Cool Papa Bell, byname of James Thomas Bell, (born May 17, 1903, Starkville, Miss., U.S.—died March 7, 1991, St. Louis, Mo.), American professional baseball player, reputedly the fastest baserunner of all time.
Bell began as a pitcher for the St. Louis Stars in the Negro National League at the age of 19 and earned the nickname “Cool” when he struck out legendary Oscar Charleston; Bell’s manager added “Papa.” In 1924 he was moved to center field. After the Stars folded in 1931, he played on a series of Negro league teams, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1933–37), the Chicago American Giants (1942–43), and the Homestead Grays (1943–45). He was also player-manager of the Kansas City Monarchs (1948–50). In addition, Bell competed in the Mexican and California Winter leagues and in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. A right-handed batter who later became a switch hitter, he maintained an average that ranged from .308 to .480. He reputedly stole 175 bases in a 200-game season. (Statistics in Negro baseball were not carefully kept.) Playing against all the greats of Negro baseball and against white All-Star teams, Bell batted .391 over a five-year period. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.