It has been reported by Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, that Neale “Bobo” Henderson has died at the age of 88. Henderson was a shortstop and outfielder from 1949-53 and played with the Kansas City Monarchs from 1950-51.
Henderson was born on Fort Smith, Ark. on June 24, 1930. His introduction to the Negro Leagues came early on in 1937, when Henderson got to be a batboy for the Kansas City Monarchs in an exhibition game against the Homestead Grays in Fort Smith.
“I personally met “Cool Papa” Bell when the Monarchs were practicing. He took me under his wing and from then on, I wanted to be just like him,” he said of his experience.
Henderson moved with his family to San Diego, Calif. in 1941, but fate would reunite him with the Monarchs and Bell in a few years’ time. He went on to become the starting quarterback for San Diego High School Cavemen — the first African-American to earn that accomplishment, according to the website Today in Fort Smith. He was a good baseball player as well, and when he graduated, he signed with the Ikes, a farm team for the Monarchs. He was brought up to the Monarchs in 1950, where the infielder moved to the outfield. The Monarchs already had a pretty good shortstop named Ernie Banks, but Henderson took to the outfield pretty well. In addition to the Monarchs, he also played for the Kansas City Travelers, an independent team managed by Bell, until 1953.
Henderson’s baseball career ended when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He played for baseball and football teams at Camp Roberts and Fort Lewis. Following his discharge, Henderson worked for 39 years at General Dynamics as a supervisor.
Henderson was honored by the San Diego Padres on July 19, 2014. Along with a pre-game introduction, he went up to the broadcast for a fun interview with the broadcasters. Check it out to learn how he got the nickname “Bobo,” along with a few other anecdotes.