi, and the grandson of a Native American, James “Cool Papa” Bell was considered the fastest man ever to play baseball. The legends concerning his quickness prove almost Herculean in the retelling, with numerous accounts of Bell scoring in games from first base on bunts by his teammates. Bell also stole 175 bases over 200 games.

Bell began his baseball career in his hometown of Starkville, competing in local pick-up games with older youths and adults on the local sandlots. As Bell entered his teens, he found himself forced to move to Saint Louis to live with a brother because in 1920 Starkville possessed neither an African American high school nor any job opportunities for young black men.

In Saint Louis Bell attended high school for two years while working in a packing plant He also ...


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 ...


Byron Motley

was born Junius Alexander Bibbs in Henderson, Kentucky to Lloyd Bibbs, a World War I veteran and first commander of the American Legion Post in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Catherine Carr Bibbs, a homemaker. The family also included his sister, Eloise.

Because of his grandparents’ entrepreneurial spirits, Bibbs’s early life was greatly influenced by them. His paternal great-grandmother, Lizzie Powell, a former slave, amassed a great amount of property that benefitted the family. His maternal grandfather, James Alexander Carr, was a grocer, a respected profession at the time in the black community, while his other grandmother, Maria Carr, became a historical figure in her own right and was the first African American librarian hired for the first library created specifically for African Americans in the United States, the Henderson Colored Library. With funding provided by millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the library opened on 1 August 1904 Created as both ...


Daniel Donaghy

was born in to Zephra Lee Primas and Cephus Primas in Cushing, Oklahoma, and raised in Los Angeles, California, where he starred in baseball, basketball, and track and field at Manual Arts High School. In 1961 he had a baseball tryout with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers but the team decided not to sign him to a contract Soon after Blair tried out for the New York Mets who signed him for two thousand dollars as an amateur free agent A shortstop in high school Blair moved as a professional baseball player to right field because of his speed and strong throwing arm When the minor league team to which Blair was first assigned the Santa Barbara Rancheros lost its centerfielder to injury Blair moved to that position which he would play for the rest of his career After playing for a year for the Rancheros Blair was left ...


Jeffrey Womack

record-setting Major League Baseball player. Barry Bonds has set many records in Major League Baseball, but he has also been accused of involvement in a major drug scandal.

Barry Lamar Bonds was born into a baseball family in Riverside, California. His father, Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, Willie Mays, both had outstanding careers in baseball. Barry Bonds attended Arizona State University, playing baseball there from 1983 to 1985, and began his professional career in 1985 when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent seven consecutive seasons with the Pirates, from 1986 through 1992. In 1990 Bonds earned his first Gold Glove (for fielding excellence) and Silver Slugger (for batting) awards and was voted the National League's most valuable player (MVP). Bonds, a left fielder, won another MVP award in 1992.

Bonds began playing for the San Francisco Giants in 1993 He grew ...


Kent Krause

In 2001 Barry Lamar Bonds rewrote the record book with one of the most dominant offensive performances in Major League Baseball history. His seventy-three home runs and .863 slugging average shattered previous records. Bonds's achievements were even more remarkable considering that National League (NL) pitchers—fearing his batting power—walked him a record 177 times that year. Possessing a combination of strength and speed similar to his godfather, Willie Mays, Bonds was already an established star prior to the 2001 season. Many experts consider him one the best ever to have played the game.

Bonds was born in Riverside, California. His father Bobby was an all-star outfielder and a teammate of Mays. After graduating from Serra High School in San Mateo, California, Barry Bonds enrolled at Arizona State University. After three impressive seasons at ASU, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the first round of the June 1985 free ...


Rob Ruck

Campanella, Roy (19 November 1921–26 June 1993), Negro League and major league baseball player, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Campanella, an Italian-American fruit stand owner, and his African-American wife, Ida Mercer. Campanella grew up in the Germantown and Nicetown neighborhoods of Philadelphia. There he caught briefly for the Simon Gratz High School team before joining a black semiprofessional team, the Bachrach Giants, at the age of fifteen. A year later he quit high school and joined the Baltimore Elite Giants in the Negro National League (NNL). There Biz Mackey, one of the greatest catchers in the Negro Leagues and player-manager for the Elite Giants, schooled Campanella in the art of catching.

Soon the Elite Giants starting catcher Campanella played eight years in the NNL 1937 1942 and 1944 1945 where he was an adept defensive receiver and a powerful hitter He appeared ...


Robert Fay

Roy Campanella was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to John Campanella, an Italian fruit-stand dealer, and Ida Campanella, an African American woman. He began playing semiprofessional baseball with Philadelphia's Bacharach Giants when he was sixteen years old. After playing briefly with the Giants, Campanella joined the Baltimore Elites of the Negro National League (NNL). He starred in the NNL until 1946, when he signed a minor league contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Campanella played for Dodgers farm clubs until 1948—the year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier—when he became the Dodgers' starting catcher.

An excellent all-around player, “Campy” starred from 1948 to 1957, helping the Dodgers capture five National League (NL) pennants. He won the NL most valuable player (MVP) award three times, in 1951, 1953, and 1955. In 1951 he batted 325 with 33 home runs and 108 runs ...