James “Cool Papa” Bell

bell1May 17, 1903 – March 7, 1991

“Cool Papa Bell was so fast that he could turn out the lights and be under the covers before the room got dark.” – Satchel Paige

James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell was a Negro Leagues center fielder who is widely regarded as one of the fastest men to ever play the position. His 28-year career in both the U.S. and Latin America garnered plenty of attention during the height of the popularity of the Negro Leagues. A feared baserunner, Bell was known to steal 2nd and 3rd base in a single play. Pitchers tried to avoid walking him as, once he was on base, he would almost assuredly score a run. On defense, it was thought to be impossible to hit the ball over his head because of his speed. Though many of the stories of his speed are mythical, his skill and talent certainly were legitimate. He batted .337 lifetime, was an 8 time All-Star and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 – just the 5th Negro Leagues player to achieve that honor. Since such records were not kept at the time, it’s impossible to know exactly how many stolen bases he had, but it was undoubtedly a lot. After his playing career ended, he was a scout for the St. Louis Browns. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of 87.


St. Peters Cemetery – Normandy, MO

Specific Location

Outside of the small, outdoor mausoleum at the southeastern corner of the cemetery.



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