James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell was born on May 17. 1903 and played his entire career in the Negro Leagues. He was one of the fastest men ever to play baseball.
Satchel Paige once said this about him:
“One Time he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit him sliding into second.”
He was part of the greatest Negro League teams. Bell won many championships with the St Louis Stars, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and the Homestead Grays. The 1935 Crawfords featured five future Hall-of-Famers: Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson and Satchel Paige.
Like many Negro League stars, he played in Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic. In 1939, Bell became the first slugger to connect for three home runs in a single game during Cuban professional play. In 1937, Rafael Trujillo hired Bell, Paige, and other Negro League players for his traveling all-star team. Bell spent years away from the Negro Leagues as a star in the Mexican League and playing winter ball in Cuba. He loved playing in Cuba, where the fans saw him fly around the bases.
Bell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 when many of the Negro League greats were added.