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Paige, Satchel

Satchel Paige

1906-1982

American baseball player

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige, one of the game's true natural talents, was an African-American man living during the height of the Jim Crow days in a South where the color-barrier was thick and seemingly insurmountable. Yet in spite of the odds, Paige transcended place, time, and sport, and became one of the greatest players baseball has ever seen. The first black pitcher to play in the major leagues, the oldest major league rookie, and a man who pitchedand wonmore games than any other baseball player in history, many of Paige's accomplishments stand on their own. But many of his feats exist as part of the mythology that preceded him in life, and nowsince his death from a heart attack in 1982follow Paige's legend wherever it goes. As Mark Ribowsky noted in his 1994 book Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball : "If Paige hadn't existed, someone in art or literature would have invented him. Wherever [he] went, somethingimportant happened in the evolution of baseball."

Growing Up

Leroy Robert Paige was born on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama, the third son and seventh child in a family that would eventually run to 12 children. Born to Robert and Lula Paige, Satchel came into the world in the back room of a rundown shack he would later describe as a "shotgun shack"meaning, he said, that if someone were to shoot a shotgun through the front door, it would carry right on through and out the back door. Although this date is now widely recognized as Paige's official birthday, there is still some dispute as to when he was actually born. Integration was unheard of in the South at that time and most blacks in Mobile weren't born in hospitals. Therefore, no public records exist to back upor denythe circumstances surrounding Paige's birth.

The confusion around his birth gave Satchel fodder for his tall tales. Until the day he died he would never give a straight answereven going so far as to have

question marks engraved on his tombstone where the birth date normally appears. "Age is a question of mind over matter," he would say. "If you don't mind, age don't matter." Paige told reporters that he was born in "nineteen-ought." He said the family goat ate the Bible in which they stored his birth certificate.

With so many children to look after, Satchel didn't receive much attention at home. His mother did the cooking, the washing, and the cleaning for the family, while Satchel's father, described as a "sometimes-gardener," was not around and gave little support to Lula and the children. Driven by necessity to earn money for the family, Paige took a job as a baggage handler at the local railroad station. He was seven-years-old.

He and the other boys who worked at the station earned their money in tips, scrambling, as the trains pulled in, to be chosen to carry the businessmen's luggage from the platform to the nearby hotels. Satchel soon realized that style and charisma were the things that got a person noticed. Even with his ability to carry more bags than the other boys, it wasn't enough. Show-manship was a skill he honed, and soon, with talents superior to those of the other boys, he had his arms full.

During his years as a baggage-handler, Paige earned his now-famous nickname "Satchel." Always eager for more, young Leroy Paige would soon step outside the bounds of the law. Most accounts of the "Satchel" nickname origin say Paige earned it because, often carrying many bags at once, his friends told him he looked like a "satchel tree." But as with most stories surrounding his life, it's often difficult to determine what is true and what is part of the Satchel Paige mythology. Mark Ribowsky wrote in Don't Look Back that one of Satchel's childhood friends, Willie Hines, came up with the famous moniker.

As Hines recalled, "One day [Paige] decided to run off with one of the bags. The man gave it to him and he broke and ran with it. That fella caught him and slapped him hard, in the face, and took it back. That's when I named him Satchel, right on that day." Hines, aware of the many versions of how Paige earned his nickname, added, "All those years he said he got the name 'cause he carried satchels. Hell noit's 'cause he stole 'em!"

Paige's tendencies towards mischievous behavior at the train yards followed him through childhood, and by the age of ten, he was a budding thief. Stealing bicycles or toys, throwing bricks or rocks, or getting in fightsif there was something to be done to thwart authority, Paige was first in line. He understood that in order to survive as a black youth in Mobile, he had to have an attitude and make himself known. And he wanted to be known. He wanted to be the kid others looked up to or avoided or talked about.

In Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, Paige reflects with a "profound eloquence" on the antisocial tendencies of his youth. "Maybe I got into all those fights," he recalled, "because I found out what it was like to be a Negro in Mobile. Even though you're only seven, eight, or nine, it eats at you when you know you got nothing and can't get a dollar. The blood gets angry." Paige wanted out of Mobile, but he wasn't sure how to get there.

The life of petty crime came to an end when, at 12-years-old, he was caught stealing rings from a jewelry store and sentenced to five-and-a-half years at the Mount Meigs Negro Reform School. His mother, who could do no more for him, gave in to the police's recommendation that Satchel be sent away. Although he'd wanted to get out of the city, this was not what he had in mind. While at the Meigs school, however, Paige would discover his passion and gift for baseball. He'd played some ball at the W.H. Council School in Mobile and spent some time in the ballparks back home, but that was mostly sweeping the grandstands or mowing the grass for extra money. At the Meigs School, Satchel would embark on a baseball path that defined the rest of his life.

Chronology

1906 Born July 7 in Mobile, Alabama, to Josh and Lula Paige
1913 Works as baggage handler at local railroad station where he gains nickname "Satchel"
1918 Sentenced to five-and-a-half years at the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. Baseball becomes part of his life
1924 Joins the Mobile Tigers, a local black baseball team
1926 At 19 years old makes professional baseball debut with Chattanooga Black Lookouts
1929 Plays winter baseball in West Indies and Latin America
1934 Joins Bismarck team in North Dakota. Marries Janet Howard, a nineteen-year-old waitress
1934 Pitches two no-hitters on July 4 in two different cities on the same day (Pittsburgh and Chicago)
1936 Returns east to play for Pittsburgh Crawfords
1937 Accepts offer to play for Trujillo Stars in the Dominican Republic
1938 Pitches in the Mexican League and suffers shoulder injury
1938 Joins B team of Kansas City Monarchs
1939 Pitching arm improves, becomes ace pitcher for Monarch's A team (they win Negro American League title in 1939, '40, and '41)
1942 Paige becomes the highest-paid player in all of baseball
1943 Janet Howard and Satchel Paige divorce
1947 Marries Lahoma Brown, with whom he eventually fathers eight children
1948 Signs contract with Cleveland Indians, at 42 years old, becomes oldest rookie, and first African American to pitch in American League as a reliever
1948 Becomes first African American to pitch in the World Series
1951 Returning to Major League ball for first time since 1949, signs with St. Louis Browns
1956 Signs with Birmingham Black Barons (Negro League), at age 50, to play and manage
1966 Makes final big league appearance for Kansas City Athletics
1968 Runs for seat in Missouri state legislature and loses
1969 Atlanta Braves put Paige on their roster to allow him a sufficient number of days for a major league pension
1971 Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
1979 Installed in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
1982 Dies of a heart attack at his Kansas City home, June 8

Awards and Accomplishments

1952 Voted to appear in Major League All-Star game
1953 Voted to appear in Major League All-Star game
1971 Named to Baseball Hall of Fame
1979 Inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Played in the Negro Leagues

The Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama, provided Paige with the education he'd been lacking and gave him his first true introduction to baseball. Initially a first basemen, he soon became the starting pitcher. That same Willie Hinesthe one who'd witnessed Satchel's dead-on accuracy when he'd thrown rocks and bricks back in Mobiletold the coach Satchel could pitch better than any guy they had up there. Though Paige wasn't a refined pitcher by any means, the Mount Meigs coach, Edward Byrd, worked with Satchel and helped turn him into one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever known. He taught Satchel the beginnings of moves that became characteristic of Paige's style: the high front foot kick, "so it looked like I blocked out the sky," and the release of the ball at the last possible moment. He taught him to study not only the batter's eyes, but also his knees, "like a bullfighter. A bullfighter can tell what a bull is going to do by watching its knees."

When he was released from the Mount Meigs School, Paige returned to Mobile unsure of what to do next. Seeking the next chapter in his life, wandering the streets for answers, he came across some black men playing baseball. In 1923, the popularity of baseball was beginning to rise in the South. Satchel Paige soon began playing with the local team, but word of his talents as a pitcher spread, and in 1926 he signed with the Chattanooga, Tennessee Black Lookouts.

Paige's mother wasn't happy that her son would probably be playing baseball on Sundays, but was pleased that baseball had finally given him a ticket to get out of Mobile. Paige would end up staying with the Black Lookouts through the 1927 season, touring a South he'd never seen, and concentrating on sharpening his talents and expanding his pitching repertoire.

Paige's fastball had always beenand would continue to behis principal pitch. Yet as he matured he developed an arsenal of pitches. Almost as famous as his fastball would be his "hesitation pitch," a delayed pitch in which the hurler strides forward, holds back a second, then lets go of the ball at the very last moment. On the mound Paige's reputation preceded him and some batters were so unnerved by his appearance that they would swing their bats before he even released the ball.

"I got bloopers, loopers, and droopers," Paige would say, describing his many pitches. "I got a jump-ball, a be-ball, a screw ball, a wobbly ball, a whipsy-dipsy-do, a hurry-up, a nothin' ball and a bat dodger." This "be-ball," he explained, "is a be-ball 'cause it 'be' right where I want it, high and inside. It wiggles like a worm." He would also, in typical Paige fashion, assert at other times that this was a "bee" ball because of the buzzing noise it made as it rocketed past batters.

As when he toted luggage, Paige soon saw that being successful in baseballespecially in the Southern Negro Leagues, which were considered inferior to the majorstook more than just being a great ballplayer. The emptiness and poverty of growing up in Mobile turned Paige into an opportunist. The boy who carried luggage from the train platform was now a man standing on the mound. Yet he still wanted the most attention, and so, in addition to being a phenomenal ballplayer, Satchel became an entertainer, a spectacle who drew the fans to the ballparks.

Although he was all seriousness when he took hold of the ball, Satchel gave the audience what they came for, and they almost always left with stories to tell. Paige might signal to the outfielders to leave the field early, or at the very least, tell them to sit down because he planned to strike out the side. Or he might announce beforehand that he would fan the first nine battersand then do it!

Satchel Paige packed 'em in. In fact, in his first three starts in the major leagues, in 1948, he drew over 200,000 fans and set nighttime attendance records in Chicago and Cleveland.

Paige was always open to discussions with other teams who were willing to pay him more, and he participated in exhibition games to bring in more cash. This itinerant nature is one of the reasons it is so difficult to pin down statistics on him during his years in the Negro leagues, and why often some of the statistics can't be found. Paige moved often from team to team, as well as being "loaned" out to other clubs from his parent club, always going where the money was. It has been estimated that towards the end of his life, he'd pitched in well over 2500 games, winning about 2000 of them-with 300 shutouts and 55 no-hitters.

After leaving the Chattanooga Black Lookouts, he signed with the Alabama Birmingham Black Barons, in 1927, for $275 a month. He then began to bounce around the country "globetrotting" to demonstrate his talents. In 1928 he played for the Nashville Elite Giants and spent the off-season touring with a group of barnstormerssomething he would continue to do throughout his career in the Negro and semi-pro leagues. During these exhibitions, he played against the white ballplayers he wasn't allowed to join in the majors.

Babe Ruth headed up one of the exhibition teams Paige would play on, though he never pitched against Ruth. Whenever Satchel was on the mound, the Babe was always conveniently riding the bench. Paige was able to fan the best hitters in the majors, and in one particular game, on the west coast during those barnstorming days, he struck out 22 major leaguers, which would have been a big league record.

In early 1931 he joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords for $750 a month, a great salary at that time, and he stuck with this ball club during six regular seasons. In 1934, he married Janet Howard, a waitress who worked in a restaurant he frequented, and she moved with him out west, where he spent a season earning top dollar with an all-white team in Bismarck, North Dakota. At one point during this time, he set a never-to-be-duplicated record of pitching 29 games in a single month.

After a year in North Dakota, however, Paige returned to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Life out west was difficult, and he couldn't find housing for him and his wifein fact, they were forced to live in an abandoned railroad freight car. In his autobiography, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, he says he was a wandering man, "but Janet was against all that wandering. She wanted a man who ran a store or something and came home every night, a guy who'd never leave her and if he had to go somewhere he'd be the kind to take her with him. I wasn't that kind at all back in those days," Paige wrote. He didn't want to be tied down, and with a reputation for carousing, drinking, staying out late and free spending, Janet and Satchel wouldn't see much of each other in the nine years they were married.

When he returned to the Crawfords, however, Paige discovered that he had been banned from the Negro Leagues for breaking his contract with the Pittsburgh ball club. The ban would last only a year, and in 1937 Paige headed to the Dominican Republic to play with the Trujillo Stars for a salary of $30,000, equivalent to the best the major leagues were offering at the time. In spite of the money, however, Paige found himself with financial problems. He spent too much on his wife, on clothes and cars, and on shotguns and fishing. Things seemed to be steadily declining, and in 1938, while playing in the Mexican Leagues, Paige suffered a career-threatening injury to his shoulder while pitching in Mexico City.

Unsure about what to do, he sought coaching jobs with teams around the Negro Leagues, but his lackluster reputation as a rabble-rouser preceded him. Ralph Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, decided to buy out the remainder of Paige's contract and invited him to travel with the Monarchs B-team throughout the northwest and Canada. In 1939, with his shoulder better, he joined the Monarchs A-team as their ace pitcher, leading them to the Negro League World Seriesand the series titlesin 1939, 1940, and 1941.

For Paige, there never really was an off season. Back then, as is still common today, pitchers would throw every four to five days, then rest at the season's end. Throughout his career, Paige would continue on the exhibition circuit, playing year-round to earn extra money, barnstorming in small towns, and facing many great major-leaguers before they were famous (men such such as Dizzy Dean and Joe DiMaggio ).

In The Big Leagues

In 1946, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson to play in the majors, at long last breaking the color barrier. Other teams soon followed suit and two years later, Bill Veeck, the owner of the Cleveland Indians, signed Satchel Paige to a contract. He was 42 years old, and many critics believed this was a publicity stunt designed by Veeck to bring more fans into the stadium.

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns's Baseball is a twenty-hour tribute to the sport, broken up into nine "innings," or chapters, and narrated by John Chancellor, joined by testimonials from a diverse group chosen for their love of the game, including former Negro league player Buck O'Neil, editor Daniel Okrent, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mickey Mantle, comedian Billy Crystal, and sportscaster Bob Costas. It is periodically aired on public television. Burns has referred to his trilogy of films: The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz, as a trilogy about race in the United States. Baseball contains ongoing commentary on race, especially about the treatment of African-American baseball players before, during, and after Paige's lifetime. The film covers the development of the Negro leagues and the star players emerging from them. It also covers the struggle of blacks to break into the major leagues, overcoming a color barrier that had kept them out for decades. The film shows the heroism of not only Jackie Robinson but such players as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Hank Aaron, Rube Foster, Curt Flood, Bob Gibson, and Frank Robinson.

The Indians were in the middle of a pennant race, and Veeck saw Paige as a valuable asset. Satchel had become the seventh black player recruited into the majors, and, in his debut start, in spite of his age and the skepticism of many critics, Paige pitched a 5-0 shutout over the Chicago White Sox. The savvy of Paige as an entertainer, and the hype surrounding the Indians' owner in recruiting Satchel, paid off. He went 6-1 in his first ever major league season, with a 2.47 earned run average (ERA), helping the Indians into the World Series.

Paige played only two seasons with the Indians, soon becoming a burden on the team, missing meetings, trains, warm-ups, and falling mostly on his old habits from the Negro League days when he answered, essentially, to no one. When Paige was nearly 60, the Kansas City Athletics signed him to a contract in what most people also considered a publicity stunt. This was 1965, and he would pitch only three innings that season, with the promise of one more season, so that he could earn his big league pension. The Athletics failed to honor their word, however, and let Satchel go. He would eventually get his pension in 1969, while working as a pitching coach with the Atlanta Braves. The team put him on the roster so he could retire with a major league pension.

Though he rarely showed any anger over segregation, Paige felt all alongand rightly sothat he belonged in the majors. Indeed, he had countless off-seasons of pitching to, and decimating, many major league ballplayers. Mark Ribowsky wrote, "For all of his out-ward gaiety and nonchalance, Paige was deeply offended by the color line that kept him from playing in the major leagues." A New York Times correspondent, Dave Anderson, stated, "To the end, Satchel Paige had too much dignity to complain loudly about never being in the big leagues when he deserved to be."

Paige had married Lahoma Brown, a longtime friend, in 1947, a woman who brought stability to his life. Following his playing years he spent some time in the minor leagues as a coach with the Tulsa Oilers. Eventually he settled down in Kansas City with his wife and eight children.

Due Recognition

Satchel Paige was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. Today, Paige's plaque sits alongside the other great major leaguers who grace the halls in Cooperstown. Though he never played major league ball in his prime, Paige will stand in his rightful place forever as one of the greats. "Baseball turned Paige from a second-class citizen to a second-class immortal," he said in his induction speech.

Paige was one of the game's true talents, and in spite of almost insurmountable odds, he dominated a sport and was instrumental in helping break down the color barriersnot through any activism, but by sheer talent, showmanship and determination. The first black pitcher to play in the major leagues and a man who pitchedand wonmore games than any other baseball player in history, Paige's accomplishments and his contributions to making baseball what it is today will not be forgotten.

Career Statistics

BBB: Birmingham Black Barons (Negro Leagues); BBS: Baltimore Black Sox (Negro Leagues); CLE: Cleveland Indians (American League); KCA: Kansas City Athletics (American League); KCM: Kansas City Monarchs (Negro Leagues); PC: Pittsburgh Crawfords (Negro Leagues); SLB: St. Louis Browns (American League); TS: Trujillo Stars (Negro Leagues)
Yr Team W L ERA GP GS CG SHO IP H BB SO
1927 BBB 8 3 20 9 6 3 93 63 19 80
1928 BBB 12 4 26 16 10 3 120 107 19 112
1929 BBB 11 11 31 20 15 0 196 191 39 184
1930 BBS 11 4 18 13 12 3 120 92 15 86
1931 PC 5 5 12 6 5 1 60 36 4 23
1932 PC 14 8 29 23 19 3 181 92 13 109
1933 PC 5 7 13 12 10 0 95 39 10 57
1934 PC 13 3 20 17 15 6 154 85 21 97
1935 PC 0 0 2 2 0 0 7 0 0 10
1936 PC 7 2 9 9 9 3 70 54 11 59
1937 TS 1 2 3 3 2 0 26 22 6 11
1940 KCM 1 1 2 2 2 1 12 10 0 15
1941 KCM 7 1 13 11 3 0 67 38 6 61
1942 KCM 8 5 20 18 6 1 100 68 12 78
1943 KCM 5 9 24 20 4 0 88 80 16 54
1944 KCM 5 5 13 2 78 47 8 70
1945 KCM 3 5 13 7 1 0 38 22 2 23
1946 KCM 5 1 9 9 1 0 68 65 12 48
1947 KCM 1 1 2 2 2 0 11 5
1948 CLE 6 1 2.48 21 7 3 2 72.7 61 25 45
1949 CLE 4 7 3.04 31 5 1 0 83.0 70 33 54
1951 SLB 3 4 4.79 23 3 0 0 62.0 67 29 48
1952 SLB 12 10 3.07 46 6 3 2 138.0 116 57 91
1953 SLB 3 9 3.53 57 4 0 0 117.3 114 39 51
1965 KCA 0 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 3.0 1 0 1

SELECTED WRITINGS BY PAIGE:

(With Hal Lebovitz) Pitchin'Man. Meckler Publishing, 1992.

(As told to David Lipman) Maybe I'll Pitch Forever. University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Cline-Ransome, Lesa and James Ransome (Illus.). Satchel Paige. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 7. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1998.

Costas, Bob, and Sterry and Eckstut, eds. Satchel Sez: The Wit, Wisdom, and World of Leroy 'Satchel'Paige. New York: Crown, 2001.

Holway, John. Josh and Satch: The Life and Times of Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Westport: Meckler, 1992.

Humphrey, Kathryn L. Satchel Paige. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988.

"Leroy Robert Paige." The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 1: 1981-1985. New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1998.

Macht, Norman L. Satchel Paige. New York: Chelsea House, 1991.

Paige, Leroy, as told to David Lipman. Maybe I'll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Paige, Leroy, as told to Hal Lebovitz. Pitchin'Man: Satchel Paige's Own Story. Westport: Meckler, 1993.

Reisler, Jim. Black Writers/Black Baseball: An Anthology of Articles from Black Sportswriters Who Covered the Negro Leagues. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1994.

Ribowsky, Mark. Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Riley, James A. Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1994.

Rubin, Robert. Satchel Paige: All-Time Baseball Great. New York: G.P. Putnam's & Sons, 1994.

"Satchel Paige." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1998.

"Satchel Paige." Notable Black American Men. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1998.

"Satchel Paige." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 5 vols. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 2000.

Shirley, David. Satchel Paige. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

Thorn, John, and Pete Palmer, eds. Total Baseball: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Baseball. 3rd ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993.

Periodicals

Durso, Joseph. "Satchel Paige, Black Pitching Star, Is Dead at 75." New York Times (June 9, 1982): D-20.

Ebony (September 1982): 74-8.

Greene, James "Joe" and John Holway. "I Was Satchel's Catcher." Journal of Popular Culture. (1972) (6)1: 157-70.

Holway, John B. "The Kid Who Taught Satchel Paige A Lesson." Baseball Research Journal (1987) 16:36-44.

Newsweek (June 1, 1981): 12.

Reader's Digest (April 1984): 89-93.

Sports Illustrated (June 21, 1982): 9.

Other

"The Official Satchel Paige Homepage." http://www.cmgww.com/baseball/paige/index.html.

"Paige, Leroy Robert." BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers

"Paige, Leroy Robert." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com.

Sketch by Eric Lagergren

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Paige, Satchel 1906–1982

Satchel Paige 19061982

Professional baseball player

At a Glance

Practiced the Skills That Made Him a Master

A Star in a Segregated Game

A Belated Invitation to the Majors

A Home in the Hall of Fame

Sources

Legend and folklore surround the career of pitcher Satchel Paige. Only a single indisputable fact emerges: Paige was one of the very best baseball players to take the mound in the twentieth century. The cruel irony of his life is that his best years were spent not in major league baseball as we know it today, but rather in the Negro Leagues and in numerous exhibition games. Paige, whose fastball was once clocked at 103 miles per hour, never performed for a major league team until he was well into his fortiesand past his prime. Even so, the lanky pitchers talent was such that he became a prominent national athlete, earning as much fame and fortune as most of the major league baseball players of his day.

There is no question that Satchel Paige was one of the marvels of the century, wrote Robert Smith in Pioneers of Baseball. When he still enjoyed all his youthful strength, Leroy Satchel Paige may well have been the fastest pitcher in the nation, or even in history. It was said that when he really poured a baseball in to the plate with his full strength, it might tear the glove off the catcher.

Satchel Paige was born Leroy Robert Paige on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama. The seventh of eleven children of John and Lula Paige, he grew up poor and needy in the segregated South. He spent his childhood days tossing rocks at tin cans and anything that moved, evenoccasionallypeople. At the tender age of seven, Paige went to work at the Mobile train station, earning tips for carrying travelers luggage. Readers Digest correspondent John ONeil noted that the enterprising youngster fixed up a rig so he could carry more bags than any other kid, thus earning the name Satchel Tree. The nickname, a bit shortened, stuck into adulthood.

Paige was ten years old when he began playing organized baseball with his elementary school team. The sport provided the only reason for him to attend school, from his point of view. As Smith put it, Books just drove him to playing hooky, as they did many boys that age. But baseball consumed his soul. He loved to throw and he loved to hit and he seemed to do both equally well. The love of baseball could not keep Paige out of trouble, however. At twelve he was caught snatching some toy rings from a dime store. That episode and his truancy combined to earn him a sentence to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama.

At a Glance

Born Leroy Robert Paige, July 7, 1906, in Mobile, AL; died ot emphysema, June 5, 1982, in Kansas City, MO; son of John and Lula Paige; married second wife, LaHoma Brown, August 18, 1942; children Warren, Leroy Jr., Rita, Lula, Pamela, Carolyn, Linda, Shirley.

Pitcher with semi-pro teams in the early 1920s; professional pilchcer, 1927-56 and 1965: coach with the Atlanta Braves, 1968. Negro League teams pitched for included Birmingham Black Barons. Nashville Elite Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Kansas City Monarchs, and a team in Bismarck, ND. Relief pitcher for Cleveland Indians, 1948-50; relief pitcher for St. Louis Browns, 1951-54; pitcher for minor league Miami Marlins, 1956; pitcher for Kansas City Athletics, 1965 (one game). Author, with David Lipman, of memoir Maybe I will Pilch Forever.

Selected awards: Named to Baseball Hall of Fame, 1971.

Practiced the Skills That Made Him a Master

The industrial school turned out to be just the right place for Paige. Freed from the distractions of his hometown and under stricter disciplinehe became educated and played baseball for the school team. He stayed in Mount Meigs until he was seventeen, practicing the baseball skills that would turn his arm into the tool that would bring him his fame and fortune, to quote ONeil. After leaving the school, he set out to find work in professional baseball.

Paige had considerable skills at an early age. His principal pitch was the fastball, but he was also known for inventing the crafty hesitation pitch. What set him apart from other pitchers was his control. As late as the 1950s, a teammate of Paiges on the St. Louis Browns told Sports Illustrated: You hear about pinpoint control, but Paige is the only man Ive ever seen who really has it. Once he threw me six strikes out of 10 pitches over a gum wrapper. This precision was not merely a gift, or natural talent, but was rather the result of Paiges obsessive practice throughout his youth, teen years, and early adulthood. We had a lot of players when I came up could throw the ball hard, way harder than I could, as far as thats concerned, but they couldnt gain control, Paige told Sports Illustrated. Its such a thing as I practiced all the time; I just practiced control. Anything you practice you begin to come good at, regardless of what it is.

Paige began his baseball career in 1923 with the Mobile Tigers, an all-black semi-pro team. He earned a dollar a game. He also picked up spare change by pitching batting practice for the local white minor league team. By 1925 Paige had established himself in the fledgling Negro Leagues as a pitcher with the Chattanooga, Tennessee Black Lookouts. From $50 a month his first year, he soon was earning $200 a month with bonuses. Paige discovered that baseball was more than just a game: it was entertainment, and it was a business. He adapted his methods to meet those challenges. As an entertainer, he clowned and dawdled to and from the mound, saving his seriousness for pitching. As a businessman, he was constantly on the lookout for teams that would pay him more and exhibition games that would bring in extra cash.

A Star in a Segregated Game

Most professional pitchers work only every four or five days and then rest at seasons end. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Paiges career is the fact that he pitched almost every day, all four seasons of the year. It is difficult to chart his career with any sort of precision, because he hopped from team to team in the Negro Leagues and was sent out on loanto other clubs by his parent team of the moment. These appearances were augmented by numerous exhibition games and barnstorming trips across country, as well as work with winter leagues in Cuba, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. An Ebony magazine contributor estimates that in his career Paige pitched some 2,500 games and won 2,000 of themwith 300 shutouts and 55 no-hitters.

In 1927 Paige pitched in Alabama for the Birmingham Black Barons for $275 a month. The following year he moved to the Nashville Elite Giants and toured in the offseason with a barnstorming group led by Babe Ruth. Barnstorming gave Paige the opportunity to test his mettle against white baseball playersin fact, the very best in the white major leagues. As Smith put it, Satch pitched against some of the mightiest sluggers in the lily-white major leagues and left them all marveling. But he never had a chance to pitch against Babe Ruth, who seemed to be needed on the bench whenever Satch was scheduled to pitch. In a game on the West Coast, against the Babe Ruth All-Stars, Satch struck out twenty-two major-leaguersand that would have been a new record in the major leagues.

Such accomplishments assured Paige a national audience of both races for his talents. In the early 1930s he joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the top Negro League teams, for a salary of $750 per month. In 1934 he served one season at top salary with an all-white independent league team out of Bismarck, North Dakota. It was with the Bismarck team that Paige set a never-to-be-duplicated record of pitching 29 games in a single month. After one year in North Dakota, Paige returned to the Crawfords. He left them again in 1937 to play in the Dominican Republic for the princely wage of $30,000a salary on par with the best white major leaguers of the time.

At the beginning of the 1940s, Paige was reported to be earning in the neighborhood of $500 per game pitched. The 1941 summer season in the United States found him with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. With Paige in their ranks, the Monarchs were able to advance to the Negro World Series in 1942 and again in 1946.

During the off-season, the pitcher again toured the exhibition game circuit, facing everyone from Dizzy Dean to a youngster named Joe DiMaggio. Smith wrote: The Monarchs hung on to old Satch until the call came for him to try out with the Cleveland club in the American League. Satch pitched Sundays for the Monarchs and weekdays almost anywhere the dollars beckoned. He kept count one year and said he pitched in 134 games.

A Belated Invitation to the Majors

Baseballs color barrier was broken in 1946 when Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Within a short time, most of the other major league clubs had recruited black players as well. Paige was 40 years old when baseball was integrated. Most owners considered him too old to be a force in the big leagues. During the 1948 season, however, Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck approached Paige at mid-year about playing for the Indians. The team was in the midst of a pennant race, and Veeck, for one, thought Paige might help clinch a pennant.

On August 13, 1948, Satchel Paige became the seventh black player recruited into the major leagues when he pitched a 5-0 shutout for Cleveland over the Chicago White Sox. Veeck and Paige combined their talents as entertainers to enliven Paiges appearance in the American League. In a well-orchestrated plot, the two men told reporters that Paige was uncertain of his age and might be as old as fifty. Paige concocted a story about a goat eating the family Bible that held his birth certificate. Age notwithstanding, in 1948 Paige pitched to a 4-1 record for the Indians with a 2.47 earned run average. In the World Series that year, he pitched two-thirds of an inning and did not allow a hit.

Satchels Rules

At the time of his death, Paige was as well-known for his Satchels Rules for Staying Young as he was for his sports achievements The Rules were first published in a magazine article in 1948 and were later repeated and quoted widely. The last of them even has made it into Bartletts Quotations. In order, the rules are:

1. Avoid fried meals, which angry up the blood.

2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

4. Go very light on the vices such as carrying on in society. The social rumble aint restful.

5. Avoid running at all times.

6. Dont look back; something might be gaining on you.

Paige was back with the Indians the following year, but his record in 1949 fell to 4-7, and he was released at seasons end. He returned to barnstorming until 1951, then signed a contract with the lackluster St. Louis Browns. He stayed with St. Louis, pitching mostly in relief situations, until the team left town in 1954. Smith wrote of Paige: His incredible stamina had begun to fade. Stomach problems almost forced him to retire, but he staged a comebackat age fiftywith the minor league Miami Marlins. Once again in Miami he capitalized on his age, requiring a rocking chair in the dugout when he appeared.

A Home in the Hall of Fame

Paiges last hurrah as a pitcher occurred in 1965. He had applied for a pension from major league baseball that year and discovered that he lacked only three innings of work to qualify for the pension. Paige was granted the chance to work his last three innings with the Kansas City Athletics, owned by Charlie Finley. At the age of 59 he took the mound and shut out the Boston Red Sox through the required three innings. As he left the field, the lights went out and the crowd lit 9000 matches and sang songs to him. It was a fitting epilogue to a long and varied career.

Subsequent years found Paige serving as a batting coach with the Atlanta Braves and as an executive for the minor league Tulsa Oilers baseball team. He settled down in Kansas City with his second wife and eight children, completing an autobiography called Dont Look Back and adding his recollections to historical accounts of the Negro Leagues. He died of emphysema on June 5, 1982.

Paige rarely expressed any bitterness about his career, although he had every right to feel cheated by a segregated society. Many critics agree that it was actually American baseball that was the loser in the Paige saga. Any number of major league teams would have done better with Paige in their ranks when he was in his prime. Marginal teams might have won pennants; championship teams might have extended their domination.

For Paiges part, he earned as much or more money than many major leaguers of his day, and he was among the most famousif not the most famousof the Negro League baseball stars. New York Times correspondent Dave Anderson wrote: To the end, Satchel Paige had too much dignity to complain loudly about never being in the big leagues when he deserved to be.

Sources

Books

LaBlanc, Michael L., Hotdogs, Heroes & Hooligans: The Story of Baseballs Major League Teams, Visible Ink Press, 1994, pp. 537-57.

Paige, Leroy Satchel, and David Lipman, Maybe Ill Pitch Forever, Grove, 1963.

Ribowsky, Mark, Dont Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball, Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Smith, Robert, Pioneers of Baseball, Little, Brown, 1978, p. 135-49.

Periodicals

Ebony, September 1982, pp. 74-78.

Newsweek, June 1, 1981, p. 12.

New York Times, June 10, 1982, p. D-20.

Readers Digest, April 1984, pp. 89-93.

Sports Illustrated, June 21, 1982, p. 9.

A 1981 television movie titled Dont Look Back: The Story of Leroy Satchel Paige, was adapted from Paiges book Maybe Ill Pitch Forever.

Mark Kram

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Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige

Long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of "organized baseball, " Satchel Paige (1906-1982) was a name well known to the general sports public. As an outstanding performer in "Negro baseball, " Paige had become a legendary figure whose encounters with major league players added considerable laurels to his athletic reputation.

Legend and folklore surround the career of pitcher Satchel Paige. Only a single indisputable fact emerges: Paige was one of the very best baseball players to take the mound in the twentieth century. The cruel irony of his life is that his best years were spent not in major league baseball as we know it today, but rather in the Negro Leagues and in numerous exhibition games. Paige, whose fastball was once clocked at 103 miles per hour, never performed for a major league team until he was well into his forties—and past his prime. Even so, the lanky pitcher's talent was such that he became a prominent national athlete, earning as much fame and fortune as most of the major league baseball players of his day.

"There is no question that Satchel Paige was one of the marvels of the century, " wrote Robert Smith in Pioneers of Baseball. "When he still enjoyed all his youthful strength, Leroy Satchel Paige may well have been the fastest pitcher in the nation, or even in history. It was said that when he really poured a baseball in to the plate with his full strength, it might tear the glove off the catcher."

Satchel Paige was born Leroy Robert Paige on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama. The seventh of eleven children of John and Lula Paige, he grew up poor and needy in the segregated South. He spent his childhood days tossing rocks at tin cans and anything that moved, even—occasionally—people. At the tender age of seven, Paige went to work at the Mobile train station, earning tips for carrying travelers' luggage. Reader's Digest correspondent John O'Neil noted that the enterprising youngster "fixed up a rig so he could carry more bags than any other kid, thus earning the name 'Satchel Tree."' The nickname, a bit shortened, stuck into adulthood.

Paige was ten years old when he began playing organized baseball with his elementary school team. The sport provided the only reason for him to attend school, from his point of view. As Smith put it, "Books just drove him to playing hooky, as they did many boys that age. But baseball consumed his soul. He loved to throw and he loved to hit and he seemed to do both equally well." The love of baseball could not keep Paige out of trouble, however. At twelve he was caught snatching some toy rings from a dime store. That episode and his truancy combined to earn him a sentence to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama.

Practiced the Skills That Made Him a Master

The industrial school turned out to be just the right place for Paige. Freed from the distractions of his hometown—and under stricter discipline—he became educated and played baseball for the school team. He stayed in Mount Meigs until he was seventeen, practicing the baseball skills that would turn his arm into "the tool that would bring him his fame and fortune, " to quote O'Neil. After leaving the school, he set out to find work in professional baseball.

Paige had considerable skills at an early age. His principal pitch was the fastball, but he was also known for inventing the crafty "hesitation pitch." What set him apart from other pitchers was his control. As late as the 1950s, a teammate of Paige's from the St. Louis Browns told Sports Illustrated: "You hear about pinpoint control, but Paige is the only man I've ever seen who really has it. Once he threw me six strikes out of 10 pitches over a gum wrapper." This precision was not merely a "gift, " or natural talent, but was rather the result of Paige's obsessive practice throughout his youth, teen years, and early adulthood. "We had a lot of players when I came up could throw the ball hard, way harder than I could, as far as that's concerned, but they couldn't gain control, " Paige told Sports Illustrated. "It's such a thing as I practiced all the time; I just practiced control. Anything you practice you begin to come good at, regardless of what it is."

Paige began his baseball career in 1923 with the Mobile Tigers, an all-black semi-pro team. He earned a dollar a game. He also picked up spare change by pitching batting practice for the local white minor league team. By 1925 Paige had established himself in the fledgling Negro Leagues as a pitcher with the Chattanooga, Tennessee Black Lookouts. From $50 a month his first year, he soon was earning $200 a month with bonuses. Paige discovered that baseball was more than just a game: it was entertainment, and it was a business. He adapted his methods to meet those challenges. As an entertainer, he clowned and dawdled to and from the mound, saving his seriousness for pitching. As a businessman, he was constantly on the lookout for teams that would pay him more and exhibition games that would bring in extra cash.

A Star in a Segregated Game

Most professional pitchers work only every four or five days and then rest at season's end. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Paige's career is the fact that he pitched almost every day, all four seasons of the year. It is difficult to chart his career with any sort of precision, because he hopped from team to team in the Negro Leagues and was sent out on "loan" to other clubs by his parent team of the moment. These appearances were augmented by numerous exhibition games and barnstorming trips across country, as well as work with winter leagues in Cuba, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. An Ebony magazine contributor estimates that in his career Paige pitched some 2, 500 games and won 2, 000 of them—with 300 shutouts and 55 no-hitters.

In 1927 Paige pitched in Alabama for the Birmingham Black Barons for $275 a month. The following year he moved to the Nashville Elite Giants and toured in the off-season with a barnstorming group led by Babe Ruth. Barnstorming gave Paige the opportunity to test his mettle against white baseball players—in fact, the very best in the white major leagues. As Smith put it, "Satch pitched against some of the mightiest sluggers in the lily-white major leagues and left them all marveling. But he never had a chance to pitch against Babe Ruth, who seemed to be needed on the bench whenever Satch was scheduled to pitch. In a game on the West Coast, against the Babe Ruth All-Stars, Satch struck out twenty-two major-leaguers—and that would have been a new record in the major leagues."

Such accomplishments assured Paige a national audience of both races for his talents. In the early 1930s he joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the top Negro League teams, for a salary of $750 per month. In 1934 he served one season at top salary with an all-white independent league team out of Bismarck, North Dakota. It was with the Bismarck team that Paige set a never-to-be-duplicated record of pitching 29 games in a single month. After one year in North Dakota, Paige returned to the Crawfords. He left them again in 1937 to play in the Dominican Republic for the princely wage of $30, 000—a salary on par with the best white major leaguers of the time.

At the beginning of the 1940s, Paige was reported to be earning in the neighborhood of $500 per game pitched. The 1941 summer season in the United States found him with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. With Paige in their ranks, the Monarchs were able to advance to the Negro World Series in 1942 and again in 1946. During the off-season the pitcher again toured the exhibition game circuit, facing everyone from Dizzy Dean to a youngster named Joe DiMaggio. Smith wrote: "The Monarchs hung on to old Satch until the call came for him to try out with the Cleveland club in the American League. Satch pitched Sundays for the Monarchs and weekdays almost anywhere the dollars beckoned. He kept count one year and said he pitched in 134 games."

A Belated Invitation to the Majors

Baseball's "color barrier" was broken in 1946 when Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Within a short time, most of the other major league clubs had recruited black players as well. Paige was 40 years old when baseball was integrated. Most owners considered him too old to be a force in the big leagues. During the 1948 season, however, Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck approached Paige at mid-year about playing for the Indians. The team was in the midst of a pennant race, and Veeck, for one, thought Paige might help clinch a pennant.

On August 13, 1948, Satchel Paige became the seventh black player recruited into the major leagues when he pitched a 5-0 shutout for Cleveland over the Chicago White Sox. Veeck and Paige combined their talents as entertainers to enliven Paige's appearance in the American League. In a well-orchestrated plot, the two men told reporters that Paige was uncertain of his age and might be as old as fifty. Paige concocted a story about a goat eating the family Bible that held his birth certificate. Age notwithstanding, Paige pitched to a 4-1 record for the 1948 Indians with a 2.47 earned run average. In the World Series that year, he pitched two-thirds of an inning and did not allow a hit.

Paige was back with the Indians the following year, but his record in 1949 fell to 4-7, and he was released at season's end. He returned to barnstorming until 1951, then signed a contract with the lackluster St. Louis Browns. He stayed with St. Louis, pitching mostly in relief situations, until the team left town in 1954. Smith wrote of Paige: "His incredible stamina had begun to fade." Stomach problems almost forced him to retire, but he staged a comeback—at age fifty—with the minor league Miami Marlins. Once again in Miami he capitalized on his age, requiring a rocking chair in the dugout when he appeared.

A Home in the Hall of Fame

Paige's last hurrah as a pitcher occurred in 1965. He had applied for a pension from major league baseball that year and discovered that he lacked only three innings of work to qualify for the pension. Paige was granted the chance to work his last three innings with the Kansas City Athletics, owned by Charlie Finley. At the age of 59 he took the mound and shut out the Boston Red Sox through the required three innings. As he left the field, the lights went out and the crowd lit 9000 matches and sang songs to him. It was a fitting epilogue to a long and varied career.

Subsequent years found Paige serving as a batting coach with the Atlanta Braves and as an executive for the minor league Tulsa Oilers baseball team. He settled down in Kansas City with his second wife and eight children, completing an autobiography called Don't Look Back and adding his recollections to historical accounts of the Negro Leagues. He died of emphysema on June 5, 1982.

Paige rarely expressed any bitterness about his career, although he had every right to feel cheated by a segregated society. Many critics agree that it was actually American baseball that was the loser in the Paige saga. Any number of major league teams would have done better with Paige in their ranks when he was in his prime. Marginal teams might have won pennants; championship teams might have extended their domination. For Paige's part, he earned as much or more money than many major leaguers of his day, and he was among the most famous—if not the most famous—of the Negro League baseball stars. New York Times correspondent Dave Anderson wrote: "To the end, Satchel Paige had too much dignity to complain loudly about never being in the big leagues when he deserved to be."

At his death Paige was as well known for his "Satchel's Rules for Staying Young" as he was for his sports achievements. The "Rules" were first published in a magazine article in 1948 and were later repeated and quoted widely. The last of them even has made it into Bartlett's Quotations. In order, the rules are: 1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood. 2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts. 3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move. 4. Go very light on the vices such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain't restful. 5. Avoid running at all times. 6. Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.

Satchel Paige was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Further Reading

Hotdogs, Heroes and Hooligans: The Story of Baseball's Major League Teams, edited by Michael L. LaBlanc, Visible Ink Press, 1994, pp. 537-57.

Paige, Leroy "Satchel, " and David Lipman, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, Grove, 1963.

Ribowsky, Mark, Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball, Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Smith, Robert, Pioneers of Baseball, Little, Brown, 1978, p. 135-49.

Ebony, September 1982, pp. 74-78.

Newsweek, June 1, 1981, p. 12.

New York Times, June 10, 1982, p. D-20.

Reader's Digest, April 1984, pp. 89-93.

Sports Illustrated, June 21, 1982, p. 9. □

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Paige, Satchel

Satchel Paige (Leroy Paige) (săch´əl pāj), 1906–82, American baseball player, b. Mobile, Ala. He began pitching in 1924, joined his first professional team two years later, and became a star in the Negro leagues during the 1930s. Celebrated for his extraordinary pitching ability and also known for his witty aphorisms, Paige became legendary while barnstorming in the segregated American baseball leagues to which African-American players were restricted prior to the integration of the major leagues beginning in 1947. He played in as many as 2,500 games and is credited with more than 50 no-hitters. In 1948, at the age of 42, he joined the Cleveland Indians of the American League. He pitched for six seasons in the majors and was the first star of the Negro leagues to be inducted (1971) into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

See biography by L. Tye (2009).

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Paige, Satchel

Paige, Satchel

July 7, 1906
June 8, 1982


By far the best known of those who played baseball in the relative obscurity of the Negro Leagues, pitcher and coach Satchel Paige became a legendary figure from Canada to the Caribbean basin. Born in a shotgun house (a railroad flat) in Mobile, Alabama, to John Paige, a gardener, and Lulu Paige, a washerwoman, he combined athletic prowess and exceptional durability with a flair for showmanship. In 1971 the Baseball Hall of Fame made PaigeNegro League ball incarnateits first-ever selection from the (by then defunct) institution.

Leroy Robert Paige gained his nickname as a boy by carrying satchels from the Mobile train station. Sent to the Mount Meigs, Alabama, reform school at age twelve for stealing a few toy rings from a store, he developed as a pitcher during his five years there. After joining the semi-pro Mobile Tigers in 1924, he pitched for a number of Negro League, white independent, and Caribbean teams until he joined the Cleveland Indians as a forty-two-yearold rookie in 1948. The first African-American pitcher in the American League, Paige achieved a 61 record that helped the Indians to the league pennant. His first three starts drew over 200,000 fans.

But it was in the Negro Leagues and Caribbean winter ball that Paige attained his status as independent baseball's premier attraction. During the 1920s and 1930s he starred for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, where he teamed up with catcher Josh Gibson to form what was possibly baseball's greatest all-time battery. From 1939 to 1947 Paige anchored the strong Kansas Monarchs staff, winning three of the Monarchs' four victories over the Homestead Grays in the 1942 Negro League World Series. Developing a reputation as a contract jumper, he led Ciudad Trujillo to the 1937 summer championship of the Dominican Republic and later pitched in Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Playing before an estimated 10 million fans in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, the "have armwill pitch" Paige, according to his own estimates, threw fifty-five no-hitters and won over 2,000 of the 2,500 games in which he pitched.

The six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch, 180-pound Paige dazzled fans with his overpowering fastball (called the "bee ball"you could hear it buzz, but you couldn't see it), his hesitation pitch, and unerring control. Stories of him intentionally walking the bases full of barnstorming white all-stars, telling his fielders to sit down, and then striking out the side became part of a shared black mythology. "I just could pitch!" he said in 1981. "The Master just gave me an arm. You couldn't hardly beat me. I wouldn't get tired 'cause I practiced every day. I had the suit on every day, pretty near 365 days out of the year."

Probably the most widely seen player ever (in person), Paige was a regular at the East-West Classic (the Negro League all-star game), and also appeared on the 1952 American League all-star squad. His 28 wins and 31 losses, 476 innings pitched, 3.29 earned run average in the majors represented only the penultimate chapter of a professional pitching career that spanned five decades.

Paige ended his working life as he began it, on the bus of a barnstorming black club, appearing for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1967. In 1971, after the Hall of Fame belatedly began to induct Negro Leaguers, he led the way. As his Pittsburgh Crawfords teammate Jimmie Crutchfield

put it, when Paige appeared on the field "it was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud."

See also Baseball; Gibson, Josh

Bibliography

Holway, John B. Josh and Satch: The Life and Times of Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1991.

Peterson, Robert W. Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All Black Professional Teams. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984.

Ribowsky, Mark. Don't Look Back: Satchel Page in the Shadows of Baseball. New York: Da Capo Press, 2000.

Ruck, Rob. Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburgh. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Sterry, David, and Arielle Eckstut. Satchel Sez: The Wit, Wisdom, and World of Leroy "Satchel" Paige. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.

rob ruck (1996)
Updated bibliography

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Paige, Satchel

Satchel Paige

Born July 7, 1906 (Mobile, Alabama)
Died June 5, 1982 (Kansas City, Missouri)

Baseball player

"I practiced all the time. . . .Anything you practice, you begin to come good at, regardless of what it is."

During the prosperous Roaring Twenties, more U.S. citizens than ever before had extra income to spend on entertainment. Many were purchasing tickets to sporting events, and athletes like baseball's Babe Ruth (1895–1948; see entry) and boxing's Jack Dempsey (1895–1983; see entry) were becoming major celebrities. Meanwhile, the segregation (separation of white and black people) of U.S. society, which applied to professional sports as well as other areas, meant that African Americans had to find their own heroes. Fortunately, the Negro baseball leagues that were formed at the beginning of the 1920s provided plenty of stars to thrill black fans. Perhaps the brightest of these was pitcher Satchel Paige. Although many of his major accomplishments occurred in later decades (and Paige lived long enough to play in the Major Leagues after they were integrated), it was during the 1920s that his career got off to its brilliant start.

Young, tall, and talented

The son of a gardener named John Paige and his wife Lula, Leroy Paige was born into a family of eight children that lived in poverty in the coastal city of Mobile, Alabama. When he was


seven, Paige went to work at the local railroad station, contributing to the family income by carrying passengers' luggage for tips. He earned the nickname "Satchel" (a satchel is similar to a duffel bag) after he invented a special sling that allowed him to carry more bags at once; his friends said that he looked like a "satchel tree."

As an elementary school student, Paige was not particularly interested in either perfect attendance or studying, but he did enjoy playing on his school's baseball team. He started as an outfielder and first baseman but eventually became a pitcher, practicing his aim by throwing stones at tin cans. Throughout his life, Paige would stress the value of practice, telling a Sports Illustrated reporter, "I practiced all the time. … Anything you practice you begin to come good at, regardless of what it is."

When he was twelve, Paige was arrested for pocketing some toy rings from a glittering store display. He was sentenced to attend the Industrial School for Negro Children in Fort Meigs, Alabama. The school's strict discipline and the stable life it provided proved to be just what the unruly young boy needed. He also had a chance to play baseball and soon became a star of the school's team. Paige stayed at the school for five-and-a-half years, growing into a tall, lanky young man who was determined to make baseball his livelihood.

In 1924 Paige started to pitch for an all-black, semiprofessional team called the Mobile Tigers, on which his older brother Warren had already been playing. Earning one dollar a game, he began to develop both his crowd-pleasing style—featuring a deceptively slow, leisurely stroll up to the mound followed by blisteringly fast throws—and his battery of pitches. In addition to his awesome fastball, Paige perfected such pitches as the screwball, the wobbly ball, and the looper. He began attracting large crowds, winning thirty games and losing only one in the two years he played with the Tigers.

Hopping from team to team

Throughout Paige's career, he would be known as a player who always had one eye out for a better opportunity. He began his pattern of team-hopping with his 1926 move to the Black Lookouts, a professional team based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was here that Paige developed his trademark hesitation pitch, which involved an unexpected, momentary delay in throwing the ball that tended to confuse batters. He was initially paid fifty dollars a month, but his salary soon doubled, then doubled again. Nevertheless, Paige kept moving, playing with the Birmingham Black Barons, the Chicago American Giants, the Cleveland Cubs, the Kansas City Monarchs, and the Baltimore Black Sox over the next few years.

The segregated system of U.S. baseball meant not only that black and white players played on separate teams but also that their playing and living conditions were different. In addition

The Negro Leagues

In the early twentieth century, African Americans were either strongly discouraged or actually prohibited from playing sports with whites. There were a few exceptions, especially in boxing: Joe Gans held the lightweight title from 1901 to 1908, Jack Johnson won the heavyweight crown from Tommy Burns in 1908, and Tiger Flowers was the middleweight champion in 1926. In horse racing, the black jockeys who had dominated the sport in the nineteenth century were banned from participating at the beginning of the twentieth century, when white jockeys formed their own unions and established that rule.

Although they could not play on white professional teams, African Americans began playing baseball on their own teams and leagues in the 1890s. These were loosely structured, though, and it was not until the 1920s that a more organized system came into existence with the founding of the National Negro Baseball League (NNLB) in 1920 and the Eastern Colored League (ECL) in 1923. Although both of these leagues disbanded in the early 1930s, African Americans continued to play on black teams until 1947, when Major League baseball was integrated.

The founder and president of the NNLB was Andrew "Rube" Foster, a savvy businessman whose leadership helped the organization draw more than four hundred thousand spectators and earn two hundred thousand dollars in ticket sales in 1923. Expenses were considerable, because black teams often had to pay high rents to play in white-owned ballparks. The salaries of black ballplayers varied greatly, but some of the stars made as much as one thousand dollars a month.

Teams came and went quickly, moving from city to city or disbanding altogether. Performance statistics were not well maintained, which made it difficult to establish solid proof of the reputed excellence of particular players. Still, in the 1970s, major efforts were made to track down records on the ballplayers of the Negro Leagues. As a result, such outstanding athletes as pitcher Satchel Paige, catcher Josh Gibson, shortstop and second baseman John Henry "Pop" Lloyd, and outfielders John "Cool Papa" Bell and Oscar Charleston were all inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

to earning less money than white professional players, African Americans often played in run-down, poorly lit stadiums; traveled in rickety buses; and either stayed in dingy hotels or slept in their own buses or cars. Even worse was the fact that black players did not receive sufficient credit for their prowess and achievements in the sport. The Negro Leagues did not keep good or consistent records, so it was difficult to authenticate performance. Nevertheless, black fans and some white baseball lovers flocked to the games and took pride in the skills of these African American athletes. In addition to regular team play during the summer seasons, Paige often participated in barnstorming, which meant playing in exhibition games, often against Major League teams. This was the one venue in which black players could test their abilities against those of white players. Paige also spent many winters playing in various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where baseball was very popular and African American players were welcomed.

From 1931 to 1934 Paige played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and this is when his career took a steep upward turn toward greatness. In 1933 he pitched forty-two games and won thirty-one; one winning streak included twenty-one consecutive games and sixty-two innings in a row in which he prevented batters from getting hits. The Crawfords were considered one of the best teams in baseball at this time, for the lineup included not just Paige but also the great catcher Josh Gibson (1911–1947), James "Cool Papa" Bell (1903–1991), Judy Johnson (1899–1989), and Oscar Charleston (1896–1954).

It was Paige, however, who drew the most fans to every ballpark in which the team played. While recognizing his talent, his fellow players considered him a loner who was always looking out for his own interests first, and he had few close friends. In 1934 Paige spent a year playing with an all-white, semiprofessional team in Bismarck, North Dakota, during which time he lost only 1 of 104 games. In October of that year, he married a nineteen-year-old waitress named Janet Howard; their nine-year marriage would produce one son.

Baseball is integrated

Paige spent the 1937 season in the Dominican Republic after that Latin American nation's president, Rafael Trujillo (1891–1961), invited him to join a winter-league, all-black team that he had organized. Returning to the United States, Paige joined the Kansas City Monarchs again. Between 1930 and 1942 he led the team to victory in every Negro American League championship. He was the winning pitcher in the 1942 Negro World Series against the Homestead Greys. By that point in his career, Paige was believed to have pitched in 2,500 games, including 45 no-hitters.


Paige continued barnstorming during the off-seasons. Having pitched against many white players, he knew that he was good enough to play in the Major Leagues. Although he rarely expressed any bitterness about what was known as the "color bar," Paige did resent it and nurtured a hope of one day jumping over it. By the late 1940s, however, his famous fastball was starting to slow down. His personal life was looking up, though, for in 1947 he married Lahoma Brown, with whom he would go on to have six children (in addition to the two that he and his new wife brought to the marriage).

In 1947 the integration of U.S. baseball that so many fans and players had eagerly anticipated finally occurred. Branch Rickey (1881–1965), the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed stellar Negro League player Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) to a team contract, making him the first black player in the Major Leagues. The following year, Paige became the seventh black player, and first black pitcher, to be signed by a Major League team. In his first game with the Cleveland Indians, owned by Bill Veeck (1914–1986), Paige led the club to victory over the Chicago White Sox with a score of five to zero, allowing only nine hits.

At the age of forty-two, and already past his prime as an athlete, Paige was the oldest rookie (beginning player) in the Major Leagues. Nevertheless, in his first season with the Indians, Paige won six games and lost only one, and in the 1938 World Series, he pitched a hitless inning in front of eighty-seven thousand fans. By the next season, however, Paige was suffering from a nagging stomach ailment. In addition, he was skipping games, missing trains, and generally not playing well. The Indians released him after his second season.

A return to play

After recovering from his stomach problems, Paige returned to the Negro Leagues. By 1950 he was playing for the Monarchs again, pitching sixty-two games and showing off the fastball he had somehow recovered. The following year, Veeck bought the St. Louis Browns and again signed Paige to a Major League contract. Paige played for three seasons, retiring in 1953. During the next decade, he spent his time making public appearances, barnstorming, and playing some minor league baseball. While playing for the Miami Marlins, he made fun of his advanced age by sitting in a rocking chair in the bullpen.

In 1965, when Paige was fifty-nine, he became the oldest player in baseball when he pitched three innings with the Kansas City Athletics, which many commentators said was purely a publicity stunt. After an unsuccessful bid for election to the Missouri state legislature in 1968; Paige found himself in trouble both financially and physically, he suffered from heart disease and emphysema (a lung ailment). In sympathy with his plight, the owner of the Atlanta Braves allowed Paige to pitch several innings for the team at the end of the 1969 season so that he could qualify for a pension (a regular payment made to retired people).

In 1971 Paige became the first African American player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He was soon joined by others, but a controversy erupted when the black players' plaques were placed in a separate area. Some called this another form of segregation, but Paige claimed that it did not bother him. On June 5, 1982, the city of Kansas City dedicated its new youth baseball field to Paige, and he threw out the first ball at a Kansas City Royals game. Three days later, he died of a heart attack.

For More Information

Books

Ashe, Arthur R. Jr. A Hard Road to Glory. New York: Amistad Press, 1988.

Holway, John B. Josh and Satch: The Life and Times of Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1991.

Humphrey, Kathryn Long. Satchel Paige. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988.

LaBlanc, Michael L. Hotdogs, Heroes & Hooligans: The Story of Baseball's Major League Teams. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1994.

Paige, Leroy "Satchel", and David Lipman. Maybe I'll Pitch Forever. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.

Ribowsky, Mark. Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Riley, James. A Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1994.

Rubin, Robert. Satchel Paige: All-Time Baseball Great. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974.

Shirley, David. Satchel Paige. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

Smith, Robert. Pioneers of Baseball. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978.

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated. (June 21, 1982): p. 9.

Web Sites

"Satchel Paige." National Baseball Hall of Fame. Available online at http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/paige_satchel.htm. Accessed on June 29, 2005.

Satchel Paige: The Official Web Site. Available online at http://www.cmgww.com/baseball/paige/. Accessed on June 29, 2005.

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