In the 1920s the Kansas City Monarchs had two right-handed pitchers from Texas named Bell, Cliff and William. They were unrelated, though the press liked to call them the “Bell Brothers.” William, nicknamed “W.” supposedly because he won so often, was easily the better of the two. Cliff did have one advantage over him: according to everybody from James Riley to Jorge Figueredo, Cliff starred in Cuba for several seasons. Riley says that “in four winters in Cuba [Cliff Bell] recorded a 15-17 ledger.” He also says that William Bell “spent the 1928-29 winter with Havana in the Cuban League and tied with Dolph Luque for the lead in wins with nine.”
Jorge Figueredo’s more authoritative Cuban League encyclopedias have only Cliff Bell in Cuba for four seasons—1927-28, 1928-29, 1929-30, and 1930-31—for a total won-loss record of 25-17. In 1928-29, according to Figueredo’s accounting, Bell led the league with 9 wins to Luque’s 8.
I hate to have to do this to poor Cliff, but…as it turns out, the Bell who pitched in the Cuban league in at least the first three of those winter seasons (1927-28, 1928-29, and 1929-30) was in fact William Bell. Here, for example, is a photo of three Habana players from Diario de la Marina, November 25, 1927: William Bell, Miguel Angel González, and Sam Streeter.
Passenger lists show William Bell returning to the United States immediately after the Cuban winter season closed in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Here he is, accompanied by Sam Streeter and Jud Wilson, sailing from Havana to Key West on January 24, 1928 two days after the Cuban League’s last game (on January 22):
I haven’t been able to find anybody returning from Cuba following the 1930/31 winter season, so I couldn’t say (right now) which Bell played that year.
A couple of notes:
• In the Negro leagues, William Bell played for six pennant-winning teams (1923-25 and 1929 Monarchs, and the 1933 and 1935 Crawfords). His Habana teams added two Cuban League pennants (1927-28 and 1928-29) to his haul.
• Figueredo gives Cliff Bell the nickname of “Campanita” (which just means “little bell”)—I haven’t confirmed it, but I wonder if this wasn’t really bestowed on William while he played in Cuba.