Thursday, February 21, 2019

#tbt: For Whom The Bell Tolls

In addition to Collecting Cutch, I also have a large collection of Charlie Morton cards, a growing collection of Hall of Famers (Roberto Clemente, Reggie Miller, Jerome Bettis) I enjoy collecting, and a love for Topps Heritage Pirates cards.

In recent years Topps has produced Throwback Short Print Variants to chase. 

Josh Bell wore the Homestead Grays uniform in a way that would make "Cool Papa" Bell proud.

On June 16, 2017 the Pirates and Cubs faced off wearing throwback uniforms from the Negro Leagues.

The uniform is referenced on the back of this Andrew McCutchen card I showed off a few weeks ago.

It is also referenced on the back of Josh Bell's 2018 Salute card.

In terms of actual Cool Papa Bell, this is the only card of his that I have.  When deciding on an autograph I wanted of the speedy Negro League star, I knew I wanted it to feature him in uniform with either the Grays or Crawfords.

"Cool Papa" Bell was born James Thomas Bell on May 17, 1903 in Starkville, Mississippi.  He was the forth born of seven children.

He worked at a creamery that is now Mississippi State University.  As a teenager he moved to St. Louis to live with his older brothers and attend high school.

He would pitch knuckleballs on Sundays and holidays while working as a packer during the week.

In 1922 he earned $20 a week pitching for a semipro team.  As a pitcher he started being referred to as "Cool" for striking out other Negro League stars.  He added "Papa" himself because it sounded better.

Bell transitioned himself into a speedy switch hitting centerfielder in the years that followed.  He would often bunt for base hits and once on base he would do things to mess up the pitcher's rhythm.

Stories are told of him scoring from first base on a single.

In the motion picture Cobb, starring Tommy Lee Jones a line is made in the movie of Bell's quickness.

"Cool Papa Bell was so fast that one time he hit a line drive up the middle that hit his head sliding into second base."

Bell would bounce around from team to team and eventually would go to play in the Mexican leagues in Latin America where he played ball with the fathers of Luis Tiant and Orlando Cepeda.

Upon returning to the US he caught on with the Homestead Grays winning back to back titles with the team.  As a 43 year old he batted .396 for the Grays who were on the verge of their 3rd straight title.

Satchel Paige, a teammate of Bell, said in his autobiography that Bell could flip the light switch and be under the covers before the room got dark.

The Sporting News ranked Bell the 66th greatest ballplayer in a 1999 article.

Bell passed away in 1971 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Negro League Committee in 1974.


  1. Whenever Buck O'Neil was asked how fast Cool Papa Bell was, he would reply, "Faster than that."

  2. Awesome stuff. I'd love to pick up a Cool Papa Bell autograph someday.

  3. Actually, Cool Papa Bell would properly wear stirrups:

  4. Great post. Sweet signature.