By Bob Luke
Willie Wells used to be arguably the simplest shortstop of his iteration. As Monte Irvin, a teammate and fellow corridor of popularity participant, writes in his foreword, "Wells rather may possibly do all of it. He was once one of many slickest fielding shortstops ever to return alongside. He had velocity at the bases. He hit with strength and consistency. He was once one of the so much sturdy gamers i have ever known." but few humans have heard of the feisty ballplayer nicknamed "El Diablo." Willie Wells used to be black, and he performed lengthy earlier than Jackie Robinson broke baseball's colour barrier. Bob Luke has sifted during the spotty records, interviewed Negro League avid gamers and historians, and combed the yellowed letters and newspaper money owed of Wells's existence to attract the main entire portrait but of a huge baseball participant. Wells's baseball profession lasted thirty years and integrated seasons in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Canada. He performed opposed to white all-stars in addition to Negro League greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and dollar O'Neill, between others. He used to be beaned such a lot of occasions that he turned the 1st glossy participant to put on a batting helmet. As an older participant and trainer, he mentored the various first black significant leaguers, together with Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe. Willie Wells actually deserved his induction into the Baseball corridor of status, yet Bob Luke info how the lingering results of segregation hindered black gamers, together with these larger identified than Wells, lengthy after the coverage formally ended. thankfully, Willie Wells had the expertise and tenacity to tackle anything--from segregation to inside of fastballs--life threw at him. No ask yourself he wanted a helmet.
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Extra info for Willie Wells: 'El Diablo' of the Negro Leagues
Pickle. Courtesy of the Texas State Cemetery. Making the Real Hall of Fame Wells was born into poverty and he died poor. By 1977, Wells was living in obscurity in Austin. He told a reporter, “The fellows about 45, 50 years old, they know me. The other fellows, the young fellows, they don’t know me. ”46 In the last years of his life, he was reported to be separated from his wife and getting by on $300 a month in Social Security payments. “It’s enough for me,” he told a reporter. “I don’t pay any rent.
Courtesy of the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library (photo as7795245). ” He finished his story by telling Riley, “Listen, you see, honesty is what really matters. I don’t give a damn how much money he’s got. But if it’s right, you’re all right. But all that other crap, you can have it. ”15 The 1935 season was his last with the Giants. 16 30 WILLIE WELLS Sharp Dresser Wherever he played, Wells dressed to the nines. James “Red” Moore recalled, “He always was an immaculate dresser. He looked like he just stepped out of a bandbox.
He was pretty much homebound. A few men friends came by. Sarah Ruiz, who cleaned his house, was good to him. I do remember him saying more than once, ‘I’m just glad God gave me the talent to play baseball. 27 32 WILLIE WELLS Bill Veeck and the Majors By one account, Wells almost had a shot at playing in the majors. Bill Veeck reportedly intended to buy the sagging Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 from owner Jerry Nugent and reinvigorate the team by signing a number of Negro-league stars. He had his eye on Wells, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Ray Dandridge.