Leroy 'Satchel' Paige
Leroy "Satchel" Paige played in the Negro Leagues from
1926-1947, Cleveland AL. 1948-1949, St
Louis A.L.1951-1953 and Kansas City A.L.
Paige became a rookie in the major leagues at age 42 in 1948 when Bill Veeck signed him to a contract with the Cleveland Indians.
Marc Pachter wroter in Champions of American Sport, "Not a few baseball writers, looking over Paige's performance in his first year with the Cleveland Indians at age forty-two (or more; his age has never been pinned down), seriously suggested that he be named Rookie of the Year. "I declined the position," Paige wryly responded. "I wasn't sure which year the gentlemen had in mind."
Although he had been the hero of the Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige had not been the first black player signed to the majors. The year before in 1947, Branch Rickey had signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers making him the first black player.
In Seasons to Remember Curt Gowdy wrote, "Some people thought that Satchel Paige should have been the first black player in the majors. He'd been a legend for twenty years in the Negro Leagues, the greatest pitcher of his day. Maybe that was why Rickey by passed him-- because Paige's time had passed."
William Marshall wrote in Baseball's Pivotal Era 1945-51 that Veeck was criticized for signing Paige in 1948. Many thought Paige was close to fifty. They said the signing was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Paige, however, soon proved them wrong.
Marhall quoted Jim Hegan, Paige's teammate, who said, "He didn't have many pitches-- mainly a fastball... His greatest asset was control-- all you had to do was put your glove up. I don't care where you put it, he could hit it.... He could throw strikes over (a) gum wrapper." The first time he pitched he threw a nine-inning shutout.
According to Pachter, "His first appearance on the mound in Cleveland brought a ten-minute foot-stomping ovation from major-league fans eager to see for themselves such Paige specialities as a slowball he called the "barber," or the "two-hump blooper," guaranteed to graze the batter's chin, or the fastball "Long Tom," or the hesitation pitch, whch he stopped in mid-throw."
Marshall wrote,"Paige became an instant gate attraction and the darling of Cleveland's media.....Paige gave Lou Boudreau fits-- he dumped a day's catch of fish in the team's shower, disregarded curfews, and maintained his own schedule."
Satchel Paige wrote in his autobiography Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, "... signing Jackie like they did still hurt me deep down. I'd been the guy who'd started all that big talk about letting us in the big time. I'd been the one who'd opened up the major league parks to the colored teams. I'd been the one who the white boys wanted to barnstorm against. I'd been the one who everybody'd said should be in the majors. But Jackie'd been the first one signed by the white boys and he'd probably be the first one in the majors."
"He[Paige] estimated that he pitched twenty-five hundred games-- and won two thousand-- before he ever reached the majors. At his peak, during the thirties, Paige claimed he won sixty games a season and averaged fifteen strikeouts a game," wrote Curt Gowdy with John Powers from Seasons to Remember.
Pachter wrote, "Once in 1933, he had a winning stretch of twenty-one consectuive games and sixty-two scoreless innings....His playing schedule was relentless. There were weeks on end when he pitched daily, and twice on Saturday and Sunday. And yet he won and won again."
According to the New York Times Book of Sports Legends, Paige's exact age was one of the mysteries in the legend that followed him into the big leagues. "...There was general agreement that he was the oldest player ever to appear in a major league game when he pitched three innings against the Boston Red Sox on September 25, 1965. And, two years later, clearly enjoying his role as an athletic phenomenon, he wrote his autobiography, with the title, "Maybe I'll Pitch Forever."
Pachter wrote, "In 1968, at sixty two, he put on the uniform of the Atlanta Braves for the 158 days he needed to qualfy for a pension. Major-league baseball owed him that-- and much more."
He was the first of the stars from the old Negro Leagues to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. Robert Lipsyte wrote that 'A bronze likeness of Paige would be hung somewhere in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York. He would not be "technically: enshrined in the Hall of Fame," according to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who added, "Realistically, I agree that the Hall of Fame is a state of mind, and what 's important here is how sports fans view Satchel Paige.'
Lipsyte added that 'he had been introduced to most of America as a legend, and now was being recognized in an apology.'
On his induction into the Hall of Fame, Paige was quoted as saying, "the one change is that baseball has turned Paige from a second class citizen into a second class immortal."
According to the New York Times Book of Sports Legends, Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama to John and Lulu Page. The name later became Paige when, "my folks later stuck in the 'i' to make themselves sound more high-toned," Paige was quoted as saying.
New York Times Book of Sports Legends reported that Paige got his nickname when he was seven years old hustling baggage at the railroad depot in Mobile after inventing a contraption for carrying more bags. Paige was quoted as saying, "I rigged up ropes around my shoulders and my waist, and I carried a satchel in each hand and one under each arm....I carried so many satchels that all you could see were satchels. You couldn't see no Leroy Paige."
Gowdy wrote that by the time he was out of the game there wasn't much left in Paige's bank account. "He loved tailor-made clothes and fast roadsters and women...If he'd been born thirty years later, he could have had steaks and prime rib until the day he died. His best years were gone before America ever got to appreciate him."
Champions of American Sport
Edited by Marc Pachter with Amy Henderson, Jeannette Hussey, and Margaret C. S. Christman, 1981
The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution Harry N. Abrams., Inc. New York
New York Times Book of Sports Legends
edited by Joseph J. Vecchione.
Introduction by Ira Berkow 1991
New York Times Company
Seasons to Remember The Way It Was
in American Sports 1945-1960
Curt Gowdy with John Powers, 1993
Baseball's Pivotal Era 1945-1951
William Marshall, 1999
University Press of Kentucky
Baseball's Greatest Quotations
Paul Dickson, 1991
Harper Collins Publishers
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