James "Jimmy" Arthur Dean (1925-2000) was an Ambler native, and one of the African American baseball players in the Philadelphia area during the early 20th century.
Playing baseball became an inspiration for Jimmy when he was 8 years old. He learned how to play baseball on the streets of Ambler. When he was 13, people were telling him he should be a pitcher based on how hard he threw the ball. At age 15, he knew that he would make it to the major leagues. With that, he ended up playing for his high school and for local summer-league teams. He mostly played with the teams that were from "out-of-town." There were also older players on the team. They were the teams that travel hundreds of miles in search for competition and money.
Fun Fact #1: He learned how to throw curveballs and sinkers with a softball. He learned the sinker from Jim Taylor when he was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Fun Fact #2: Jimmy threw over 90 mph as a pitcher!
He served during World War II as Private First Class in the US Army. When he returned, he was signed by the Philadelphia Stars in 1946 after he caught his eye on the scouts. Not only was the Philadelphia Stars interested in Jimmy, the New York Cubans were also interested in him. The Philadelphia Stars manager didn't want to lose Jimmy, so he signed him before the NYC got him. Jimmy became the team's pitcher for 4/5 of their seasons.
"At the pinnacle of his career, he earned $400 a month and played before crowds of 25,000 or more. He played against many future Hall of Fame inductees, including Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson."
Fun Fact #3: Jimmy pitched 3 games in a week, and he was paid $300. That was considered a lot of money back in the old days, according to Jimmy.
With declining crowds at the Stars game, and black players like Jackie Robinson going into the major leagues, Jimmy ended up going to college at Morris Brown College, and became a chemist. He worked 33 years at a pharmaceutical company called Merck, and used his money to travel and afford college for his 3 sons.
Jimmy's Baseball History:
1939: Norristown Colored Elks
1940-1945: Ambler Tigers
Ambler Giants Germantown Bombers North Hills Giants
1946: Ambler Giants 1946: Germantown Bombers
1946: North Hills Giants
1946: Lincoln Giants (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
1946: Pennsacken Giants (Camden, New Jersey)
1946: Bachacrach Giants (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
1946: Philadelphia Stars
1947: New York Cubans
1947: New York Black Yankees
1947: Santurce All Stars (New York based barnstorming team)
1948: Philadelphia Stars
1949-1950: Philadelphia Stars
1951-1957: Ambler Tigers Ambler Giants
Ambler Giants (Philadelphia Suburban League)
Santurce All Stars
North Hills Giants
Montross (VA) 1957: Germantown Bombers
Winter Leagues: 1947 Philadelphia Stars Spring Training (Charleston, South Carolina)
***To read more about the history of the Negro Leagues in Philadelphia, click here!***
"Jimmy Dean." Baseball in Living Color. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.baseballinlivingcolor.com/player.php?card=113.
Kelley, Brent. Voices from the Negro Leagues: Conversations with 52 Baseball Standouts of the Period 1924-1960. (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998): 199-205.
Mitchell, Kevin L. "The Negro League baseball history fact for today." the baseball scroll (blog). February 25, 2014. http://thebaseballscroll.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-negro-league-baseball-history-fact_25.html.
O'Brien, David. "Ex-Negro League Star Missed Majors, Succeeded In Life." The Seattle Times. May 1, 1994. https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=19940501&slug=1908230.
"Player Profiles: C-E." Negro Southern League Museum Research Center. Accessed September 16, 2020: 101-102. http://www.negrosouthernleaguemuseumresearchcenter.org/Portals/0/Birmingham%20Player%20Profiles/C-E.pdf.
Threaten, Christopher. The Integration of Baseball in Philadelphia. (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003): 43.
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