Archive for Negro Leagues

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

Posted in The Evergreens with tags , on December 12, 2016 by Cade

bojangles1May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson began his life as Luther Robinson in Richmond, VA where he learned to dance for pennies on the street. Busking led to bit parts and “picknaninny” roles in local minstrel shows. This led to predominantly-white vaudeville shows…and then he went to work.

Widely regarded for his tap dancing prowess and innovation, he busted through the racial barriers of his day at every level, eventually becoming one of the first black solo performers in vaudeville and, ultimately, making a name for himself on Broadway. Robinson became the first black headliner in Broadway history with 1940’s All In Fun. He jumped to Hollywood, famously appearing alongside Shirley Temple in four 20th Century Fox musicals. He became a de facto “ambassador” to the white community, a fact that led to quite a bit of controversy among both white and black communities. But, he continued on. An avid baseball fan, he co-founded the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League.

Despite all of his success – he was the highest paid black performer of his time – Bojangles died broke in New York of heart failure at the age of 71. His legacy, however, was far richer. Entertainers like Ann Miller, Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. all credit Robinson with directly influencing their careers.

Burial

The Evergreens Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY

Specific Location

Redemption 1; Prominently visible at the Southeast corner of the intersection of the Redemption, Ascension and Siloam sections.

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Jackie Robinson

Posted in Cypress Hills Cemetery with tags , , on November 18, 2016 by Cade

robinson5January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972

It would be incredibly easy to just speak of Jackie Robinson in the terms of his single most famous accomplishment: becoming the first black player in modern Major League Baseball. But, it would miss out on so much. For instance, Jack was a tremendously gifted ALL-AROUND athlete. He excelled in multiple sports through high school and eventually lettered in FOUR different sports while attending UCLA. He played semi-professional football until the U.S. was dragged into World War II in 1941. Because of the latter, he was drafted into the Army, but never saw combat due to a trumped-up court martial (he was ultimately acquitted). After the war, Robinson signed to play with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He was immediately identified by a number of major league teams – some serious, some not so much – as a legitimate candidate to become the first black player in the majors. Ultimately, Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, convinced Robinson to sign with the Dodgers’ minor league club. The controversy was swift and came from all sides. Several Negro Leaguers complained that Robinson wasn’t even the best black player (fair argument) and there was, of course, the obvious fall-out from pro-segregation folks. Despite Robinson’s sometimes fiery temperament, Rickey asked him to have “guts enough not to fight back.” It was this agreement that allowed Robinson to succeed in the minors and make his major league debut with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. The floodgates of integration soon followed and the sport – and American culture at large – would never look the same. Jackie Robinson would play for the Dodgers for 10 years, playing in 6 World Series, earning an MVP award and, ultimately, becoming the first black inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Outside of baseball, Jack was a businessman, a civil rights activist and an anti-drug crusader. He died at the age of 53 of complications from diabetes and heart disease. He has since been honored and recognized more than any other player in the history of the game. In 1997, the MLB universally retired Robinson’s number “42” for all teams. April 15th of every season is now known as “Jackie Robinson Day.”

Burial

Cypress Hills Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY

 

Specific Location

Section 6, Lot P, Grave 8; At the intersection of Cypress Road and, well…Jackie Robinson Way. Across from the the Memorial Abbey.

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James “Cool Papa” Bell

Posted in St. Peters Cemetery (MO) with tags , , on March 14, 2014 by Cade

bell1May 17, 1903 – March 7, 1991

“Cool Papa Bell was so fast that he could turn out the lights and be under the covers before the room got dark.” – Satchel Paige

James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell was a Negro Leagues center fielder who is widely regarded as one of the fastest men to ever play the position. His 28-year career in both the U.S. and Latin America garnered plenty of attention during the height of the popularity of the Negro Leagues. A feared baserunner, Bell was known to steal 2nd and 3rd base in a single play. Pitchers tried to avoid walking him as, once he was on base, he would almost assuredly score a run. On defense, it was thought to be impossible to hit the ball over his head because of his speed. Though many of the stories of his speed are mythical, his skill and talent certainly were legitimate. He batted .337 lifetime, was an 8 time All-Star and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 – just the 5th Negro Leagues player to achieve that honor. Since such records were not kept at the time, it’s impossible to know exactly how many stolen bases he had, but it was undoubtedly a lot. After his playing career ended, he was a scout for the St. Louis Browns. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of 87.

Burial

St. Peters Cemetery – Normandy, MO

Specific Location

Outside of the small, outdoor mausoleum at the southeastern corner of the cemetery.

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Buck O’Neil

Posted in Forest Hill Cemetery (MO) with tags , , , on December 26, 2013 by Cade

oneil1November 13, 1911 – October 6, 2006

In lieu of writing something new about Buck O’Neil, I decided I will just re-post the tribute I wrote about him on an old blog the day after he died:

There is a man. Revered in some circles. Beloved in others. Unknown in most. To those who did know him, he was simply known as “Buck.”

John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil died yesterday at the age of 94. This is a sad day for the city of Kansas City. And, it is a sad day for the sport he loved and came to embody: baseball.

Buck’s career in baseball spanned 7 decades. He was a player, a coach, a scout and an ambassador. He began playing in Memphis in the newly formed Negro American League 1937. A year later, he was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs where he would stay (serving as first baseman and – eventually – manager) until 1955. After his stint in KC, he went on to become a scout for the Chicago Cubs. A position that led in 1962 to him being named a coach…the first black coach in the major leagues.

In 1988, he returned to Kansas City as a scout for the Royals. Shortly thereafter, he helped lead the charge to create a museum dedicated solely to the players and teams that made up the Negro Leagues. The museum opened in 1990 and found its new home in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine district in 1994. Buck continued to work as honorary chairman until his death.

Most recently, (this summer in fact) Buck played in the Northern League All-Star game as a member of the Kansas City T-Bones minor league team. He was intentionally walked. Continue reading

Satchel Paige

Posted in Forest Hill Cemetery (MO) with tags , , , on October 25, 2013 by Cade

paige1July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

One of the most celebrated pitchers of the Negro Leagues, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige dazzled crowds with his charismatic personality and wide array of pitches. In 1948, Paige became the oldest rookie to play in Major League Baseball when he started for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His five year MLB career was impressive, especially for someone in his 40’s, but his 20+ years touring the country in the Negro Leagues and stints in Latin America were what built his legacy. A natural showman, Satchel was known to tell his infielders to sit down on the field while he struck out batter after batter. He was considered by many of his contemporaries to be one of the best pitchers of all time.

In his post-playing years, he dabbled in acting and politics. And, in 1971, Satchel Paige was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the first former Negro Leaguer to receive that honor.

Burial

Forest Hill Cemetery – Kansas City, MO

Specific Location

Toward the center of the southern section of the park is a small “island” of lawn surround by road, Satchel’s rather large marker dominates this island.

forest_paige