Oliver Marcelle

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Oliver "Ghost" Marcell
Third baseman
Born: (1895-06-21)June 21, 1895
Thibodaux, Louisiana
Died: June 12, 1949(1949-06-12) (aged 53)
Denver, Colorado
Batted: Right Threw: Right
Professional debut
1918 for the Bacharach Giants
Last professional appearance
1928 for the Bacharach Giants
Teams

Oliver Hazzard Marcelle (June 21, 1895 – June 12, 1949), nicknamed "Ghost", was an American third baseman in the Negro Leagues for a number of teams around the league from 1918-1931. He also played shortstop. A Creole born in Thibodaux, Louisiana, he batted and threw right-handed.

While the Negro Leagues had many statistics recorded in the 1920s, Marcelle put up outstanding numbers. In 1922 with the Bacharach Giants, he posted a .379 batting average. Again in 1924, he hit well, putting up a .352 average for Bacharach and the New York Lincoln Giants.

Although "Ghost" was a top-class hitting infielder, his defensive skills took center stage by comparison. He was considered by most to be the greatest fielding third basemen in the league throughout the 1920s and possibly of all time. Baseball Hall of Famer Judy Johnson once admitted that Marcelle was a better defensive player than himself. During that time, he and shortstop Dick Lundy made up one of the best left-side infields ever.

Marcelle was known for a terrible temper, with umpires and opponents commonly drawn into arguments with him, and even teammates sometimes fighting him. Marcelle once hit Oscar Charleston in the head with a bat. He participated in two Negro League World Series, both for the Bacharach Giants. He put up fairly good numbers during one of them (.293, six RBIs in 11 games). In the other, he posted a .235 average with 2 RBIs in 9 games. However, he did much better than that when he got his chance against white competition. He went 23-for-63, good for a .365 average, in 17 exhibition contests against white players. Marcelle was rated ahead of Hall of Famers Judy Johnson and Ray Dandridge in the renowned 1952 Pittsburgh Courier player-voted poll of the Negro Leagues' best players.

In a strange incident in the late 1920s, Marcelle's teammate Frank Warfield reportedly bit Marcelle's nose off after the two got into a fight, when both men were playing in the Cuban Winter League. Bill Yancey, another teammate of Marcelle's, said, "What got [Marcelle] out of baseball, he and [teammate] Frank Warfield had a fight in Cuba [probably in the winter of 1927-28, over a dice game] and Warfield bit his nose off. He was a proud, handsome guy, you know, and then he used to wear a black patch across his nose and he got so he couldn't play baseball anymore." Marcelle had been a staple of the Cuban Winter League throughout the decade. In the 1923-24 season, he batted .393 to lead the league. He ended with an overall .305 average in Cuba.

After some time with the Detroit Stars, Marcelle didn't play very much longer. His final career average was supposedly around .315 with 11 home runs.[citation needed] Marcelle died in poverty in 1949 in Denver, Colorado and was buried in an unmarked grave in Riverside Cemetery.[2]

42 years after his death, Oliver Marcelle’s last chapter was finally closed. At 10:30 a.m. on June 1, 1991, members of Riverside’s ownership, the Fairmount Cemetery Co., gathered with members of the Erickson Monument Co., the Black American West Museum, and the Denver Zephyrs, the Triple-A inheritors of, in part, Marcelle’s Denver baseball legacy, to honor The Ghost one final time. In the culmination of a long effort led by baseball historian and Denver-area resident Jay Sanford, there, weeks shy of what would have been the legend’s 94th birthday, they unveiled a simple grave marker.[3]

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