Sherman “Jocko” Maxwell is considered to be the nation’s first African-American sportscaster and a chronicler of the Negro Leagues. It was often said that not much prevented Maxwell from doing what he liked, except for occasional racism. Maxwell was born on December 18, 1907 in Newark, New Jersey, where he lived most of his life. Maxwell’s father was a journalist, one of the few black men of his era. Maxwell graduated from Central High School in Newark, and was such a fan of baseball that he intentionally failed his grade so that he could remain in high school to play on the baseball team. Maxwell wanted to attend college by the school of his choice, Panzer College of Physical Education in East Orange, New Jersey did not accept Black students.
Maxwell earned the nickname “Jocko” as a teenager. One day, he climbed a tree to watch a baseball game, in an attempt to catch a fly ball; someone yelled, “Hey, look at Jocko!” (Jocko The Money was the name of a popular performer in the 1920s) the name stuck with Maxwell thereafter.
He reportedly began his broadcasting career in 1929 at the age of 22. Some reports show that he worked for WNJR doing five-minute weekly sports reports. The radio station was based in Newark; however there are other sources there are some discrepancies as to which station Maxwell first began working at, but most sources point to WNJR. But it believed by many historians of the radio era that Maxwell was indeed the first African American sports reporter of the era. Maxwell was broadcasting on stations throughout northern New Jersey, and was also heard in New York City, beginning in the early 1930s. He was a sports commentator at station WHOM in Jersey City, where he hosted a program called Sport Hi Lites, and also reported about area teams.