Bell was offered a chance to play for the Browns in 1951, but he turned it down;
he was nearly 48 years old. He earned his nickname for his demeanor under pressure
while pitching for the St. Louis Stars as a 19-year-old in 1922. A sterling fielder
and an outstanding batter, what made Bell stand out more than anything else was his
uncanny speed. Two exaggerated stories demonstrate the effect it had on his contemporaries.
Satchel Paige often regaled audiences with the story that when he and Bell roomed
together, Bell was so fast that he could turn out the light and be in bed before
the room got dark. In truth, he did it one night, but only because there was a short
in the wires. Another story has him hitting a ball up the middle and being struck
by it as he slid into second base.
A verified story is that during an inter-racial
all-star exhibition game on the West Coast, Paige laid down a bunt with Bell on first
base. As catcher Roy Partee of the Indians set to throw to first, Bell brushed by
him to score. By his own count, Bell once stole 175 bases in a 200-game season. The
scanty statistics of the Negro Leagues credit him with several years over .400.
is little doubt that Bell could have starred in the major leagues had there been
no color ban during his prime. An unselfish man off the field and on, in 1946 (Jackie
Robinson's first year in white organized baseball), Bell deliberately forfeited the
batting title to Monte Irvin to enhance Irvin's chance to follow Robinson to the
majors. While coaching and playing with the Monarchs, Bell demonstrated to the young
Robinson that he would never make it with his weak arm at shortstop. Bell, in his
forties, beat out everything hit to