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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Base stealers
Rollins, Pierre greatful to win Bell Award
By Bill Ladson

Jimmy Rollins won the Cool Papa Bell Award for leading the National League in stolen bases last season.
Rollins/Pierre on winning the Cool Papa Bell Award
Rollins and Pierre on their teams
Friendly competition between Rollins and Pierre
MLB radio's Billy Sample with Jimmy Rollins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's Oct. 7, the last day of the 2001 baseball season. The Colorado Rockies are playing the San Diego Padres. Both teams were long out of the playoff race, but something is at stake on this day for Rockies center fielder Juan Pierre. He learns two things before the game: Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Jimmy Rollins didn't play against the Cincinnati Reds, and Pierre needed three stolen bases to pass Rollins for the National League lead.

Rockies Manager Buddy Bell is aware of the situation and told Pierre he had the green light to win the stolen base championship. But, first, Pierre had to get on base and he did just that in a 14-5 victory over the Padres, going 2-for-5 and stealing two bases to tie Rollins for the stolen base title with 46.


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Feature Lineup
Schedule/ Archive
Award winners
Jimmy Rollins and Juan Pierre accepted Legacy Awards last week from the employees at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. More>>

The motives
Branch Rickey had several reasons for signing Jackie Robinson to a pro contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Historian Steve Goldman has the details. More>>

Segregated Baseball: A Kaleidoscopic review
While the very existence of the Negro Leagues was necessary because of the racial divides in the United States, black baseball not only survived -- it excelled. More>

Traveling show
Barnstorming was common place in the Negro Leagues. More>

As turns out, Rollins is glad Pierre tied him, for he and Pierre were the only current players who attended the Legacy Awards Wednesday, put together by the people at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. The ceremony recognizes the best Major League baseball players, managers and executives with awards given in the name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Bell and Oscar Charleston.

By tying for the stolen base title in the NL, Rollins and Pierre were co-winners of the Cool Papa Bell award. Bell is considered the fastest player in baseball history and reportedly stole 175 bases in just under 200 games.

"The award means a lot to me because you steal 46 bases and then you hear the Cool Papa Bell stories and that he stole (175) bases in one year," said Pierre at a press conference at the Museum Wednesday afternoon. "To hear the stories...from (Negro Leagues great) Buck O'Neil and other guys who talk about him, (you say to yourself) 'He must have been good.' And just to be mentioned in the same breath ... is unbelievable."

Rollins had the same feelings and added, "I'm not as fast as Cool Papa Bell. I might not be in bed before the room gets dark (like Bell supposedly did after turning out a light). I tried that already, it didn't work. ... To be recognized for stealing bases (by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum), to get my name in the Museum, that's something I didn't count on, but it's a great honor."

Prior to press conference, O'Neil and NLBM's Dir. of Marketing Bob Kendrick took Pierre and Rollins on a tour of the Museum and it was obvious Pierre and Rollins enjoyed learning about the Negro Leagues. They were amazed when Kendrick showed them a picture of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and explained that the Crawfords have more Baseball Hall of Famers -- five -- than any other Negro League team.

Pierre and Rollins weren't aware that catcher Sam Hairston played in the Negro Leagues and is the grandfather of Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. They kept staring at a photo of Sam for several minutes, amazed how much he looked like Jerry.

Then there was O'Neil, who was making Pierre and Rollins laugh throughout the tour, telling stories about Satchel Paige and Hank Aaron. By the time the tour ended, Pierre and Rollins wanted to spread the word about the Museum to their fellow Major Leaguers.

"I'm going to Spring Training and tell everybody about (the Museum)," said Pierre, who's in his third year in the Majors. "I want my mom, my dad and everybody from home to experience the tour. You don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. You can be a fan of United States history."

"You come (to the Museum one time) and learn so much," said Rollins, who's entering his second full season in the big leagues. ... You know you can't get it all done in one day, so you want to come back more and more. ... You want to read every piece of (material) and learn everything you can about every player."

People in baseball circles are learning that Pierre and Rollins are two of the top young players in the Majors. In 2001, the left-handed hitting Pierre, for example, scored 108 runs, collected 202 hits and hit .327 for the Rockies, who finished near the bottom of the NL West last season. He also showed he wasn't a bad center fielder - like Bell -- committing only eight errors.

Rollins was one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors last season, but Albert Pujols won the award. But you can't overlook Rollins' accomplishments. At 23, he's already one of the leaders on the Phillies. Last season, Rollins hit .274 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs, while guiding the Phillies to playoff contention for the first time since 1993.

However, both players are more concerned about their team's success this year than their individual stats.

"I think (the Rockies) going to sneak up on some people this year, " Pierre said. "I think we made ourselves better. (Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle) have one year of pitching in Coors Field. ... It's not going to be easy."

"I'm excited about the season we are going to have in Philadelphia," Rollins, said. "We have our All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal back. (He missed most of last season with a knee injury). We missed him greatly. We still had a good run (last season). We finished second behind the Braves by three games. And with Lieby back, we can (do better)."

If all goes well during the 2002 season, don't be surprised if Pierre and Rollins are back in Kansas City next year to win another Legacy Award.

Bill Ladson is an Editor/producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.