I went to the unveiling of this mural here in Austin on Saturday, installed next door to the historic home of Willie Wells. Tim Kerr is a local artist who enjoys baseball, jazz, and skateboarding. I am a long time fan and I got a chance to meet him in a backyard full of hot dogs, mexican cokes, chickens, and towering over us all, this beautiful painting. The ‘signature’ on the mural reads “your name here,” which felt incredibly appropriate as I stood with my neighbors, honoring Wells’ legacy.
Wells played one season for the Austin Black Senators of the Texas Negro League before entering the big show, The Negro National League. He also played in Mexico, where he was nicknamed “El Diablo,” and eventually ended up in Canada where he was a player/manager for the Winnipeg Buffaloes. He often won batting titles and was elected to multiple all star games, as well as setting a Negro Leagues single season home run record in 1926 with 27 home runs in only 88 recorded games. He was also an excellent defensive shortstop – he was also known as the “Shakespeare of Shortstops.” He is credited with mentoring a young Jackie Robinson, and being among the pioneers of the batting helmet (his was a construction helmet he wore after suffering a concussion). He eventually returned to his childhood home in Austin, before passing away in 1989. He was elected posthumously to the Hall of Fame in 1997.
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