James “Cool Papa” Bell

Topps created this baseball card honoring James “Cool Papa” Bell’s Hall of Fame induction in 1974.

Negro Leagues superstar James “Cool Papa” Bell was one of the best baseball players to wear St. Louis on a uniform. His statistics can now officially be compared to those of St. Louis Cardinals stars including the late Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

Major League Baseball announced last week it will recognize various Negro Leagues as “major leagues,” ending a vestige of racism that had gone on a century.

Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement, “MLB seeks to ensure that future generations will remember the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues during this time period (1920-48) as Major League-caliber ballplayers. Accordingly, the statistics and records of these players will become a part of Major League Baseball’s history.”

Unfortunately, many (probably most) Negro League games did not have a box score. Hall of Famer Josh Gibson will only be credited with 238 home runs. He probably hit more than Barry Bond’s record 762. Former Cardinal Ray Lankford also hit 238 home runs.

Bell is among 35 Negro Leagues players in the Hall of Fame. Baseball is a game of numbers and statistics and, finally, these players’ records are a part of baseball’s history and lore.

Bell played 10 of his 21 seasons in the Negro Leagues as a member of the St. Louis Stars. During his career he had 1,096 hits (an average of 205 hits over 162 games, the length of today’s Major League season) and a .317 batting average. He averaged 29 doubles, 10 triples, seven home runs and 27 stolen bases per 162 games. 

MLB historian John Thorn said in the MLB statement, “The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and scheduling were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like that exacted of Hall of Fame candidates prior to Satchel Paige’s induction in 1971.”

Paige was the first Negro Leagues player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

STL in the NBA?

Last January, Chicago billionaire Richard Chaifetz told the St. Louis Business Journal, “I’d love to be involved with a team in St. Louis in the NBA. 

Chaifetz, a Saint Louis University graduate who founded Chicago-based ComPsych Corp., certainly has the money. He might get his opportunity to land an expansion NBA team in a few years.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told media members on Monday his league has studied “the ramifications of expanding beyond 30 teams.”

“I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point. You know, we’re very appreciative of the markets that have indicated an interest in having an NBA team,” Silver said.

While Seattle might be first in line since it lost its successful franchise to Oklahoma City, Chaifetz makes St. Louis a real player in the expansion game.

The Reid Roundup

Reigning U.S. Open singles champion Naomi Osaka saluted LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, U.S, women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe and other stalwarts of equality in a New York Times op-ed published Monday. “Just because we are athletes doesn’t mean we are unaffected by what happens around the country, nor does it obligate us to keep our mouths shut,” Osaka wrote… Second-year Miami coach Brian Flores is a favorite for NFL Coach of the Year honors. He’s stepping up for a Black head coach candidate – Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. “If EB’s not a head coach here soon, something’s wrong,” Flores said… After leading the Detroit Lions to a playoff berth and back-to-back 9-7 seasons, Jim Caldwell was fired in 2018 and replaced by Matt Patricia. Patricia was fired earlier this season. Caldwell has interviewed for the Houston Texans job.

 

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.”

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