Sample Tribute Speech and Commentary

 

James “Cool Papa” Bell

 

Ryan Saur

 

Eye Contact

Dramatic

 

      In 1946/ one of the greatest baseball players of all time retired/ after almost twenty-five years as a pro.// No, /it wasn't Babe Ruth,/ Joe DiMaggio, /or any other star you've probably heard of.// The man was James “Cool Papa” Bell,/ star of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro League.//

 

      The Negro League was the name of the league where black players were forced to play until 1947,/ when major league baseball became integrated.// The Negro League had some of the best players never to be appreciated,/ and Cool Papa Bell headed that list.

Eye Contact

Smile

Many say that Bell was the fastest player ever to play the game.// This could very well be true.// He led the league in stolen bases almost every year he played until he retired at age forty-one.// Satchel Paige, /a former teammate of his,/ said Cool Papa was so fast /he could flip the switch and be in bed before the lights went out.

 

      In fact, Jesse Owens,/ the Olympic sprinter,/ who was known as the fastest man in the world, /said he would race /and/ beat anyone around the bases/ as long as that person wasn't Cool Papa Bell. At five feet, eleven inches tall and only 135 pounds,/ Bell was thin as a rail.// But no one made fun of his slender size as he swiftly and smoothly stole second/ or scored from first on a single.//

Eye Contact

And Cool Papa was smooth. In his first game as a pro, the seventeen-year-old, then known as James, came into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and struck out one of the league's best hitters on three straight pitches. Pretty smooth for a guy who wasn't even a pitcher. For playing with the savvy of a seasoned veteran even though he was only a kid, /his manager called him “Cool Papa.”//

 

But to say that Cool Papa had style would be an injustice to him.// Cool Papa was style./// Whether in his baseball uniform/ or his Sunday best,/ Cool Papa had a flair all his own.// Some of you may have seen flip-down sunglasses,/ a necessity and fashion statement for many major league players today.// Flip-down sunglasses weren't unknown to Cool Papa.// After all, he invented

 them./

Dramatic

Eye Contact

But despite all of Cool Papa's baseball feats and the style with which he accomplished them,/ his greatest achievement was that he played at all./// You see,/ James “Cool Papa” Bell was the victim of a disease known as racism—///racism that kept him from playing in the same league as white players, racism that kept him from being in the same record books as white players,/ racism that kept him from earning the same money as white players. //In fact, to make ends meet, Cool Papa would race home after each game just so he could change clothes and get to his second job as a nighttime security guard. This kind of thing would be unheard of for players today.

 

Eye Contact

Smile

 

But despite the inequalities he faced,/ Cool Papa kept on playing the game he loved.// He helped pave the way for Jackie Robinson,/ the first African American in the major leagues, and others who followed him.// Cool Papa did this by fighting racism the same way he played baseball—stylishly but effectively. //Despite knowing that he would never reach his dream of playing in the major leagues just because of his color, /Cool Papa Bell, and many others for that matter, played on, hoping that someday there would be only one league—/a league of professional baseball players, regardless of race.///

 

So let's take a few moments,/ which is longer than it would take Cool Papa to steal second base,/ to appreciate James “Cool Papa” Bell—///the speedy baseball star, the stylish innovator,/ the man /who fought racism/ just by going to work every day.///

Hold for Applause

 

 

 

James “Cool Papa” Bell    by Ryan Saurer