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Sherman Maxwell

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Title: Sherman Maxwell  
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Sherman Maxwell

Sherman Leander Maxwell (December 18, 1907 – July 16, 2008) was an American sportscaster and chronicler of the Negro league baseball league.[1] Many believe that Maxwell was the first African American sports broadcaster in history.[2] He was known by the nickname of Jocko.[2] Despite his many firsts, Maxwell was rarely paid for his by the radio stations he worked for during his career.[1][2]

Early life

Sherman Maxwell was born on December 18, 1907 in Newark, New Jersey, where he resided for most of his life.[2] He received his nickname of "Jocko" when he was a teenager. Maxwell climbed a tree while watching baseball in an attempt to catch a flyball when someone yelled, "Hey, look at Jocko!" [2] Jocko The Monkey was the name of a popular performer in 1920s era films and the name stuck.[2] He graduated from Central High School in Newark, though he was such a fan of baseball that he intentionally failed high school final exams so he could remain at the school for one more year in order to play high school baseball.[1]

He later served in the United States Army in Europe during World War II.[2]

Sports broadcasting career

Maxwell reportedly began his broadcasting career in 1929 at the age of 22 when he began doing a five-minute weekly sports report on WNJR, a radio station based in Newark.[1] (There are some discrepancies as to which station Maxwell first began working at, but most sources point to WNJR).[2] WNJR was known as the "voice of Newark" during the 1920s and was owned by Herman Lubinsky, the co-founder of Savoy Records.[2] It is believed by many authors and historians of the radio era that Maxwell became the first African American sports reporter.[2] Maxwell was broadcasting on stations throughout northern New Jersey by the 1930s.[1] He was heard by listeners on WHOM in Jersey City. He also hosted a sports report called, "Runs, Hits and Errors" on WRNY, a station based in Coytesville, New Jersey, which had a studio in Manhattan at the Roosevelt Hotel.[2] His reports gradually expanded to include interviews with Negro league baseball players.[2]

Maxwell later became the public address sports announcer at Ruppert Stadium for the Negro leagues team the Newark Eagles.[2] He initially announced for games only on Sundays.[1] Maxwell continued broadcasting for both games and radio stations until 1967.[2]

Maxwell also founded and mananged the Newark Starlings, a mixed race, semi-professional baseball team.[1] He also became a contributing writer to Baseball Digest, where he wrote about subjects ranging from the integration of baseball to Jackie Robinson.[2] In 1940, Maxwell authored a book of interviews with players entitled, Thrills and Spills in Sports.[2] He also submitted stories on the Newark Eagles to the Ledger in Newark, which is the predecessor of The Star-Ledger newspaper.[1]

He was inducted into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.[1] In 2001, Maxwell achieved his lifelong dream by visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, when he was 93 years old,[2] though he was not inducted into the Hall of Fame during his lifetime.


Sherman Maxwell died on July 16, 2008, of complications of pneumonia at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania.[1][2] He was 100 years old. He was survived by his sister, Berenice Maxwell Cross, of West Caldwell, NJ, and his son, Bruce Maxwell, of West Chester, PA.[2] His wife, Mamie, and daughter, Lisa, had died previously.[1]

In an interview after Maxwell's death, Bob Kendrick, the director of marketing for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Missouri said that Maxwell had been well known by Negro league players as someone who preserved records and scores that would have been lost without him.[2]


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