ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It’s a party tonight at the Royale on South Kingshighway, but also an art unveiling to honor hall of famer Cool Papa Bell. Royale owner and part-time historian Steven Fitzpatrick Smith says he discovered something right next door to his bar.
“There was a ballpark called National Night Field, South End Field, a few other names in varieties of that. It was a stadium that sat 6000 and had lights, which was unusual at the time in the late 1930, early 1940s,” he says.
It was the home of the St. Louis Stars negro league. Box seat tickets to see the Stars cost just 50 cents. The ballpark was torn down and replaced with a World War II torpedo factory that later become American Can Company. Now it’s an NTB location.
“Grover Cleveland Alexander played over there, Satchel Paige played over there, the Kansas City Monarchs had played over there. This is one of the places where you could truly see the best baseball being played, of all the real best players,” he says.
At the top of this list, Cool Papa Bell, whose amazing speed is still talked about today, a man who spent his remaining years after baseball living in St. Louis.
Smith says his establishment was a speakeasy during prohibition.
“There’s an article from the 1920s in the post dispatch talking about how the place got raided and actually a bunch of people got arrested, most of whom later on become politicians in this city,” he says.
Three artists from the Screwed Arts Collective have collaborated on the piece to commemorate Cool Papa Bell. The unveiling party kicks off tonight at 6 in the Royale’s patio.
By the way, if you can list some pieces of ballpark or Royale history that he doesn’t already know, Smith pays in free drinks.