James “Cool Papa” Bell was the first native Mississippian to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Starkville native’s professional career began in 1922 when he signed with the St. Louis Stars. Aside from playing for five years in several Latin American leagues, Bell spent the majority of his career playing for various teams in the Negro Leagues. Even though Bell played baseball at a time when professional leagues were segregated, he is still considered to be one of the fastest men ever to play professional baseball and is recognized for his accomplishments in sports on a national and state level.
CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM
Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3 and 4.
Grades 7 through 12
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
- Mississippi History Now article, Cool Papa Bell
- Whiteboard and marker
- Notebook paper
- Unlined paper for timeline and chart
- Pen or pencil
- Internet access
The students will:
- Create a timeline of major events in the life of Cool Papa Bell.
- Describe Cool Papa Bell’s accomplishments.
- Compose a speech about the life and career of Cool Papa Bell.
OPENING THE LESSON
The teacher will ask students to name some of the major league baseball teams. The teacher will add to the list the St. Louis Stars, Detroit Wolves, Kansas City Monarchs, and Memphis Red Sox. Many students may not recognize these teams. The teacher can explain that at one time American baseball was segregated and these teams were part of the Negro Baseball League. The teacher tells the students that they will learn about one native Mississippian who played for the Negro Baseball League. This player, Cool Papa Bell, was also known as the fastest man to play professional baseball.
DEVELOPING THE LESSON
Allow students to work alone or with a partner to create a timeline about significant events in the life of Cool Papa Bell. Instruct the students to use the Mississippi History Now article to find ten to fifteen significant events about Bell’s life and to plot the years and events on a timeline. Students could create their timeline in the shape of a baseball field and plot the events around the baseball diamond. After students have completed their timelines, ask student volunteers to share the events they chose to list. The teacher can record the events on the boarf.
Using the Mississippi History Now article, have students draw and complete a three-column chart with the title “Who Was Cool Papa Bell.” The titles for the chart’s three columns should be: “Person,” “Occupation,” and “Statement or Quote about Cool Papa Bell.” Students should list on the chart six statements made about Bell by journalists, teammates, and competitors. Students can work alone or with a partner for this portion of the lesson. Once student(s) have completed the chart, allow student volunteers to share the quotes they listed. The teacher will use student responses to lead a discussion about Bell’s character and talents.
Instruct students to write the speech for Cool Papa Bell’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Allow students to work with a partner or in a group no larger than three. Students can use the Mississippi History Now article as well as Internet searches for help in composing the speech. Once the students have completed their speeches, allow one member of each group to read their speeches to the class.
CLOSING THE LESSON
Write on the board the following quote once said by Bell:
“Funny, but I don’t have any regrets about not playing in the majors. They say that I was born too soon. I say the doors were opened too late.”
Ask students to explain what Cool Papa Bell meant by this statement. How does it describe his career?
ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING
- Class participation
EXTENDING THE LESSON
- Research the Negro Baseball League.
- Research Jackie Robinson and the integration of American baseball.
- Create a baseball card for Cool Papa Bell.
- Research native Mississippians who have been inducted into national halls of fame as well as the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
- Take a field trip to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.
- Research the induction/nomination process for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame