Riverside Cemetery is the final resting place of Ollie “The Ghost” Marcelle, one of the greatest African-American baseball players. He is credited with
integrating professional baseball in Denver 13 years before Jackie Robinson officially integrated major league baseball in 1947.
Ollie was just a decent hitter, but he was an outstanding third baseman. He snared hit baseballs that the average infielder would have missed.
His nickname “The Ghost” came from his lightning-fast reflexes at third base. He was only 18 when he joined the Negro Leagues with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He
later played for another black team in New York City, plus teams in Atlantic City, Detroit and Baltimore.
Unfortunately his violent temper erupted one time in 1929 when he and a teammate got into a
fight over a card game. In this fight his opponent bit off Ollie’s nose, causing him to wear a patch over his missing nose for the rest of his life.
After playing some more ball while enduring derogatory comments by opposing crowds, he left professional baseball and ended up here in Denver as a house
painter and handyman (playing occasional semi- pro ball).
In 1934 Ollie persuaded the promoter of the then-popular Denver Post baseball tournament to invite the Kansas City Monarchs to come here and play against a
traveling team called the House of David. The latter team was all white, while the Monarchs were one of the finest-ever African-American baseball teams.
Thousands of people came to watch these two teams play.
When Ollie Marcelle died here of a heart attack in 1949, he was alone and indigent. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the middle of Riverside’s Block 29. His
grave remained unmarked until 1991, when Fairmount and Riverside Cemeteries along with local sports historian Jay Sanford unveiled the current flat marker to “The
Ghost”. The marker bears the words of his Negro League friend Buck O’Neil:
“Baseball’s best third baseman brought black professional baseball to
By Garry O’Hara
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