Archive for Negro Leagues

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

Posted in The Evergreens with tags , , on December 12, 2016 by Cade

bojangles1May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson began his life as Luther Robinson in Richmond, VA where he learned to dance for pennies on the street. Busking led to bit parts and “picknaninny” roles in local minstrel shows. This led to predominantly-white vaudeville shows…and then he went to work.

Widely regarded for his tap dancing prowess and innovation, he busted through the racial barriers of his day at every level, eventually becoming one of the first black solo performers in vaudeville and, ultimately, making a name for himself on Broadway. Continue reading

Jackie Robinson

Posted in Cypress Hills Cemetery with tags , , on November 18, 2016 by Cade

robinson5January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972

It would be incredibly easy to just speak of Jackie Robinson in the terms of his single most famous accomplishment: becoming the first black player in modern Major League Baseball. But, it would miss out on so much. For instance, Jack was a tremendously gifted ALL-AROUND athlete. He excelled in multiple sports through high school and eventually lettered in FOUR different sports while attending UCLA. He played semi-professional football until the U.S. was dragged into World War II in 1941. Because of the latter, he was drafted into the Army, but never saw combat due to a trumped-up court martial (he was ultimately acquitted). After the war, Robinson signed to play with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He was immediately identified by a number of major league teams – some serious, some not so much – as a legitimate candidate to become the first black player in the majors. Continue reading

James “Cool Papa” Bell

Posted in St. Peters Cemetery (MO) with tags , , on March 14, 2014 by Cade

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. Continue reading

Buck O’Neil

Posted in Forest Hill Cemetery (MO) with tags , , , on December 26, 2013 by Cade

oneil1November 13, 1911 – October 6, 2006

In lieu of writing something new about Buck O’Neil, I decided I will just re-post the tribute I wrote about him on an old blog the day after he died:

There is a man. Revered in some circles. Beloved in others. Unknown in most. To those who did know him, he was simply known as “Buck.”

John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil died yesterday at the age of 94. This is a sad day for the city of Kansas City. And, it is a sad day for the sport he loved and came to embody: baseball.

Buck’s career in baseball spanned 7 decades. He was a player, a coach, a scout and an ambassador. He began playing in Memphis in the newly formed Negro American League 1937. A year later, he was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs where he would stay (serving as first baseman and – eventually – manager) until 1955. After his stint in KC, he went on to become a scout for the Chicago Cubs. A position that led in 1962 to him being named a coach…the first black coach in the major leagues.

In 1988, he returned to Kansas City as a scout for the Royals. Shortly thereafter, he helped lead the charge to create a museum dedicated solely to the players and teams that made up the Negro Leagues. The museum opened in 1990 and found its new home in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine district in 1994. Buck continued to work as honorary chairman until his death.

Most recently, (this summer in fact) Buck played in the Northern League All-Star game as a member of the Kansas City T-Bones minor league team. He was intentionally walked. Continue reading

Satchel Paige

Posted in Forest Hill Cemetery (MO) with tags , , , on October 25, 2013 by Cade

paige1July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

One of the most celebrated pitchers of the Negro Leagues, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige dazzled crowds with his charismatic personality and wide array of pitches. In 1948, Paige became the oldest rookie to play in Major League Baseball when he started for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His five year MLB career was impressive, especially for someone in his 40’s, but his 20+ years touring the country in the Negro Leagues and stints in Latin America were what built his legacy. Continue reading