When he made his professional baseball debut, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth were still active players. When he played his last game, Ralph Kiner and Joe Garagiola were rookies.
James “Cool Papa” Bell never got to play with any of those legends.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a rare image of one of baseball’s all-time greats playing the outfield for the 1946 Homestead Grays at the age of 43.
The original 8×10 photo had been stored in a scrapbook for over 50 years but it now among the featured items in the March Premier catalog auction. Action photos of Bell during his playing days are fairly scarce. Auction officials call it “easily among the top images of Bell that exists.”
The uniform patch and style conclusively dates the black and white photograph to 1946, his last year as a player. Still extraordinarily skilled with a bat, Bell hit .346 in his final pro season. Those who saw him play regarded Cool Papa as one of the fastest players to ever wear a uniform. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
The Bell photo is one of more than 1,000 lots in the auction, which closes March 11.