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  • CoolPapa65
    replied
    Jesse Owens & Cool Papa Bell Redux--

    First off, it has been a LONG while since I've even looked at this thread, so forgive the rather dated nature of my reply. I've enjoyed reading the various rejoinders here, particularly some of the commentary about Oscar Charleston and Jim Thorpe.

    Just a few more items I wanted to throw into the mix for further discussion:
    • First, I mentioned Eulace Peacock to offer perspective on some of the Jesse Owens comments. Now please understand--Owens is one of my personal heroes so I did NOT bring up Peacock for reasons of disparagement. I've been a fan of sprinters for quite a while and in fact a number of my favorite moments in Olympic history (including Bob Hayes' anchor leg in the 4x100 Relay at the '64 Tokyo Olympics) revolve around sprinting. I take the sport seriously. But Owens WAS vulnerable and at least according to ONE site I visited (http://www.yonkershistory.org/pea.html), Peacock had Owens' number in the year leading up the Berlin Olympics. Given this, it is NOT unreasonable to assume that another human being might've beaten Owens in a race or races. If Bell had had a MODICUM of training, he could've done so. His raw speed is not really subject to debate; just because he was a baseball player does NOT automatically eliminate him from serious consideration. It strikes me as wrongheaded to dismiss him outright simply because he wasn't an "Olympian"; the appellation is really only an accident of destiny and geography, if you think about it--

    • Second, NUMEROUS encyclopedias, statistical registers, AND anecdotal histories are unequivocal that Cool Papa Bell was the fastest man in Negro Leagues history--and he PLAYED against and with Oscar Charleston. Charleston was timed running the 220 yard dash in 23 seconds during his stint in the Army. If we accept the latter as true, and it is the consensus opinion that Bell was SIGNIFICANTLY faster than Charleston, then how might Bell and Owens matched up over a longer race of 200 meters/220 yards? Bell had a long, flowing stride that left onlookers simply awestruck and for which his lack of "technique" might've been overcome with the longer distance. If Bell lacked Owens' TECHNIQUE, he did NOT lack his speed. Too much evidence--of ALL types--exists to simply dismiss it as mythmaking. Bell was faster than Charleston's 21.8--HOW much faster? It's fun to speculate...

    • Next, Jim Bankes' history of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (titled 'The Pittsburgh Crawfords: The Lives & Times of Baseball's Most Exciting Team' - ISBN 978-0786409921) recounts the anecdote about David 'Speed' Whatley defeating Jesse Owens in a pre-game 100 yard footrace. I'm not sure HOW someone would independently corroborate such information about the footrace, but profile information for Whatley IS available in James Riley's definitive 'The Biographical Encyclopedia of The Negro Baseball Leagues.' Whatley WAS real, he WAS very fast, and according to Riley, he was the second fastest man on his team--behind BELL! Bankes' book IS based on extensive interviews so you be the judge. One last note about Bankes' book--he also mentions a footrace (arranged by Rube Foster, architect of th Negro Leagues) between Jimmy Lyons and Bell that Bell won; Lyons was considered--before Cool Papa--the fastest man in organized baseball. In fact, Lyons, Spottswood Poles, Eddie Dwight, and Wild Bill Wright were probably ALL faster than Oscar Charleston. But moving on...

    • Finally--one can do ALL the statistical comparisons one wants; one can make ALL the claims to authenticity one wants, too. I also sprinted (I was a respectable high school sprinter and middle distance runner so I understand how significant a .3-.5 second margin of victory can be and how seemingly outrageous my claim might have sounded), but the simple truth was this--Jesse Owens did NOT duck ANYONE BUT Bell during that period of time when he ran pre-game races. When he had the chance to race the fastest man in the major leagues--George Case (who was two years-younger than Owens at the time and who could circle the bases in 14.5 seconds)--he chose to do so without hesitation. Why would he have raced Speed Whatley if he'd thought he could beat him? Let's safely assume Owens was shrewd. Keep in mind how he'd been shafted regarding promises of employment after his Olympic career was over. I believe he was EMINENTLY careful about running ONLY those events he was sure he could win; frankly, he needed the money and was guarded about his legacy. As a salaried member of the Crawfords staff and given his REGULAR access to team personnel, he got to WATCH Bell and other Negro Leagues players on a regular basis. He got to SEE Bell in action REPEATEDLY.


    So all ANY of us can do is speculate. I've read every scrap of statistical evidence I can uncover about Bell's abilities; I've also done comparative analyses of sprinters across eras. I believe--and this is really ALL I can do--that Cool Papa Bell was anomalous. His teammates and fellow ballplayers did, too. Even the men with and against whom he played felt the same way--his speed was SIGNIFICANTLY greater than that of other players in his era. Why is this so difficult to imagine? Keep in mind the earlier example of Bob Hayes--his '64 Olympic 100 Meter victory was by 9 feet, nearly 3 meters. I think that Cool Papa had THAT kind of leg up on his peers for much of his career. Bell was timed rounding the bases in 13.5 seconds at 44 years of age; he scored from 1st on a sacrifice bunt against a major league All-Star team at age 45. These are CONFIRMED accounts. As such, unconfirmed claims that he rounded the bases in 12 seconds while in his 20s while playing for the St. Louis Stars hardly seem unreasonable. Now one can give Jesse Owens the benefit of the doubt and assume he simply repeatedly forgot his running shoes when Cool Papa was around; frankly, I don't buy this. I believe he felt Bell was too much for him, at LEAST at the point his career when he was running the exhibitions.

    Disagree with me, but please don't dismiss my assertions outright. If at least TWO trained sprinters--Ralph Metcalfe and Eulace Peacock--could defeat Owens in footraces, it's NOT unreasonable to assume a lightning quick baseball player (one who ALWAYS kept himself in tip-top physical condition) might have done so, too--[/LIST]

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  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by The Splendid Splinter View Post
    haha no you misread what i put there... i was showing thorpe time 220 at 21.8. oscar is 23. and you're probably right... im sure it's suspect about those times. yes i actually ran for track in junior high (i was kinda like thorpe, i was in shot put, discus, and 400 m) then i kept getting nagging hamstring problems in those 2 years from sprinting that i quit after 8th grade. it does stink man. i can only run nowadays. like my best mile was 5:37 and that was 2 years ago when i was really in shape and my leg were cramping for the rest of the day. at that time, i was 6'3 220. now im like 225 but im nowhere near in shape and as lean. i just started to work out this past week after our snowstorm so im hoping to break that 5:37 mark again. if you got any advice for me as for working out or what to do with my leg... just PM me. i don't wanna get this thread off track anymore than it is.
    How old are you pm me.

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  • The Splendid Splinter
    replied
    Originally posted by LeoD View Post
    You said Oscar ran 23sec 220, now its 21.8, which is it. In thrope
    s time frame the fastest 100 yd run was 9.8, 220y 21.7, and this was by sprinters only, not multi event guy like thrope, times were very suspect in those days, have you ever tryed to sprint not run 200 m, when you don't only run not play another sport also, its a bit-ch.
    haha no you misread what i put there... i was showing thorpe time 220 at 21.8. oscar is 23. and you're probably right... im sure it's suspect about those times. yes i actually ran for track in junior high (i was kinda like thorpe, i was in shot put, discus, and 400 m) then i kept getting nagging hamstring problems in those 2 years from sprinting that i quit after 8th grade. it does stink man. i can only run nowadays. like my best mile was 5:37 and that was 2 years ago when i was really in shape and my leg were cramping for the rest of the day. at that time, i was 6'3 220. now im like 225 but im nowhere near in shape and as lean. i just started to work out this past week after our snowstorm so im hoping to break that 5:37 mark again. if you got any advice for me as for working out or what to do with my leg... just PM me. i don't wanna get this thread off track anymore than it is.
    Last edited by The Splendid Splinter; 01-09-2008, 06:21 PM.

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  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by The Splendid Splinter View Post
    well yeah thrope was known more for his athleticism. but thorpe did his 220 in 21.8 sec(or was that not true?). that was the same time as Oscar's. why can't ballplayers run it that fast or even run it? Also this was before Oscar went into the Negro League, so he wasn't a ball player.
    You said Oscar ran 23sec 220, now its 21.8, which is it. In thrope
    s time frame the fastest 100 yd run was 9.8, 220y 21.7, and this was by sprinters only, not multi event guy like thrope, times were very suspect in those days, have you ever tryed to sprint not run 200 m, when you don't only run not play another sport also, its a bit-ch.
    Last edited by LeoD; 01-09-2008, 04:02 PM.

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  • The Splendid Splinter
    replied
    Originally posted by LeoD View Post
    Thorpe wasn't known for his speed, 200 meters is 218 yards, a 23sec. 200 or 220 was fast for high school kids in 1911, the world record was 21.4, no ball player could run 220 yards, let alone run it in 23sec. in Oscars day.
    well yeah thrope was known more for his athleticism. but thorpe did his 220 in 21.8 sec(or was that not true?). that was the same time as Oscar's. why can't ballplayers run it that fast or even run it? Also this was before Oscar went into the Negro League, so he wasn't a ball player.

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  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by The Splendid Splinter View Post
    yeah wouldn't 200 m be close to 220 yards??? also Oscar did it 30 years earlier than you guys (joined the Army at age 15 in 1911 or 1912). not taken anything from the guys you know, that's really impressive. just trying to show how fast oscar was and cool papa was faster than that. i still think jesse would have beat cool papa if they were both in their prime and raced. i mean owens did a 20.7 sec in a 220 yards at the big ten meet in 1935. also that big ten meet is in my top 3 all time athletic achievement, if not the best.

    maybe a closer race would be cool papa and jim thrope...
    Thorpe wasn't known for his speed, 200 meters is 218 yards, a 23sec. 200 or 220 was fast for high school kids in 1911, the world record was 21.4, no ball player could run 220 yards, let alone run it in 23sec. in Oscars day.
    Last edited by LeoD; 01-09-2008, 08:46 AM.

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  • The Splendid Splinter
    replied
    Originally posted by LeoD View Post
    When I ran in High School in the late 1940s 4 guys age's 15 ran better then 23 secs. for 220 yards.
    yeah wouldnt 200 m be close to 220 yards??? also Oscar did it 30 years earlier than you guys (joined the Army at age 15 in 1911 or 1912). not taken anything from the guys you know, that's really impressive. just trying to show how fast oscar was and cool papa was faster than that. i still think jesse would have beat cool papa if they were both in their prime and raced. i mean owens did a 20.7 sec in a 220 yards at the big ten meet in 1935. also that big ten meet is in my top 3 all time athletic achievement, if not the best.

    maybe a closer race would be cool papa and jim thrope...
    Last edited by The Splendid Splinter; 01-08-2008, 08:14 PM.

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  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by The Splendid Splinter View Post
    I have heard accounts about Oscar Charleston ran a 200 m in 23 secs. Supposely he did it in the Army so I'm sure they got the record of it if it is true. I have read it in one of my baseball books and my great grandpa also told me this too. I don't know if anybody can confirm that. If that's true and they consider Cool Papa Bell faster than Charleston... that's pretty fast.
    When I ran in High School in the late 1940s 4 guys age's 15 ran better then 23 secs. for 220 yards.

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  • The Splendid Splinter
    replied
    I have heard accounts about Oscar Charleston ran a 200 m in 23 secs. Supposely he did it in the Army so I'm sure they got the record of it if it is true. I have read it in one of my baseball books and my great grandpa also told me this too. I don't know if anybody can confirm that. If that's true and they consider Cool Papa Bell faster than Charleston... that's pretty fast.

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  • LeoD
    replied
    One thing I've learned from this thread is no body seems to know the difference between being a fast base runner and being a World Class sprinter, CoolPapa65, said even if Bell were only .3 to .5 faster then the other players, ONLY, man thats 3 to 5 yards in a 100 yard race thats an enormous amount, 100 yards or meters races are won by inches a few feet is a big margin. World class sprinters and baseball players do not train the same, even in those days, the fastest ball player could not beat any of the top 10 World class sprinters in a straight race. As a former sprinter, certainly not World Class, I speak from first hand experience.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by LeoD View Post
    If you do a little research on the NFL you will find a lot of great players who were Track stars in college, Olympic 100 meters champ Bob Hayes comes to mind.
    Willie Bault, Ron Brown, Renaldo Nehemiah, and Herschel Walker were all big time track stars.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by CoolPapa65 View Post
    Just thought I'd chime in here. I addressed this matter in a post quite a while back and though I'd slightly revise my position with a handful of new variables (running around the basebaths vs. running a straight 100 yards/meters), I still say a race between Owens and Bell would be much closer and that the former (though a great sprinter and a personal hero of mine) would NOT embarrass Cool Papa, no matter WHAT the track/surface/arrangement.

    If Owens races Bell in approximately 1940, one should bear in mind the following factors:

    - Owens was nearly ten years younger in Bell; a 27-year old Owens facing a 37-year old Bell might NOT have been a great race, but I'd have liked to see Bell race Owens during the former's peek speed years (1929-1935) or as close to Owen's Olympic victory as possible. Bell during his days with the St. Louis Stars was appreciably faster than anyone in the league. A great deal of anecdotal evidence from myriad players supports this. But what a dream race--Bell circa 1931 racing Owens circa 1936.

    - Jim Bankes states--in his book on the Pittsburgh Crawfords--that Jesse Owens challenged a young Negro Leagues speedster named David Whatley to a pre-race exhibition race of 100 yards (in a straight line, no less) and LOST, the only time this was known to have happened. It is even suggested that Whatley pulled away from Owens. Here's the rub: it was a well-known fact that Whatley was the 2nd fastest man on the Homestead Grays during his tenure with them between 1939-1944; the fastest hombre was still Cool Papa Bell, despite his increasing age. If Whatley was truly able to beat Owens, it is NOT unreasonable to think that Cool Papa would not have been "looking at Jesse's ass" at the finish line of a race. Hardly...

    - Though Owens was--because of his official position with the Crawfords--careful not to race Bell and demythify the latter's legendary status as "the fastest man in baseball" (possibly impacting gate receipts?), it is worth considering another possibility. If Owens was as smart about sprinting/running/competing as I'm sure he was, it's more than a faint possibility that he was also careful about not demythifying HIMSELF. Who had more to lose in one of those exhibition races? A man who made his living racing man and beast? Certainly not the aging Cool Papa, already a legend and still the fastest man in the Negro Leagues and a well-schooled, well-paid baseball player. If Cool was able to circle the bases in just over 13 seconds while in his mid 40s (this is documented in numerous sources), he'd have been able to do such much more quickly in his late-20s; a sprint savvy-Jesse would've been able to do the simple math in his head and determine that racing Bell (who'd have run much faster in a straight line) might've proven a much more daunting task than racing a horse. It's also well worth pointing out that in 1946 Owens barely beat (by a full stride) George Case, the fastest man in the Major Leagues and base stealing champ of the Washington Senators, in one of these exhibition races. Case wasn't even in Bell's league when it came to speed. Ol' George barely got a look at Jesse's ass, though Jesse at 33 had probably lost a step or two...

    A few other bits of trivia to keep in mind. It's pretty well known that Owens was FAR from unbeatable and in fact, he was NOT the top 100 meter sprinter in the world in the months leading up to his Olympic triumphs. That distinction belonged to a man named Eulace Peacock, who'd beaten Owens 7 of 10 times in pre-Olympic races (he was also co-holder of the world record in the 100m). Had Peacock not seriously injured his thigh/hamstring twice just prior to Berlin, the United States would undoubtedly have swept (along with Ralph Metcalfe in the 100 and Mac Robinson in the 200) the sprint events and Jesse Owens might not have become an athletic/cultural icon. It's also worth noting that Ralph Metcalfe's running style--with long legs and a lanky body much like Cool Papa--nearly caught Jesse in the 100 with a blistering finish. Though this proves absolutely nothing about Bell, it is nonetheless fodder for thought...

    As I said in my earlier post, if Cool Papa was even .3 to .5 seconds faster than his nearest Negro Leagues rival in getting from home to first (some people felt that George Giles might've gotten to first more quickly than the long-legged Bell), this disparity suggests that Cool's speed was something seemingly unearthly but very real. An Owens-Bell race, rather than being a foregone conclusion, would've been quite special. With his gift for hyperbole, Satchel Paige did claim that "If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking." Maybe ol' Satch knew something we aren't capable of grasping...

    If you're interested in my original post, check out the following link:

    http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=30272

    Thanks for hearing me out--

    CoolPapa65
    From all the anecdotal evidence it's most likely that Bell had world class sprinting talent and could have been a Olympic caliber sprinter.

    Leave a comment:


  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by CoolPapa65 View Post
    Just thought I'd chime in here. I addressed this matter in a post quite a while back and though I'd slightly revise my position with a handful of new variables (running around the basebaths vs. running a straight 100 yards/meters), I still say a race between Owens and Bell would be much closer and that the former (though a great sprinter and a personal hero of mine) would NOT embarrass Cool Papa, no matter WHAT the track/surface/arrangement.

    If Owens races Bell in approximately 1940, one should bear in mind the following factors:

    - Owens was nearly ten years younger in Bell; a 27-year old Owens facing a 37-year old Bell might NOT have been a great race, but I'd have liked to see Bell race Owens during the former's peek speed years Bob Haynes or as close to Owen's Olympic victory as possible. Bell during his days with the St. Louis Stars was appreciably faster than anyone in the league. A great deal of anecdotal evidence from myriad players supports this. But what a dream race--Bell circa 1931 racing Owens circa 1936.

    - Jim Bankes states--in his book on the Pittsburgh Crawfords--that Jesse Owens challenged a young Negro Leagues speedster named David Whatley to a pre-race exhibition race of 100 yards (in a straight line, no less) and LOST, the only time this was known to have happened. It is even suggested that Whatley pulled away from Owens. Here's the rub: it was a well-known fact that Whatley was the 2nd fastest man on the Homestead Grays during his tenure with them between 1939-1944; the fastest hombre was still Cool Papa Bell, despite his increasing age. If Whatley was truly able to beat Owens, it is NOT unreasonable to think that Cool Papa would not have been "looking at Jesse's ass" at the finish line of a race. Hardly...

    - Though Owens was--because of his official position with the Crawfords--careful not to race Bell and demythify the latter's legendary status as "the fastest man in baseball" (possibly impacting gate receipts?), it is worth considering another possibility. If Owens was as smart about sprinting/running/competing as I'm sure he was, it's more than a faint possibility that he was also careful about not demythifying HIMSELF. Who had more to lose in one of those exhibition races? A man who made his living racing man and beast? Certainly not the aging Cool Papa, already a legend and still the fastest man in the Negro Leagues and a well-schooled, well-paid baseball player. If Cool was able to circle the bases in just over 13 seconds while in his mid 40s (this is documented in numerous sources), he'd have been able to do such much more quickly in his late-20s; a sprint savvy-Jesse would've been able to do the simple math in his head and determine that racing Bell (who'd have run much faster in a straight line) might've proven a much more daunting task than racing a horse. It's also well worth pointing out that in 1946 Owens barely beat (by a full stride) George Case, the fastest man in the Major Leagues and base stealing champ of the Washington Senators, in one of these exhibition races. Case wasn't even in Bell's league when it came to speed. Ol' George barely got a look at Jesse's ass, though Jesse at 33 had probably lost a step or two...

    A few other bits of trivia to keep in mind. It's pretty well known that Owens was FAR from unbeatable and in fact, he was NOT the top 100 meter sprinter in the world in the months leading up to his Olympic triumphs. That distinction belonged to a man named Eulace Peacock, who'd beaten Owens 7 of 10 times in pre-Olympic races (he was also co-holder of the world record in the 100m). Had Peacock not seriously injured his thigh/hamstring twice just prior to Berlin, the United States would undoubtedly have swept (along with Ralph Metcalfe in the 100 and Mac Robinson in the 200) the sprint events and Jesse Owens might not have become an athletic/cultural icon. It's also worth noting that Ralph Metcalfe's running style--with long legs and a lanky body much like Cool Papa--nearly caught Jesse in the 100 with a blistering finish. Though this proves absolutely nothing about Bell, it is nonetheless fodder for thought...

    As I said in my earlier post, if Cool Papa was even .3 to .5 seconds faster than his nearest Negro Leagues rival in getting from home to first (some people felt that George Giles might've gotten to first more quickly than the long-legged Bell), this disparity suggests that Cool's speed was something seemingly unearthly but very real. An Owens-Bell race, rather than being a foregone conclusion, would've been quite special. With his gift for hyperbole, Satchel Paige did claim that "If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking." Maybe ol' Satch knew something we aren't capable of grasping...

    If you're interested in my original post, check out the following link:

    http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=30272

    Thanks for hearing me out--

    CoolPapa65
    It would not have been possible for Owens to run against Bell during the 1929-35 time frame Owens would have been banned by the AAU for running against a professional athlete, Peacock was beaten 7-4 by Owens, 1936 he was injured, I find no record of David Whatley beating Owens, not saying he did'nt just saying prove it, in their prime in Track uniform 100 yds Jesse wins.

    http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/ass...2007/Owens.pdf
    Last edited by LeoD; 01-06-2008, 09:23 AM.

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  • LeoD
    replied
    Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
    I'll take Bell and Mantle any day. What the hell is a sprinter good for anyway? Perhaps working as a ball boy in tennis matches.
    If you do a little research on the NFL you will find a lot of great players who were Track stars in college, Olympic 100 meters champ Bob Hayes comes to mind.

    Leave a comment:


  • DavinFoss
    replied
    Sorry to "bump" this but.

    You might want to find out what Jesse said about his race with Juan "Tetelo" Vargas.

    Leave a comment:

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