MCC-Maple Woods Storytelling Celebration 2010 - Bobby Norfolk


Uploaded by smartfuturetv on 19.01.2011

Transcript:

["Take Me Out to the Ballgame"]
Good afternoon.
Alright, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Bell, James "Cool Papa" Bell, but I get to that later.
But, one of the teams that used to play in the Negro Leagues was called the Indianapolis Clowns.
Now, they had this thing where they would pretend
they were playing ball by throwing balls from the mound.
Swish. Boom.
Connecting with the ball. [crack of bat against ball]
Whoo! Catchin' pop flies. Boom.
And running bases, boogety, boogety, boogety.
Now, some folks call that game "Shadow Ball" on account of how
Negroes had to play ball in the shadows in white segregated America.
["It Don't Mean a Thing"]
[crack of bat on ball]
[Bobby laughing]
Well, I played ball all the time where I grew up in Starkville, Mississippi back in 1903.
Whoo, we played baseball all the time ya'll.
I bet some of y'all played baseball too when you were young, uh?
Uh-huh.
We played it every day after school, at recess, even on Sunday.
A matter of fact, we would go say, "Big Momma can we go play some baseball?"
[Momma's voice] "Take off them church clothes first baby."
"Yes-m".
Ha, ha! Do it again.
[instrumental music]
We'd be outside playing ball, them nice church clothes would be all hung up.
We were a part of the game.
[music continues]
Yeah, used to be sacrilegious for some folks to play ball
on Sunday but that changed, didn't it? Uh-huh.
And we listened to the radio too. Oh, yeah.
In Mississippi we listened to the radio all the time.
We would hear about the great baseball players like
Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb and, of course, the "Bambino" Mr. Babe Ruth.
But, after while ya'll we got tired of bein' 'round there
Mississippi pickin' cotton for low and no payin' jobs, seven days a week.
[singing] Talkin' 'bout... jump down pick a bale of cotton,
jump down pick a dilly dee, Oh lordy lordy pick a bale of cotton,
Oh lordy lordy pick a bale a day, jump down...
that got old.
So, we decided to join that northern migration ya'll
and headed on up into the northern cities.
Now, my family we settled in the great city of St. Louis.
You could just live better make more money in St. Louis.
You know, when we got to St. Louis we brought our blues with us too ya'll.
Yeah, bein' from the South I knew what the blues was all about.
Now, I wasn't much of a singer but my buddy Satchel Paige, he was.
Oh yeah.
He would croon all the time on them old dusty roads goin' up and down tryin' to barnstorm.
We'd get all bored and he'd say...
[as Satchel Paige] "Alright boys, getting' a little
"borin' up here on this bus, let's kick it up a few notches.
"One of my favorites, St Louis Blues."
And we would kick it off.
[instrumental music]
[singing "St. Louis Blues"] "I hate to see that evenin' sun go down.
"I hate to see that evenin' sun go down.
"'Cause my lovin' baby, done left this town.
"If I feel tomorrow the way I feel today.
"If I feel tomorrow the way I feel today.
"I'm gonna pack my trunk, whoa, and make my getaway.
"I got the St. Louis blues. I'm as blue as I can be."
Too much soul to control.
[Bobby laughing]
Well, as "Old Papa" was saying, first team I played for when I
got to St. Louis ya'll was the Compton Hill Cubs.
And I played for the Compton Hill Cubs on Sundays and holidays, made about $20 a week.
But, you know what, when I joined the Compton Hill Cubs I started up as a pitcher.
Ha, ha. You heard me right, a pitcher!
Whoo, I had a knuckle ball that could tie batters up in knots.
Now, you gotta throw a knuckle ball softly ya'll without any spin or rotation on the ball.
Get them batters all confused.
[Bobby laughing]
It wasn't because of my speed that I joined the team, it was because of that knuckle ball.
But, later on I made the break in 1922... for the St. Louis Stars.
Now, some people call baseball the national pastime.
Well look like to me, Negro got passed up all the time.
Well, that's just me.
But, this I know, American and National League baseball owners,
they borrowed colored players from the leagues for almost
60 years on a so called, "Gentlemen's agreement".
But, it was Andrew Rube Foster, he was the one that said
we need to start our own National Negro League
and make it look like the National and the American Leagues.
Now, Andrew Rube Foster, whoo, he was a master technician of baseball.
He had this pipe and he would give certain puffs...
[puffing pipe] Puff, puff, puff.
...to throw a certain ball.
He would nod his head a certain way.
And the bunt, whoo, he was the master of the bunt.
And them boys if they couldn't catch that ball in that cap, they got cut.
Oh yeah, he took no prisoners.
And he called everybody darlin'.
[as Andrew Rube Foster] "How you doin' darlin'?"
Andrew Rube Foster was the one that got together and started that Negro National League ya'll.
And then he had his boys on a private Pullman car train hitched up to the back
to go all through those major cities and
"My boys would arrive stylin' and profilin'", Andrew Rube Foster said.
[Bobby laughing]
Oh, also, white co-owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, J.L. Wilkinson.
He tried to do his best for his team too.
As a matter of fact, they say he mortgaged his home several years
just to pay for his team's payroll.
Now, that's dedication.
But, I tell you what, all that pressure that Rube Foster was
facing in segregated America, it took a toll on him ya'll.
He lost the Chicago American Giants.
He lost his bank account.
Then, he lost his mind.
He passed away in 1926, in a mental institution.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us reflect.
[instrumental music]
  
Now, Andrew Foster started that Negro National League here
in the great city of Kansas City back around February 1920.
He got together with business leaders, church people, civic leaders.
Oh, they all wanted to be part of that baseball league, ladies and gentlemen.
Meetin' at an old colored YMCA, not too far from here.
And I tell ya, I can hear it now, we had a lot of players too that would join the NNL.
I can hear that announcer right now up in the announcer's booth,
"Ladies and gentlemen we have batting for the home team
Mr. Chet Brewer, [line up music plays]
"Jake Stevens, [music]
"Willie Powell, [music]
"Wiliiam Julius 'Judy' Johnson, [music]
"John Henry 'Pop' Lloyd, [music]
"Ray Dandridge, [music]
"Buck Leonard, [music]
"Buck O'Neill, oh, ha-ha, Moses Fleetwood Walker, [music]
Ha-ha-ha.
"Ted 'Double Duty' Radcliffe, [music]
"and Norman 'Turkey' Stearnes. [music]
Ha-ha-ha.
Oh, there were a whole lot of other players that I could name but we'd be here a looong time.
But, you know what, the main thing that I heard in all
of those baseball stadiums was, "Play ball".
Now, schedulin' games could be a problem too because
some teams play 62 games a season and some play 42 games a season.
How can you do stats with that?
So we did the best we could.
But I tell you what, my old buddy, Satchel Paige,
you know he broke contracts and he jumped all the time.
He said playin' in the Negro League on them old dusty roads sometimes
and workin' three and four games a day all year long was like the mule plowin' the field all week
and then pullin' the carriage to church on a Sunday mornin'.
[line up music plays]
Ha-ha.
[instrumental music]
That old mule was workin' hard ya'll.
[music continues]
That's what some of them players did.
But, I tell you what...
[Bobby laughing]
...what we did, we sat down and we listened to the great philosopher Leroy Satchel Paige.
He was not only a master pitcher, he was a philosopher too, comedian par-excellence.
And he came up with some sayin's.
Maybe some of ya'll know some of those sayin's that old Satchel Paige was sayin'.
Now, ya'll sittin' out there all silent like ya'll in the movie theatre.
Hm.
But, we gonna make this live, this is live, not Memorex.
So, other than the folks who work here in the NNL building, I'm gonna ask somebody out there,
can you come up with any old sayin's that Satchel Paige had in history?
Come on ya'll.
[audience member speaks]
Who said that?
What was that sir?
Number one.
[Bobby laughing]
Can you expound on that?
Can somebody else expound for him?
You can't expound on it sir, uh?
Alright, anybody else over here?
I know Satchel Paige had a lot of sayin's now.
Ya'll don't be standin' there starin' back at me, I'll stare back.
Any sayin's?
Say it again sir.
[audience member inaudible]
[Bobby laughing]
Give him a round of applause.
[audience clapping]
Oh yeah.
Now, you know what, I told you about them schedulin' games could be a problem
but sometimes when we traveled we had to rent the white stadiums
and then the white players would be on the road.
We couldn't use them showers though, had them "White Only" signs up there in the showers.
So we could rent the ball field but we could not shower and use the locker rooms.
That changed with a guy named Gus Greenlee of the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
He owned the Crawford Grill, along with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Crawford Grill, it had another name,
it was called "Third Base" because it was the last place
people went before they went home.
Now, Gus Greenlee, he was a numbers man and a bootlegger.
Numbers man, today they call it the lottery.
Finally made it legal, didn't they ya'll.
Uhm-hm-hm.
Well, Gus Greenlee built the Crawford Stadium so all his boys could shower after the game.
And then the visiting teams, they could come in and they could shower too.
[Bobby laughing]
But, after the game, old Gus Greenlee would invite in
some of the finest Negro musicians and singers in the United States to sit down.
And they would be eatin', and we'd be meetin' and greetin' all these folks
after we went and showered and sat down in the Crawford Grill.
Ladies and gentlemen, they had a lot of good food.
Ya'll think they got good food up here in Kansas City
but up in Pittsburgh they like barbeque too.
And they liked a lot of other fine food and so on the bandstand would be
some of the great musicians like a man named Duke Ellington.
And Duke would sit there behind that piano with the Washingtonians
and he would be playin' and we would eatin'.
[instrumental music]
And one of Duke's favorite songs was the "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo"
["East St. Louis Toodle-Oo"]
  
Before ya'll start wonderin' again how I got my nickname, let me tell ya.
One day I was pitchin' and all of a sudden who steps up in the batter's box, Oscar Charleston.
Now, Oscar Charleston was mean.
Mm-mm-mm.
Was somebody gonna ask me how mean he was?
[audience] How mean was he?
Thank you!
He was so mean that one time he got mad
and he tore the steering wheel off the dashboard of a car.
Somebody say, "Hey Charlie, how we gonna get home?"
[as Oscar] "I don't know."
Oh, he loved to mix it up all the time too ya'll.
And when he be travelin' around, oh, he was a master on the diamond.
He was built like Babe Ruth, could run like Ty Cobb.
And he could outrun any ball hit past him in the outfield.
And sometimes he mixed it up with some of those folks down South
who were wearin' the white hoods and the robe.
Ya'll saw them a minute ago.
Hm-mm.
They found out how Oscar Charleston took no prisoners.
And they started followin' him around down South, hecklin' him,
calling him the "N" word and everything.
And Oscar would say, "I dare ya'll to come down here and say that in my face.
"I'm Oscar Charleston."
A Klansman took him up on his offer one time.
Yeah.
Oscar was runnin' bases and all of a sudden here come
this Klansman out of the stands in full regalia.
Oscar was rounding third and there the Klansman was standin' face to sheet.
[as Klansman] "Alright boy, here I am, whatcha gonna do?"
[Bobby laughing]
Oscar didn't say nothin'.
You know what he did?
He reached up and snatched the hood off the Klansman head.
"Oh you ain't so big and bad now without your face bein' hid, hey chump?"
A lot of people recognized the old boy as a city official.
[as woman] "Oh, that's Mr. Gilmore." [woman laughing]
Mr. Gilmore ducked, ran back through the stands.
Oscar mixed it up with them Cubans too ya'll.
Hm-mm.
Down there in Havana, Cuba he played about nine season,
down in the winter leagues with them Cubans.
[Bobby laughing]
[instrumental music]
Oscar Charleston didn't take no prisoners with them neither.
He would be up and down in Havana and all of a sudden
somebody would say something to Oscar Charleston he didn't understand it, like buenos dias.
[punching person] Pow!
Oscar knocked him out.
"Hey Charlie, he just said good day."
[as Oscar] "Well, I didn't know."
[music continues]
And everywhere Oscar went down there in Latin America, he was Oscar.
And that's who I'm facing from the mound.
Mm-mm-mm.
But I told ya'll I had that knuckle ball, I made him swing and miss.
[batter misses pitch]
Swing and miss. [swinging and missing ball]
Swing and miss. [missing ball]
I struck him out.
Ha-ha-ha-ha.
Struck him out!
And after I left the mound my teammates said,
"Man, that was cool. That was real cool what you did."
How I kept my composure under Oscar Charleston.
Later on coach Bill Gatewood, he tagged that "Papa" on the end.
[as coach Gatewood] "You one cool papa 'cause papa don't take no mess."
["Papa Don't Take no Mess"] "Papa don't take no mess. Papa don't take no mess.
"Papa is the man who can understand how a man has to do whatever he can.
"Hit me. Papa don't, Papa don't, Papa don't take no mess."
Hey!
"He don't take no mess."
[Bobby laughing]
Well, after a while coach Bill Gatewood, he recommended
that Oscar start practicing on my outfield just a little bit.
And so because of my speed I started working
in the outfield a little bit more playin' shortstop.
And I could out run any ball hit past meeee!
And then I practiced on my switch hitting,
batting from the left side and the right side, keep them pitchers all confused.
Ladies and gentlemen if I had a base hit it was over.
I guarantee you if there was another base hit I was going from first to third, even home.
Didn't matter to me.
I was gonna score one way or another.
And as we got on that road ya'll, we call our tour the Chittlin' circuit.
Ya'll familiar with the Chittlin' circuit over there or just chittlin's.
[audience laughing]
Mm-mm, that's what I thought.
Yeah, because when we started travelin' on that Chittlin' circuit
we can always go to the Negro hotels that have some class and some style.
And we could not go to the white hotels at all, had the "White Only" signs up there.
And so sometimes we would be on the road all year long and
we didn't have the convenience of taking a bath or a shower.
And we would play three and four games a day and then have to get back on the bus.
Stank throughout the bus.
And then when we got to these old Negro hotels, checked in,
you better leave the lights on because if you turn off the lights
the roaches and the rats and the bed bugs will come out.
AH!
Lord have mercy!
Keep the lights on!
And sometimes we would have to put newspaper between the sheet and the mattress
to make that crinklin' noise, keep them varmints away.
Hm-mm.
Bed bugs, they comin' back ain't they, making a comeback.
They like the roaches, they will survive a nuclear holocaust.
But I tell ya, eatin' sardines and spam and crackers,
ridin' on that bus all year long,
we didn't care because we were professional baseball players.
Check it out.
["Take Me Out to the Ballgame"]
"Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd.
"Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
"I don't care if I never come back.
"Let me root, root, root for the home team.
"And if they don't win it's a shame.
"'Cause its one, two, three strikes your out.
"At the old ball game."
[music continues]
  
Bam.
[Bobby laughing]
Baseball players par excellence, that's what we did,
that's what we were all about ladies and gentlemen.
I played for professional baseball programs throughout my entire 24 year career
and I could hear it now up in the batter's box.
I'm there approaching the mound in those 24 years and the announcer would say,
"And now we have Mr. James 'Cool Papa' Bell,
"10 years with the St. Louis Stars, BAM, the Homestead Grays, BAM, the Detroit Wolves, BAM,
"the Kansas City Monarchs, BAM, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, BAM, the Memphis Red Sox, BAM,
"and the Chicago American Giants."
Twenty-four years in all.
They said in my prime I was the fastest man on the planet.
Oh, yeah.
My old buddy, Satchel Paige, he say, "Man Jesse Owens, yeah, that racin' guy,
"he afraid to race you, man, afraid he might lose,
"you's the fastest man on the planet."
[Bobby laughing]
Let me tell ya'll something, one time we were playin' ball in California, right,
and so I was roomin' with Satchel Paige.
And so Satchel was out havin' dinner and gettin' the drink
and I got back to the hotel room first.
And when I got ready for bed, I hit the light but the
light stayed on for about three seconds after I hit the switch.
[Bobby laughing]
I was gonna trick the trickster.
Ding.
[Bobby laughing]
So, I waited.
Laid in the cut.
Waited for Satchel to get back.
He got back.
I said, "Uh, lights out Satch?"
[as Satchel] "Yeah, Cool Papa."
[Bobby laughing]
You know what, I jumped over there and I hit that switch,
Bam, and jumped into bed before the light would go out.
Satchel sat up, "Man, you are fast.
"Oh, my goodness, I'm tellin' everybody in the world about this night.
"That's how this legend goin' get started.
"My buddy 'Cool Papa' Bell is so fast he can turn off the light
"and be in the bed before the light would go out."
That's how that legend got started.
While I got your ear let me tell ya'll about baseball and paradise, rumors,
and all those things that we did when we traveled down into Latin America.
See we had this thing called barnstorming, right.
So when the white players were through with their season,
we would get with them boys and we would travel around
the United States just to make some extra money.
They called it barnstorming back in the day.
Make that extra money.
Whoo, ladies and gentlemen, I'll tell you,
we had some power players in the barnstorming days too.
We had folks named Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean and Bob Feller.
Let me tell you 'bout them boys.
Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean played for the St. Louis Cardinals on the mound.
And when I played against him in the barnstorming days reporters say,
"Uh, Mr. Dean what do you think about Stachel Paige pitchin'?"
He said, "Well, Satchel Paige one of the best pitchers
"I've ever seen and I been lookin' in the mirror a long time."
Little narcissism in his personality.
[Bobby laughing]
And he was a fireball too.
And then when he was in the army, let me tell you how he got that name "Dizzy" Dean.
His name was Jerome Hanna.
He was in the army, alright.
And so, he was on K.P. duty ya'll, peelin' potatoes
but he would go about 60 feet away and line up some trash can tops, get his accuracy together.
He would try to find the center of the trashcan tops and hit 'em.
Ka-bam! Ka-bam! Ka-bam!
Here come a drill sergeant with a platoon.
"Hup, two, three, four, hup, two, three, four, hup."
He saw Jerome, ka-bam.
"Hey, hey, you dizzy son of a gun, what are you doin' over there?"
He didn't call him "gun" by the way.
Hm-mm, we in a public place.
And everybody that saw him knockin' down
the trash can tops, they believed him, he was dizzy.
Then there was another boy, a white boy named Bob Feller.
[Bobby laughing]
He was strikin' out major league players when he was 17 years old
and then went back after that to get his high school diploma.
Them boys, Feller, Dean, and I, we could throw balls across the strike zone 102 mph.
[ball flying through air] Whoa!
Them boys would be lookin', all of a sudden the ball
would disappear before it hit the strike zone.
There'd be an aspirin coming across the plate.
Oh, we defied the laws of physics when we pitched, ya'll.
[Bobby laughing]
But, I tell ya'll what, as I said when I was barnstormin'
with them white players and all that segregation was going on
I had to disarm those who thought they hated me
with humor and then dazzle them with my talents.
[Bobby laughing]
Check it out.
[instrumental music]
We then went down to Latin America.
And in Latin America, in Venezuela, in Puerto Rico, in Cuba,
and all those places where they spoke Spanish, we were always there.
And they love baseball in Latin America.
[Bobby laughing]
If you missed church on Sunday, God would understand.
Gotta go to them game.
In the late 1930's there was a World War brewing in Europe and Asia.
And just about that time that we were headed down to Latin America in the late 30's,
there was a man over there name Adolf Hitler.
In Italy, there was Mussolini. In Japan, Tojo.
And even though the American army was segregated during that time,
we still as Negroes honored our country with honor and distinction.
["GI Jive playing"]
"PFC, the CPL, SGT, the LT, CP, the OD, the MP makes you do KP.
"It's the GI Jive. Man alive.
"It's nuts with the bugler blowing reveille over your bed when you arrive.
"Hey Jack, that's the GI Jive."
And at the same time that we were defending this great nation against Nazi's and Fascists,
there were also people who wanted to entertain.
People like Lena Horn, Count Basie, and the master on piano, Duke Ellington.
[instrumental music]
  
[Bobby laughing]
This is the way this thing went down ya'll.
In a place called Santo Domingo, there was a dictator named Rafael Trujillo.
Can you all say his name for me?
Rafael Trujillo. [audience] Rafael Trujillo.
--Oh yeah.
That was good, ya'll know your Spanish.
Well, he wanted to start this league down there in Santo Domingo
to beat up all the other baseball teams down there in Latin America.
And I'll tell ya, they was lookin' all through the United States
for some players to play down in Latin America.
And they didn't want Bob Feller.
They didn't want "Dizzy" Dean.
They wanted Satchel Paige and "Cool Papa" Bell.
Because what had happened was that Trujillo when he took over as dictator,
he wanted another team to beat up on all those other teams down there.
[Bobby laughing]
And so he sent some of his henchmen to go look for me and "Cool Papa", right.
Now, I had already jumped and I went to Bismarck, North Dakota
and I didn't want to jump again when I was playin' with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
But see when I was up in Bismarck, North...
any ya'll been in Bismarck, North Dakota before?
Ain't too many black folks up there.
Then as now.
But I made some good money.
And so Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar was sent to come find me.
I was playin' with the Pittsburg Crawfords ya'll,
we were in spring training in 1937 in New Orleans.
And so Dr. Aybar, he trailed me all the way up to where we were spring training at.
And somebody went and snitched on me, found my hotel,
talkin' 'bout, "Pst, pst, Satchel's in there."
And I heard they were comin' and I went out the side door tried to jump in my car and get away.
Man, but them men took their black limos and blocked my exit.
[tires screeching]
Dang it!
Then they got out of their limos.
[car doors slamming]
Dr. Aybar said, "I am Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar,
"we are looking for superstar baseball players, especially from the Negro Leagues.
"And you are the one."
And I said, "I don't want to go to no Santo Domingo."
But when Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar waved $30,000 in my face I said, "What time do we leave?"
There was no way I was gonna turn down $30,000.
Would you turn down $30,000 brother John?
I don't think so.
So, I jumped once again.
"Cool Papa", he jumped and we went down to Santo Domingo in the spring of 1937.
He-he.
I tell ya'll what, Josh Gibson, the black Babe Ruth, he was playin' in Puerto Rico.
So we sweetened the pot and had him come join us.
[Bobby laughing]
Wait a minute.
Some people say that Josh Gibson,
the black Babe Ruth, they should be switched around.
Babe Ruth should be called the white Josh Gibson.
But I digress.
Man we were sent to play.
We went down there to Santo Domingo.
[instrumental music]
Ha-ha-ha.
Oh yeah, we left church, I said a little prayer, and then we headed on down.
[Bobby laughing]
And when we arrived on the scene we were in 5-star hotels.
We ate in 5-star restaurants.
Whoooaaa!
Nice.
[Spanish music playing]
We body surfed on the beach.
We fished.
Ha-ha.
We ate filet mignon, lordy, beef tenderloin, filet of sole, and baby back ribs.
[music continues]
I say, "Whooo, baseball in paradise, got to be nice.
"Baseball in paradise got to be nice."
This is how the other half live, I like it.
But everything wasn't peaches and cream ya'll.
Everything was not peaches and cream.
Even though we had some of the best players on the planet it was still a tense situation.
Because what happened was that when we were going to all these 5-star restaurants
and 5-star hotels and kickin' back and surfin' on the beach
and eatin' all the food we could desire.
We had all these military men following us around all the time.
All of a sudden we start lookin' around,
I'm seein' folks with rifles and fixed bayonets and people with sidearms and machetes.
And they started calling our hotel, "En La Carcel", that's Spanish for the jail.
And after a while we started gettin' a lit bit paranoid.
We kept seeing these folks...
["From the Halls of Montezuma"]
...everywhere we went.
Men follow us everywhere.
We had no peace of mind.
And then I started thinking,
"I don't know if they tryin' to protect us or keep us from gettin' away."
But we won the games down there and then we found out later on
that if we had lost any of the games in Santo Domingo,
Trujillo would have ordered more games 'til we did win.
He was that kind of fella.
So after we won the series, a lot of our boys jumped
on ships and went on back to the United States
compliments of the American Sugar Company Steamer Lines
without the inconvenience of passport checks.
But I wanted to stay down there just a little bit longer
because I love the beautiful skies and that perfect climate
and I love the spicy food and the Latino lifestyle.
As a matter of fact, when I finally got back to the United States, September 1937,
some old sports writer tried to trip me up ya'll with them tricky race questions.
Talkin' 'bout, "Uh, Mr. Paige, would you let your daughter date a white man?"
I said, "Not if he looks like you."
[Bobby laughing]
I wasn't takin' it.
Ladies and gentlemen, "Cool Papa" come check it.
You know what, fast forward ya'll to 1945.
Rumors were runnin' around in the United States that they
were lookin' for a Negro to break into the major leagues.
Nobody could figure out who it was gonna be.
Was it gonna be Satchel Paige, Ray Dandridge, Larry Doby, Josh Gibson, me?
Nobody could figure it out until word got out ya'll they were lookin' at that man out of
UCLA in California name Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
Let me tell ya'll 'bout Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson played with the Kansas City Monarchs
for a while ya'll before he made it into the majors.
And my boy had a weak throwin' arm, yeah.
I would tell him.
They would put him at shortstop, I'd say, "Jackie, you can't play shortstop man."
Now, he was a fast runner.
Oh, yeah.
At UCLA, he was star runnin' back on the football team.
He set records in track and field.
He played star basketball.
But he could not throw me out at first if he had the grounder ball from his right.
[Bobby laughing]
He didn't have that kind of arm.
And low and behold when he got to the majors
he was at first then second base just like I predicted.
Now, Jackie Robinson, he was an activist and a militant.
People just thought he sat back and he just took everything that came at him.
Nuh-uh.
Jackie Robinson ya'll was with the United States Army for a while, second lieutenant.
And in Fort Hood, Texas one day, second lieutenant
Jack Roosevelt Robinson got on this military bus.
[driving bus]
Jackie got on and sat in the front.
Bus driver say, "Hey boy, you can't sit in the front of this bus,
"get on back there in the colored section."
Jackie said, "Man, I'm a second lieutenant, shut up and drive this bus."
[driver] "Oh yeah, we're gonna see about that."
Bus driver got back to Fort Hood ya'll, he reported Jackie to the military police.
He had charges filed against him, was arrested, court marshaled.
But he fought it.
And they gave him an honorable discharge.
There was no way them judges could think that could hold up in any court.
Then when Jackie started playin' with the Monarchs ya'll,
we would be drivin' up and down them old dusty country roads.
One time we got off to get some gas, right.
So Jackie was goin' to use the restroom.
And there was some old boy sittin' up there, old bubba guy.
"Hey boy, where you goin?
You can't use that restroom, that's for white only."
Jackie said, "Oh really, take the hose out the tank,
"we'll get some gas somewhere else."
[gas attendant] "Well, alright boy, calm down, calm down.
"You can use the bathroom just hurry up."
That's what kind of man Jackie was.
Ladies and gentlemen there was a man named
George Kenesaw Mountain Landis, he was baseball commissioner.
And he died after 25 years of tryin' to keep Negroes out of the major leagues.
And when he died, there was another man, senator from Kentucky who took over,
Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler.
Ya'll got that, Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler.
He became new baseball commissioner
and so Branch Rickey who used to manage the St. Louis Cardinals.
He bought the Brooklyn Dodgers, right.
He wanted to bring Jackie into the majors.
And he tried to get A.B. "Happy" Chandler to help him do it.
So some of the sports writers be sayin',
"Uh, Mr. Chandler what do you think about Negroes playing in the major leagues?"
A.B. said, "Well, if them boys can go to Guadalcanal and Okinawa
"and fight for the United States of America, they can play ball here."
That's how this thing is supposed to work.
A.B. "Happy" Chandler didn't stay too long in that position either.
He got moved out real quick.
But it was too late.
Jackie came in with Branch Rickey with the Montreal team.
And when Montreal brought in Jackie Robinson in the minors,
up there in Canada, they didn't think Jackie Robinson was a human being.
They didn't think he had the intelligence to play ball.
And Leo Durocher, when Jackie started coming into the Brooklyn Dodgers,
he started hearin' some rumblin's about them boys was gonna start strikin'
with the Brooklyn Dodgers, them white boys.
Branch Rickey said, "Leo Durocher, you tell them boys Jackie is coming.
"If they got a problem with this they can start walkin', get to steppin'.
"He's comin' and nothin' they can do about it."
Ladies and gentlemen, Jackie Robinson got in there
and he put on that baseball uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers,
it was the happiest day of my life.
We finally proved that we could hit, catch, and run with anybody in the major leagues.
["Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball" playing] "Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
"It went zoomin' cross the left field wall.
"Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.
"He swung his bat, and the crowd went wild, 'cause he hit that ball a solid mile.
"Yeah boy, oh, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball."
[Bobby laughing]
"Pee Wee" Reese, from Kentucky, also played with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
They were hecklin' Jackie to no end.
"Pee Wee" Reese, white boy, down there in Cincinnati, Ohio when the Dodgers were playin'.
People were throwin' all sorts of debris out there
at Jackie Robinson callin' him all kinds of names.
"Pee Wee" Reese came up, put his arm around Jackie's shoulder
and whispered in his ear and all that madness and all that insanity stopped.
All them folks said...
"Pee Wee Reese, he's friends with Jackie Robinson,
"we better be friends with him too."
[music playing]
"Jackie at bat, guess what he done, hit the ball with the bat, bat hit the ball.
"You should have heard those fans on boy.
"Lord it's goin', this time it's really gone.
"They do the baseball boogie when Jackie comes runnin' home.
"Now we all holler the same old thing.
"Grab Jackie's bat, begins to swing, cameras start to flash, [unclear] clap my hands and holler real loud.
"Lord, it's gone, this time it's really gone.
"Do the baseball boogie when Jackie comes runnin' home.
"Grandma says to home you go. She listens in on the radio.
"She got happy, she grabs her dress and hollers, 'Jackie Robinson is a mess'.
"Lord it's gone, this time it's really gone.
"You've got the baseball boogie when Jackie comes runnin' home."
[Bobby laughing]
Jackie Robinson, he was not the first to integrate.
There were some before him.
He reintegrated American baseball.
Rather than me burden you with that information,
you are surrounded 360 degrees with that information right now.
Find out who preceded Jackie Robinson playin' major league baseball.
But as for me, "Cool Papa" Bell, my boogie days was over.
Yeah, after 24 years of playin' ball,
I couldn't do that boogie anymore so I thought about retirement.
Now, in the NNL I was in a batting competition, right, with Monte Irvin.
And I knew the New York Giants was lookin'.
I knew the New York Giants was lookin' and so I held back
and I let Monte Irvin win that baseball title.
And that's how he got chosen for the New York Giants.
And we had to help one another ya'll all the time.
Just like I told ya.
I also taught Satchel Paige how to throw that knuckle ball.
And then Satchel taught Monte Irvin how
to hold that bat just a little bit lower to get more hits.
We had to help one another and that's how we finally were able to overcome.
Check it out.
[instrumental music]
[humming music]
Ladies and gentlemen, baseball did not leave me rich.
So I had to keep on workin'.
So after that 24 years of playin' ball, I started coachin'.
And my team that I started coachin' for was the Kansas City Monarchs.
["Kansas City"] "We're goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come."
Oh yeah.
Got with Ernie Banks, taught him how to be a master technician when he was in the batter's box.
[music continues]
"They got some pretty little women there and I'm gonna get me one."
He-he.
As a matter of fact, Satchel Paige did get him one.
Hm-mm.
Lahoma Brown.
Came here to Kanas city, married Lahoma Brown.
They had a whole house full of kids ya'll and Satchel loved 'em all.
[Bobby laughing]
And then when he was at the age of 42 in the year 1948,
he finally made it with the Cleveland Indians.
Thank you Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians.
Satchel Paige finally got to where he wanted to be and in that same year, 1948,
there was a president in the White House, Harry S. Truman.
He signed executive order 9981, desegregating the United States military.
Even then it took 'til the end of the Korean War for it to become totally official.
But for me, hm-mm-mm, I kept on working.
As a matter fact, when I stopped working with the Kansas City Monarchs as a coach,
I went to a place called St. Louis, Missouri
and I worked as a custodian at St. Louis City Hall.
[instrumental music]
And after 21 years workin' for the city of St. Louis, I retired in 1973.
But on August 12, 1974, I was inducted
into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Ya'll show me some love.
[audience clapping]
Thank you very much.
Only the fifth Negro player to get that distinction at that time.
Ladies and gentlemen, me and my wife, Clara, we moved into a little house in St. Louis
down on Jefferson and Leffenwell area, they call it Dickson Avenue.
You know they named that street after me, "Cool Papa" Bell Avenue.
[Bobby laughing]
Me and my wife Clara, we live on our Social Security checks
and the pension that the baseball commission office
would slip us every now and then.
Hm-mm.
And as it turns out, I'll tell ya'll something,
because of baseball I smelled the roses of life.
I got to travel, wear nice clothes, eat nice food.
I was a baseball player, husband, and a father.
And some people say that I was born too early.
Heh.
That's not true.
They opened the doors too late.
But I lived that good life and I'll tell ya'll something.
Before we leave this building ya'll better find out what you're gonna do with your life
okay 'cause it's a very important thing.
Because life is a very interesting thing.
They have a tombstone with your birthdate, a hyphen, and then the date of your death.
That hyphen, that's your life.
So, think about that real deep now.
What you gonna do with your life because life is short and before you know it, POW,
it's gone before the lights go out.
["Take Me Out to the Ballgame"]