Tag Archives: Cool Papa Bell

“A Blatantly-Cruel Job”

14 Jun

After James “Cool Papa” Bell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974, “an old-time Negro League baseball star—one of the all-time greats for certain,” had a few thoughts on Negro Leaguers and the Hall of Fame.

The former player, who, “is not the beneficiary of big-time publicity,” talked to Andrew Spurgeon “Doc” Young of The Chicago Defender.

Bell

Young said:

“The old-timer knows he was better than many of the Negro League players who are being touted for that ‘special niche’ reserved in the Hall of Fame for unfortunate blacks—those superior blacks who were barred out of organized baseball by racial bigots.”

The “old-timer,” according to Young said the committee instituted by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1971 and chaired by Monte Irvin, “has done a terribly bad job…a ridiculous job, a blatantly-cruel job.”

His chief complaint:

“Andrew, ‘Rube’ Foster should have been the first man from Negro League ball admitted to the Hall of Fame. He did more for Negro League baseball than anyone else. He was outstanding on four levels: Player, manager, team operator, and league czar.”

Young recalled that Joe Green, who played with and against Foster during his nearly two decades with several Chicago clubs, told him:

“Joe Greene [sic] knew Rube Foster well and he told me: ‘When Rube Foster died, the league died with him.”

Foster

The “old-timer” said:

“I know something about Rube Foster first-hand. He was a great man…One reason why Rube hasn’t been honored is that the committee is dominated by Easterners, Foster’s greatest triumphs were achieved in the Midwest. It’s a damn shame, really.”

 Then, he called out the most recent honoree:

“It’s got to be a damn shame when players who were twice as good as Cool Papa Bell can’t make it. I played against Cool Papa Bell, and I know he wasn’t an all-around star. He could run fast but he couldn’t throw and couldn’t hit with power. I think Satch (Paige) helped to promote him into the Hall of Fame.”

Young would not share his opinion of Bell but said the “old-timer” was “essentially right” about the failings of the committee.

“’Sure, I’m right,’ the old-timer said. ‘Jelly Gardner was a better player than Cool Papa Bell. Martin Dihigo was one of the greatest players who ever lived. Oscar Charleston, Bullet Joe Rogan, Bingo DeMoss—all three of them were better than Cool Papa Bell.’

“’You should know,’ the writer said. ‘You played against them all.’

“’Absolutely,’ the old-timer said. ‘And he didn’t crack a smile.”

Young never revealed who the “old-timer” was.

Foster was finally inducted in 1981, after Charleston (1976) and Dihigo (1977). Rogan would not be honored until 1998. Gardner and DeMoss have remained overlooked for induction.

“About the Best Outfielder he had Ever Lamped”

29 Oct

In 1930, Dizzy Dismukes provided his list of the greatest outfielders he had seen during his 20 years as a Negro League pitcher, to The Pittsburgh Courier, as part of a series of ‘releases’ he wrote for the paper:

“From 1909 to 1915 I had seen a great array of outfield talent, including such stars as Pete Hill, Frank Duncan, Jap Payne, Spotwood Poles, Jimmy Lyons, (Robert ‘Judy’) Gans, C. B. Earl [sic Earle]…and a host of others.”

dismukes.jpg

Dismukes

Dismukes said none of them measured up to the man who “I have little doubt that the choice of ranking him as no. 1 will be unanimous,” among The Courier’s readers:

“Ranking as the best outfielder of all time is Oscar Charleston, who reported to C. I. Taylor for a tryout in the spring of 1915 as a pitcher”

Dismukes said Charleston played some games in the outfield for Taylor and:

“His uncanny judgement of fly balls, his prowess with the bat, and daring on the bases in games he played soon convinced C. I. that he had about the best outfielder he had ever lamped.”

oscar.jpg

Charleston

Dismukes said:

“In the days of the bunt—that is the swing bunt—he excelled, and then, as the home run craze began to creep into the game, he kept pace with the leaders by amassing as many as any other.”

In the field, Dismukes said:

“Opposing players complained that four men played the outfield for the (Indianapolis) ABC’s. Charleston, playing close in behind second base, snared line drives which ordinarily were hits, and then when some batter would drive one to the far corners of the lot for what seemed like a sure hit, Charleston would bob up from somewhere to make a catch just before the ball had a chance to hit the ground.  I for one have never seen his equal.”

Dismukes chose Pete Hill for number 2 all time:

“A close student of the game in every sense, he played the batter when playing outfield; was a great hitter in a pinch, whether it was a single, double, triple, or home run that was needed.”

The third best outfielder, according to Dismukes, was Jimmy Lyons:

“He too, like Charleston, broke in as a pitcher, but the late Dick Wallace, then manager of St. Louis (1911) realized his value as an outfielder.  Lyons was the most daring of all batters I ever saw; was fast and used his speed to every advantage.  He was considered about the freshest kid to break into baseball during those days.  Safe bunting was his specialty.  Talkative, he could upset an infield by telling them what he was going to do and get away with it…In that respect I class him as greater than Charleston or Hill.  Drop the ball and he would run—and how.”

Dismukes said “that seemingly slow moving Frank Duncan” was number four:

“There was a natural hitter.  A great judge of pitched balls and uncanny at getting to first base by being hit by a pitched ball.  Frank’s position was left field.  Hit one right on the foul line and he was there to receive it; hit one over the shortstop’s head, he was there; hit one up against the fence, he was there; why, how, everybody who has seen him play still wonders.”

Dismukes said “that nervous type” Spotwood Poles was fifth:

“(He) was the fastest man I ever saw in getting to first base.  With all his speed however, he was an ordinary base runner, seemingly awkward, but a good fly chaser and one of the game’s greatest lead off men.  And, truly, he was a great hitter.”

Next was Andrew “Jap” Payne:

“Payne in the time of need could do more acrobatic stunts to help a pitcher out of a tight situation, than all the outfielders put together.  Almost any ball Jap could get within three to five feet of before hitting the ground he caught, as he usually took a dive for them.”

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Payne

Dismukes’ next choice was Poles’ Lincoln Giants teammate Robert “Judy” Gans, who had become an umpire:

“(Gans’) whom his teammates dubbed ‘telegram’ because he told everything he knew, must be given credit for being one of the game’s greatest fielders.  He started as a pitcher, but found his real greatness would be shown in the outfield.”

In the eighth spot:

“I had heard a lot of a lad out east by the name of (Herbert ‘Rap’) Dixon, and it was my good fortune to see him last fall in about seven games and I quickly concluded he was just about all I had heard of him.  Eastern critics have been ranking him with Charleston.  He is a great fly chaser, a hard and timely hitter, and few outfielders have possessed throwing arms the equal of his.  To exclude his name from my list would be an injustice.”

And, “Last but not least” Dismukes said:

“James Bell, affectionately called by his teammates ‘Cool Papa’…I would like to see a contest with ‘Cool Papa’ as a participant (against the 1916 version of) Jimmy Lyons.”