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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

N.Y. Sun: What’s in a Name? For James Bell, It’s A Baseball Lawsuit

Funniest story I ever heard
Cool Papa Oom Wow! Wow!

James “Cool Papa” Bell’s daughter, Connie Brooks, has filed suit against a baseball card company, Topps, over the description of Bell that the company provides on the back of a 2001 special edition card. The short biography concludes by saying that Cool Papa “earned his nickname after falling asleep right before a game.”

To many eyes the statement seems innocuous enough. But Ms. Brooks calls it, in court papers, a “bogus painful lie,” and said it belittles the difficult lives of the players of the Negro League.

...Ms. Brooks said Topps may have issued at least seven cards of her father in recent years. In addition to monetary damages, she demands that Topps collect all the cards of her father so she can destroy them, according to legal papers. Lastly she wants Topps to print a photograph of Bell and a short biography in six newspapers or magazines every Sunday for six years — the number of years Topps printed the cards.

Repoz Posted: October 24, 2006 at 05:57 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: negro leagues

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   1. Dog on the sidewalk has an ugly bracelet Posted: October 24, 2006 at 06:27 AM (#2222850)
Well, her demands are impractical and ridiculous, and claiming she deserves money for this makes it difficult for me to sympathize with her. Other than that, I have a couple issues with what she said. Whether the story is true or not, calling it a "bogus painful lie" implies that Topps knew what it was printing wasn't true. That seems fairly unlikely to me. I doubt Topps printed the special edition card just so they could include a sentence on the back of it that some crazy woman will 5 years down the line view as "an insult to the man's legacy." Sleeping before a game does not make someone a drug addict or an alcoholic, and to assume that's what Topps was insinuating makes me think she was probably looking for racism. As Steve Lyons might say, perhaps Connie Brooks is the racist?

That said, does anyone know whether or not the story about his nickname is true? I don't know much about Negro League history.
   2. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 24, 2006 at 06:35 AM (#2222852)
That said, does anyone know whether or not the story about his nickname is true? I don't know much about Negro League history.

James A. Riley's The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues states:

"He was still a pitching prospect when he earned his nickname in 1922 by retaining his poise while striking out Oscar Charleston in a clutch situation. His manager, Bill Gatewood, observed how 'cool' the nineteen-year-old had been under pressure and added the 'Papa' to make the name sound better."

No mention of falling asleep...
   3. Dog on the sidewalk has an ugly bracelet Posted: October 24, 2006 at 06:46 AM (#2222856)
Vortex, I've been looking around online and every site I've seen says the same thing you said. I wonder how Topps messed that up.
   4. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 24, 2006 at 06:52 AM (#2222859)
Because Topps is a subsidiary corporation of the Ku Klux Klan. Duh.
   5. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:43 AM (#2222878)
I wonder how Topps messed that up.
This is one of those RTFA things, guys:
"He was put in a tight situation as a rookie and the manager told him not to worry about it," Mr. Bolton said in an interview. "He went in and mowed them all down and he was real cool about it. He just wouldn't get rattled at all."

That, Mr. Bolton claims, is how James Bell became "Cool Papa" Bell. It is the story Ms. Brooks endorses. But there are more than just two tales.

A researcher at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Claudette Burke, said the reference book on nicknames in use in Cooperstown tells of how Bell, traveling on a Pullman to Detroit, was unexcitable when told he would pitch the upcoming game. In that telling, Bell was awoken from a nap to hear the news.
The lawsuit has no merit in any case; it's black letter law that you can't defame the dead. (Not to mention that the statement in question may be true and isn't defamatory even if it isn't.) Plus, as the article points out, the statute of limitations has probably expired.

(The article does point out an alternate theory: right of publicity. Some states allow it to be inherited; New York is not one of them, I believe.)
   6. Dog on the sidewalk has an ugly bracelet Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:59 AM (#2222887)
Ah, being as tired as I am, I failed to notice that the article was more than 1 page. But no one here has said anything claiming that the lawsuit has any merit, legally or morally.
   7. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: October 24, 2006 at 10:11 AM (#2222914)
it's black letter law that you can't defame the dead.

Everybody knows that, except that dumbshit Hoyt Wilhelm.
   8. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 11:13 AM (#2222924)
The lawsuit has no merit in any case; it's black letter law that you can't defame the dead.
You can't? Wow, this place is going to get ugly when Steve Garvey dies
   9. WillYoung Posted: October 24, 2006 at 11:45 AM (#2222936)
The lawsuit has no merit in any case; it's black letter law that you can't defame the dead.

Abe Vigoda was a steaming pile of #### who fathered fifteen children out of wedlock.
   10. Bangkok9 eschews 1 from Column A Posted: October 24, 2006 at 12:02 PM (#2222939)
Jesus Christ...
   11. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: October 24, 2006 at 12:15 PM (#2222944)
The lawsuit has no merit in any case; it's black letter law that you can't defame the dead.

Abe Vigoda was a steaming pile of #### who fathered fifteen children out of wedlock.


Oops.
   12. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 12:34 PM (#2222957)
I think she should try to work reparations in there.
   13. bunyon Posted: October 24, 2006 at 12:39 PM (#2222959)
It is an outrage that Topps would imply that Cool Papa Bell ever slept.
   14. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM (#2222971)
It is an outrage that Topps would imply that Cool Papa Bell ever slept.

Really. You know, he slept so fast, he'd waken before the lights were out. Or something.
   15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 10:06 PM (#2223474)

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