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I Bet You Didn't Know This: Prominent Black Baseball Players from Misssissippi

As the game of baseball continues to reckon with the concern of declining amount of black players in the lmajor league, there has been a renewed interest in the players who compromised the Negro League.

Many of the players who played in the Negro League would later transition to a career in the Major League following Jackie Robinson’s departure in 1947.

Many players who have played across minor leagues, Major League and Negro League have hailed from Mississippi. This article highlights some of the many Mississippi hailed baseball players who have left contributions to the game.

“Cool Papa” Bell- Starkville, Mississippi

Born James Thomas Bell on May 17, 1903 in Starkville, growing up he played baseball with his brother Fred. At the age of 17, Bell moved to St. Louis to live with his older brothers and would continue his amateur baseball player. After establishing himself in the city, he signed with the Compton Hills Cubs, a semi pro baseball team on weekends until the team was dissolved in 1921.

Following his time with the Cubs, Bell signed with the St. Louis Stars of the Negro League. In his rookie season, Bell would earn his nickname of “cool” after striking out standout player Oscar Charleston. “Bear” was added to the nickname because “it sounded better,” according to Ken Mandel who wrote a profile on Bell for

When Bell first signed with the Stars, he started as pitcher with occasional appearances in the outfield. By 1924, Bell was urged by manager Bill Gatewood to work on his defensive skills, thus leading to more appearances in the outfield by Bell.

Eventually Bell made his permanent move to the center field and stopped pitching. While up to bat, Bell was known for his prolific speed, which was problematic for his opponents. According to his biographer Shaun McCormick, his speed also allowed for him to play shallow in the outfield and to still be able to catch balls that were hit behind him. Bell led the Stars to league titles in 1928, 1930 and 1931. He later left the Stars and played on other teams across the league and went to play in Latin America.

Bell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974, becoming the fifth player from the Negro League to be inducted. His plaque in the hall of fame accolades Bell according to his contemporaries to be the fastest runner on the base paths.

Luscious “Luke” Easter- Jonestown, Mississippi

Easter was born in Jonestown, Mississippi in 1915, according to census data. His father, James was a graduate of Tuskegee Institute. After the death of his mother in 1922, his family moved to St Louis. Easter would drop out of high school in the ninth grade. At the time when Easter could demonstrate his baseball capabilities, there were no negro league teams in St. Louis so in 1937 he joined the St. Louis Titanium Giants, a top semi pro league. Players on the team were all employed by the National Lead Company, so players would work for the company during the weekdays and play baseball on weekends.

Easter went on to serve in the United States Army during World War II and after the conclusion of the war in 1945, Easter had tryuts with two Negro league teams, the Kansas City Monarchs and Chicago American Giants. With a towering height of 6’4 and weighing 240 pounds both teams felt Easter was too big and awkward to play the game. Easter was referred to Abe Saperstein, the founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, who had started a new team called the Cincinnati Crescents and he would eventually sign Easter, according to David Krajcek, who wrote a profile on Easter’s life and career.

For the 1947 season, Easter was sold to the Washington Homestead Grays and would become a contributing factor for the team. During the season, Easter batted a .363, tied for the league lead in home runs and led the league in runs batted in. He led his team to a victory in the 1948 Negro World Series, which would end up being the last in the league. His success attracted the owner of the Cleveland Indians who would purchase him from the Grays. As a 34 year old rookie in the 1950 season, Easter continued his power hitting and ranked among league leaders of the time in home runs and RBI and led the league in times hit by pitch.

With his age and knee and ankle problems, Easter would only end up playing a total of 68 Major league games between 1950 and 1953. Easter was best known for his powerful home runs which were known as “ Easter Eggs.” In 1948, he became the first player to hit a home run into the center field bleachers at New York’s Polo Grounds, the section was 475 feet away from home plate.

In 2008, he was posthumously inducted into the International League Hall of Fame.

George “Boomer” Scott- Greenville, Mississippi

Scott was born in 1944 in Greenville, Mississippi. His father died when he was two and by the age of nine he was picking cotton. In his spare time, he competed in the Little League but was ejected from his team for being “too good.” In high school, he excelled in football, basketball and baseball and after his secondary education he decided to forego going to college and pursuing a professional baseball career. According to Howard Bryant’s book, “The Last Hero,” Ed Scott, a major league scout, who signed Hank Aaron to his first major league contract, discovered Scott and signed him right out of high school in 1962.

In 1966, he became a major rookie for the Boston Red Sox and played in all 162 games that season, becoming the last Red Sox rookie to do so. In his 14 year career, Scott had a batting average of .268, 271 home runs and 1,051 RBIs in 2,034 games. He is the all-time leader for first baseman for the Red Sox and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006.

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