17 Jun

time goes by …

On this date 50 years ago, Laurel’s Rod Gilbreath made his major league debut for the Atlanta Braves at age 19. Playing third base at Fulton County Stadium, in a lineup that included Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Ralph Garr, Gilbreath went 0-for-3 against Montreal. Drafted in the third round in 1970 out of Laurel’s Watkins High, Gilbreath zipped through the minors, batting .277 with 10 homers and 45 stolen bases at Double-A Savannah in ’72 before his call-up. He played seven big league years, all with the Braves, batting .248 with 14 homers, 125 RBIs and 25 steals in 500 games. Sign of the times: In 1976, he led the National League with 20 sacrifice bunts. He went on to be a Braves scout. … One hundred years ago, Starkville native Cool Papa Bell broke in at age 19 with the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League. (The exact date of Bell’s debut isn’t known.) He was a lefty pitcher initially, earning his nickname in 1922 for his composure on the mound. He won 20 games over three seasons with the Stars but an arm injury turned him into a full-time outfielder. Blessed with amazing speed, he batted .325 with 285 steals (unofficially, he had many, many more) over a 21-year career, playing for legendary championship teams in St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Homestead, Pa. Bell made the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

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