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Satchel Paige Nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame


On February 9, 1971, pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige becomes the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”

Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, most likely on July 7, 1906, although the exact date remains a mystery. He earned his nickname, Satchel, as a boy when he earned money carrying passengers’ bags at train stations. Baseball was segregated when Paige started playing baseball professionally in the 1920s, so he spent most of his career pitching for Negro League teams around the United States. During the winter season, he pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played for whichever team met his asking price, he pitched an estimated 2,500 games, had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The following year, Paige also entered the majors, signing with the Cleveland Indians and becoming, at age 42, baseball’s oldest rookie. He helped the Indians win the pennant that year and later played for the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A’s.

Paige retired from the majors in 1953, but returned in 1965 to pitch three innings for the Kansas City A’s. He was 59 at the time, making him the oldest person ever to play in the Major Leagues. In addition to being famous for his talent and longevity, Paige was also well-known for his sense of humor and colorful observations on life, including: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you” and “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

He died June 8, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri.

READ MORE: Black History Milestones: A Timeline


Fifty Years Ago, Satchel Paige Brought the Negro Leagues to Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Eyewitnesses said that Satchel Paige, one of the best pitchers baseball will ever see, would tell his teammates to sit on the field, so confident that he’d strike out the batter on his own.

The right-handed ace’s showmanship was backed up by the remarkable athletic ability on display with his deadly accurate fastball. Over an estimated 2,600 innings pitched, Paige registered more than 200 wins and, impressively, more than 2,100 strikeouts. And those numbers are incomplete—many of his games, having been played in the Negro Leagues, going unrecorded.

“Satchel was pitching in a way if, just based on his performance as a pitcher, he would’ve ranked as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest,” says Larry Tye, author of the 2009 biography Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend.

For 20 years after he more-or-less hung up his cleats, however, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where baseball greats from Babe Ruth to Walter Johnson were enshrined, ​ didn’t have room for Paige or any other Negro Leaguers. Because it was a different league, segregated from the majors solely by race, the Hall hadn’t even considered its players eligible for induction. But in 1971, the Cooperstown, New York, institution finally began to recognize the accomplishments of players whose case for greatness rested on their performance in the Negro Leagues, starting with Paige.

Paige reclines in an easy chair in the St. Louis Browns' bullpen on June 28, 1952. Team president Bill Veeck, who was known for wacky publicity stunts, purchased the chair for Paige, who was already in his mid-forties. (Bettmann / Getty Images)

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Leroy Paige was born in 1906 and grew up with 11 siblings. Given the nickname “Satchel” for a contraption he made for carrying passengers’ bags at a local train station, he found his talent for baseball at a correctional school.

At 18, he joined the Mobile Tigers, a black semi-professional team. No stranger to barnstorming—the practice of teams traveling across the country to play exhibition matches—Paige debuted in the Negro Leagues in 1926 for the Chattanooga Black Lookouts. Among the teams he played for were the Birmingham Black Barons, the Baltimore Black Sox, the Pittsburgh Crawfords (surrounded by other legends, including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell), and the Kansas City Monarchs. Paige won four Negro American League pennants with the Monarchs from 1940 to 1946.

Paige was far from the only phenom in the Negro Leagues. Gibson was a monumental power hitter Oscar Charleston played a gritty, all-around game and Bell was known for his beyond-human speed, just to name a few. But when it came to star quality, Paige possibly surpasses them all.

Satchel Paige (back row, second from left) posing with the Pittsburgh Crawfords at their spring training site at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1932. Pittsburgh was one of several Negro League teams that Paige would play for during his career. (Mark Rucker / Transcendental Graphics via Getty Images)

“He’s probably the biggest drawing card in the history of the Negro Leagues,” says Erik Strohl, vice president of exhibitions and collections at the Hall of Fame.

Legend surrounds Paige with stories of his remarkable feats, and some of it was even self-produced: He kept track of his own statistics and the numbers he would provide to others were astounding, if not sometimes inconsistent. While a lack of written accounts at many of his pitching performances has created issues of veracity, the confirmed information available still suggests that his accomplishments are befitting of his prestige.

“When you say that he is a legend and one of the greatest players of all time, it may seem like an exaggeration,” says Strohl, “and it's hard to quantify and qualify, but I think probably, undoubtedly that was true in terms of the length and swath of his career.”

“He had great speed, but tremendous control,” says historian Donald Spivey, author of the 2013 book If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige. “That was the key to his success,” he adds, which paired with Paige’s ability to identify batters’ weaknesses from their pitching stances.

Spivey says that Paige’s prestige was a boon even for his opponents, as crowds would flock to the games where he was pitching. “The man was a tremendous drawing card,” he notes. He earned a reputation for jumping from one team to the next, depending on who offered the most money.

“He got away with it because he was so reliable,” says Tye. “He gave you the ability to draw in fans.

Not unlike other talented Negro Leaguers of the era, Paige wanted an opportunity with the MLB. Midway through the 1948 season, he got his chance when he signed with the Cleveland Indians. He was certainly an atypical “rookie”, entering the league when he was 42 after more than 20 years of Negro League competition (Jackie Robinson, for comparison, joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 when he was 28.) Paige managed to make his time count: he won six games amid a tense battle for the American League pennant, and Cleveland went on to take both the pennant and the World Series victory.

Though his debut MLB season was successful, he spent just one more year with the Indians in 1949 before joining the St. Louis Browns in 1951. Following a three-year stint with St. Louis, Paige’s career in the MLB appeared over. However, he continued playing baseball in other leagues, and still found a way to make a brief one-game, three-inning appearance with the Kansas City Athletics in 1965 at the age of 59, not giving up a single run.

Paige’s time in Major League Baseball was impressive for a player entering the league in their 40s, asserts Phil S. Dixon, author of multiple books about the Negro Leagues.

“He also helped those teams because people wanted to see Satchel Paige,” Dixon says. “Not only was he a decent pitcher, he was an amazing draw.”

The Negro Leagues were both the stage at which Paige dazzled audiences for years on end, and the mark of a barrier separating him and other black players from baseball’s biggest stage for years. That barrier would, for a time, be perpetuated by the Hall of Fame.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (front row, center) meets with the new committee established to nominate Negro League players to the Hall of Fame at his office on February 4, 1971. Among the members is sportswriter Sam Lacy (back, center). (Charles Ruppmann / NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Despite the impact that the Negro Leagues had on baseball and American culture, by the 1960s, just two players associated with them had been recognized as Hall of Famers. Robinson was the first black player inducted, in 1962, and seven years later his former teammate Roy Campanella joined him. The two had achieved entry off the merits of their MLB careers, however, whereas icons like Paige and Gibson had either few or no seasons outside the Negro Leagues.

To those who played the game, their worthiness was not a matter of debate. On occasions when black squads faced off against their white contemporaries, they won at least as often as not, if not more. In 1934 Paige and star MLB pitcher Dizzy Dean had their barnstorming teams—one black, one white—face off against each other six times in exhibition play. Paige’s crew won four of those six meetings, including a tense 1-0 victory at Chicago’s Wrigley Field after 13 innings.

“Their role in the black community was one that said, ‘We can play as good as anybody,’” says Dixon. “‘And there's no reason for us not being in the major leagues, because not only can we play all of those guys, we can beat those guys.”

In the prime of Paige’s Negro League career, New York Yankees’ outfielder Joe DiMaggio once described Paige as the “best and fastest” pitcher he’d ever played against. Former Boston Red Sox star Ted Wiliams used part of his Hall of Fame speech in 1966 to mention the exclusion of Paige and other black players

“I hope that someday the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players that are not here only because they were not given the chance,” Williams said to the crowd, a speech that Strohl notes occurred amid the civil rights movement.

Satchel Paige poses with his Baseball Hall of Fame plaque on his induction day, August 9, 1971, at Cooperstown, New York. Paige was the third black player inducted to the Hall, and the first inducted for Negro League achievements. (Associated Press)

Meanwhile, sportswriters supportive of the cause used their platforms to argue for Negro Leaguers’ presence in the Hall. Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the body responsible for selecting Hall members, also created a committee in 1969 to advocate for Negro League inductions.

MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn, elected in 1969, publicly welcomed to the idea of putting Negro League players in the Hall of Fame. In his 1987 autobiography Hardball: The Education of a Baseball Commissioner, Kuhn stated that he didn’t buy into the reasons against inducting Negro League players.

“I found unpersuasive and unimpressive the argument that the Hall of Fame would be ‘watered down’ if men who had not played in the majors were admitted,” Kuhn wrote, looking back at the time.

“Through no fault of their own,” he added, “the black players had been barred from the majors until 1947. Had they not been barred, there would have been great major-league players, and certainly Hall of Famers, among them.”

With Kuhn’s help, the Hall formed their Negro leagues committee in 1971, comprised of several men including Campanella and black sportswriters Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith. They were tasked with considering the merits of past players and executives for inclusion, and they announced Paige was their inaugural nominee in February.

Nevertheless, the Hall ran into controversy in how they planned to honor the Negro Leaguers: with a separate section, apart from the Major League inductees. Among the reasons cited were that some of the proposed inductees would not meet the minimum of ten MLB seasons competed in like other honorees. Instead of appearing like a tribute, the move was viewed by many as another form of segregation.

“Technically, you'd have to say he's not in the Hall of Fame,” said Kuhn at the time, according to the New York Times. “But I've often said the Hall of Fame isn't a building but a state of mind. The important thing is how the public views Satchel Paige, and I know how I view him.”

Backlash to the idea, from sportswriters and fans alike, was plentiful. Wells Trombly, writing for the Sporting News, declared, “Jim Crow still lives. … So they will be set aside in a separate wing. Just as they were when they played. It is an outright farce.”

New York Post sports columnist Milton Gross rejected Kuhn’s rosy interpretation, writing, “The Hall of Fame is not a state of mind. It is something semi-officially connected with organized baseball that is run by outdated rules which, as Jackie Robinson said the other day, ‘can be changed like laws are changed if they are unjust.’”

With the backdrop of backlash and an upcoming election, the Hall changed their mind in July of that year.

The pitcher himself stated that he was not worried where his tribute would be stored. “As far as I am concerned, I’m in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I don’t know nothing about no Negro section. I’m proud to be in it. Wherever they put me is alright with me.”

Tye argues that it was still a painful experience for Paige. “Satchel had dealt with so much affront that I think he took it with quite a bit of class when they offered to let him into the segregated Hall,” he says. “But it clearly was devastating to him.”

A player whose name drew crowds and whose performances dazzled them, Paige was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in August 1971. A statue of Paige now adorns the Hall of Fame’s courtyard. It was installed in 2006, which is also the most recent year any Negro Leaguer has been inducted into the Hall.

He is portrayed with his left leg up in the air. His right hand nestles the baseball. Eyes closed, Satchel is preparing a pitch for eternity.

“I am the proudest man on the earth today, and my wife and sister and sister-in-law and my son all feel the same,” said Paige at the end of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, reported the New York Times. “It's a wonderful day and one man who appreciates it is Leroy Satchel Paige.”


InducteesLeroy "Satchel" Paige

Satchel Paige’s pitching career began in the Negro Leagues where he played from 1926 to 1947. He was a star for many teams, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Kansas City Monarchs. At the age of 42, he became the oldest rookie in the major leagues and the first African-American pitcher in the American League. He made his MLB debut for the Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948. In the remainder of the 1948 season he went 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA. The Indians would go on to win the pennant and Paige would become the first African-American to pitch in the World Series, which the Indians won. It is estimated that between 1922 and 1963 he pitched in more than 2500 games and won 9 out of every 10 he pitched. He was the first representative of the Negro Leagues to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Death and Legacy

One of baseball&aposs most famous players of any color, Paige lived the sort of life in which myth became difficult to separate from reality. According to the stories, he was once served divorce papers by a wife as he walked out to the mound at Wrigley Field, and another time pitched for Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo&aposs team to decide the outcome of an election. Still, the accounts of his unparalleled talents were likely true Paige was renowned for his hard fastballs and his signature "hesitation" pitch, but he could do anything with the ball that he wanted.

Paige wrote a couple of autobiographies, including Maybe I&aposll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend, in which he secretly lamented not being the first Black player in the Major Leagues instead of Robinson, but he bore it with equanimity. 

Despite his incredible longevity, Paige rarely addressed the issue of his age, often quoting Mark Twain: "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don&apost mind, it doesn&apost matter."


Getting to know Satchel Paige

Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama on July 7, 1906, although the exact date is still a mystery.

When Paige began playing baseball professionally in the 1920s, he spent most of his career throwing balls for Negro League teams across the United States.

During winter, he joined teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

As a barnstorming player who travels thousands of miles each season and plays for any team that meets the asking price, he’s put up about 2,500 games, has 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters.

In one month in 1935, he reportedly played 29 matches in a row.


Satchel Paige Nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame - HISTORY

1971 : Satchel Paige nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame

On this day in 1971, pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige becomes the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”

Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, most likely on July 7, 1906, although the exact date remains a mystery. He earned his nickname, Satchel, as a boy when he earned money carrying passengers’ bags at train stations. Baseball was segregated when Paige started playing baseball professionally in the 1920s, so he spent most of his career pitching for Negro League teams around the United States. During the winter season, he pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played for whichever team met his asking price, he pitched an estimated 2,500 games, had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The following year, Paige also entered the majors, signing with the Cleveland Indians and becoming, at age 42, baseball’s oldest rookie. He helped the Indians win the pennant that year and later played for the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A’s.
Paige retired from the majors in 1953, but returned in 1965 to pitch three innings for the Kansas City A’s. He was 59 at the time, making him the oldest person ever to play in the Major Leagues. In addition to being famous for his talent and longevity, Paige was also well-known for his sense of humor and colorful observations on life, including: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you” and “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

He died June 8, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri.

On this day in 1971, pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige becomes the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.” Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, most likely on July 7, 1906, although the exact date remains a mystery. He earned his nickname, Satchel, as a boy when he earned money carrying passengers’ bags at train stations. Baseball was segregated when Paige started playing baseball professionally in the 1920s, so he spent most of his career pitching for Negro League teams around the United States. During the winter season, he pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played for whichever team met his asking price, he pitched an estimated 2,500 games, had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The following year, Paige also entered the majors, signing with the Cleveland Indians and becoming, at age 42, baseball’s oldest rookie. He helped the Indians win the pennant that year and later played for the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A’s. Paige retired from the majors in 1953, but returned in 1965 to pitch three innings for the Kansas City A’s. He was 59 at the time, making him the oldest person ever to play in the Major Leagues. In addition to being famous for his talent and longevity, Paige was also well-known for his sense of humor and colorful observations on life, including: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you” and “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” He died June 8, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri.


Satchel Paige

Leroy Robert &ldquoSatchel&rdquo Paige (July 7, 1906 - June 8, 1982) began his big league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the age of 42, making him the oldest player to debut in Major League Baseball. Satchel helped Cleveland win the American League pennant and World Series in his first year. Satchel Paige is widely considered the greatest pitcher to emerge from the Negro Leagues posting an unofficial record of 103-61 (a .638 winning percentage), with 1,231 strikeouts and a 2.02 ERA. Paige was a hard-throwing right-hander playing with the Cleveland Indians (1948-1949), the St. Louis Browns (1951-1953) and the Kansas City A&rsquos (1965) compiling an unimpressive record of 28-31 with 288 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA. Satchel&rsquos career spanned five decades including a 1965 appearance pitching three shutout innings allowing only one hit. Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio referred to Paige as &ldquothe best and fastest pitcher I&rsquove ever faced.&rdquo Paige got his nickname as a boy, lugging bags and satchels for railroad passengers. The Negro Leagues Committee elected Leroy Robert &ldquoSatchel&rdquo Paige to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

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Satchel Paige Nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame - HISTORY

Robert LeRoy Paige
Nickname: Satchel

Career: 1926-1950
Position: p
Teams: Chattanooga Black Lookouts (1926-1927), Birmingham Black Barons (1927-1930), Baltimore Black Sox (1930), Cleveland Cubs (1931), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931-1937), Kansas City Monarchs (1935-1936, 1939-1948, 1950, 1955), Santo Domingo (1937), Santo Domingo All-Stars (1937), Newark Eagles (1938),Mexican League (1938), Satchel Paige's All-Stars (1939), New York Black Yankees (1943), Memphis Red Sox (1943), Philadelphia Stars (1946, 1950), major leagues (1948-1949, 1951-1953, 1965), Chicago American Giants (1951), minor leagues (1956-1958, 1961, 1965-1966), Indianapolis Clowns (1967)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6' 4'' Weight: 180
Born: July 7, 1906, Mobile, Alabama
Died: June 8, 1982, Kansas City, Missouri
National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1971)

Regarded as the nearest thing to a legend that ever came out of the Negro Leagues, this tall, lanky right-hander parlayed a pea-sized fastball, nimble wit, and a colorful personality into a household name that is recognized by people who know little about baseball itself and even less about the players who performed in the Jim Crow era of organized baseball. His name has become synonymous with the barnstorming exhibitions played between traveling black teams and their white counterparts.

A mixture of fact and embellishment, Satchel's stories are legion and form a rich array of often-repeated folklore. On many occasions he would pull in the outfielders to sit behind the mound while he proceeded to strike out the side with the tying run on base. Once he intentionally walked Howard Easterling and Buck Leonard to load the bases so he could pitch to Josh Gibson, the most dangerous hitter in black baseball, and then struck him out. He was advertised as guaranteed to strike out the first nine batters he faced in exhibition games, and he almost invariably fulfilled his billing. Satchel frequently warmed up by throwing twenty straight pitches across a chewing gum wrapper that was being used for home plate. His "small" fastball was described by some hitters as looking like a half dollar. Others said that he wound up with a pumpkin and threw a pea. But Biz Mackey had the best story about how small his fastball looked. He said that once Satchel threw the ball so hard that the ball disappeared before it reached the catcher's mitt. The stories are endless. But the facts are also impressive.

His generally accepted birth date is July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama, but no one really knows the true date, and Satchel maintained an air of mystery about his age throughout his career. The only certainty about his birth is that it was sometime in the 20th century. As one of a dozen children, he learned early to fend for himself. He rarely attended school and frequently got into mischief.

When he was a youngster he carried suitcases at the train station for tips. Once he attempted to steal a man's satchel but the owner ran him down and cuffed him about the head while recovering his property. A friend who witnessed the incident gave him the nickname "Satchel," which young LeRoy hated. In later years he concocted various versions of the origin of his nickname that were more socially acceptable.

Later he was caught stealing costume jewelry and was sent to Mount Meigs reform school, where he converted his natural ability into a measure of pitching polish. After leaving Mount Meigs he pitched for the Mobile Tigers and other local semi-pro teams for a couple of years before embarking on his professional career in 1926 with Chattanooga in the Negro Southern League. After arriving in Chattanooga he was described as "just a big ol' tall boy" who had extraordinary speed but was lacking the fine control that he developed later in his career. He joined the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League in 1927, where he fashioned an 8-3 record, and soon thereafter established himself as a gate attraction and began playing year-round. While with the Black Barons he finished seasons of 10-11 and 10-4 in 1929-1930.

In 1931 he joined Tom Wilson's Nashville Elite Giants when they moved to Cleveland to play as the Cleveland Cubs, but before the season was over he had been persuaded by Gus Greenlee to sign with his newly acquired ballclub, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In the latter part of June he pitched the first victory for the Crawfords over the Homestead Grays, winning a close 6-5 contest. Paige's greatest popularity came through this association with the Pittsburgh Crawfords during the early 1930s. He compiled marks of 32-7 and 31-4 in 1932-1933. In 1934 he was credited with a league record of 10-1. That season he and Slim Jones matched up in Yankee Stadium in what is considered the greatest game ever played in Negro Leagues history. The game, ended by darkness after 10 innings, was a 1-1 tie. As a result of Paige's relationship with Greenlee, his stay with the Crawfords was interrupted with frequent salary disputes leading to intervals when Satchel pitched in Bismarck, North Dakota, with a white semi-pro team. He is credited with winning 134 of 150 games pitched with Bismarck and, while in the Midwest, he pitched on occasions with the Kansas City Monarchs, including an October exhibition game victory over Detroit Tiger ace Schoolboy Rowe and a team of major-leaguers. After returning to the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1936, he is credited with a 24-3 record.

In the spring of 1937 he jumped to the Dominican Republic, where he pitched the Ciudad Trujillo team to a championship. He topped the league in wins, with a 8-2 record in the 31-game season. When he returned to the United States, he was banned by the Negro National League, so he formed his own team and toured across the country for the remainder of the season, outdrawing the league teams. In 1938 his contract was sold to the Newark Eagles, but although he was on the roster, he never actually participated in a game with them. Unable to reach accord in his negotiations with Effa Manley, he went to Mexico, but developed a sore arm, and the experts predicted that he was washed up.

Needing a job, Satchel signed with J.L. Wilkinson to play on the Kansas City Monarchs' traveling team as a gate attraction, but unexpectedly, his arm "came back," and he also developed a curve and his famous hesitation pitch to add to his "bee ball," "jump ball," "trouble ball," "long ball," and the other pitches in his repertory.

He joined the Monarchs' league team during the latter part of the 1939 season, and for the next decade he pitched for them, pitching them to four consecutive Negro American League pennants (1939-1942), culminating in a clean sweep of the powerful Homestead Grays in the 1942 World Series, with Satchel himself winning 3 of the games. During the regular season of 1942 he posted a 9-5 record, after having finished undefeated in league play with a 6-0 ledger the previous year.

After many key players were drafted, the Monarchs' baseball fortunes fell on leaner times, and Paige dropped to an 8-10 record in 1943. During the next two seasons he pitched more exhibition games than league contests, often with other teams. In 1944 he pitched in only 8 league games, posting a 4-2 record with a 0.75 ERA, and the following season he was still an effective worker on the mound and knew "all the tricks of his trade" but was "on loan" most of the year and infrequently pitched in league games.

In 1946, with the key starters back in the Kansas City fold, he helped pitch the Monarchs to their fifth pennant during his tenure with the team, but during the ensuing World Series against the Newark Eagles he missed the last 3 games, reportedly to make arrangements to play in a Caribbean winter league, and the Monarchs lost the Series in 7 games. In addition to the 2 Negro World Series, during his career in the Negro Leagues Paige also pitched in 5 East-West All Star games, being credited with 2 victories in the midseason classic.

Like most pitchers, Paige thought he was a good hitter, but he was really a relatively weak hitter and only an average fielder. However, sometimes in the Caribbean winter leagues he would play at first base, and he acquitted himself there adequately. In the 1939-1940 Puerto Rican winter league with Guayama, he led the team to the pennant with a performance that produced statistics that included a 19-3 record for a .864 winning percentage, and a 1.93 ERA with 208 strikeouts in 205 innings pitched and 6 shutouts in 24 games. His only other year in Puerto Rico was in 1947-1948.

Other winters he pitched in the California winter league with teams including the Royal Giants and the Baltimore Giants. Joe DiMaggio and Babe Herman, who played against him on the West Coast, said Satchel was the toughest pitcher they ever faced. Paige estimated that in his career he pitched 2,600 games, 300 shutouts, and 55 no-hitters.

Finally, with Satchel at an undetermined age, Bill Veeck brought him to the major leagues in 1948, and the rest is history. As the oldest rookie ever to play major league baseball, he registered a 6-1 record and a 2.48 ERA down the stretch to help pitch the Indians to the pennant and World Series victory that year.

Reunited with the consummate showman Veeck on the St. Louis Browns in 1951, Satchel relaxed in his own personal rocking chair in the bullpen when not in action and kept the legend going. Twelve years after making appearances in the major league All Star games of 1952-1953, Satch, at the dubious age of fifty-nine, pitched 3 innings for the Kansas City A's in 1965 to become the oldest man to pitch in a major league game, contributing still another chapter to the ever expanding collection of "Satchel stories."

In 1971, on the proudest day of his life, Satchel was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first player elected from the Negro Leagues. In the years after his induction, Satch was continuing to follow his own rare advice, "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you," when, indeed, something finally did catch up with him. On June 8, 1982, death stilled the baseball immortal.

Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues , New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.


June 6, 1935: Satchel Paige strikes out 17 for Bismarck in exhibition against Monarchs in Winnipeg

On June 6, 1935, Winnipeg’s Osborne Stadium reopened after renovations with an exhibition that featured future Hall of Famers Willard Brown, Satchel Paige, and Bullet Rogan. The game ended in a scoreless tie.

The Kansas City Monarchs, an independent team in 1935, were considered the home team for the exhibition, while the integrated professional team from Bismarck, North Dakota, was considered the road team.

Newspaper previews publicized both Kansas City’s starting pitcher, Chet Brewer, and Bismarck’s starter, Paige. “The North Dakotans will headline ‘Satchel’ Paige, rated the greatest attraction of independent baseball, while the Monarchs have all the old favorites and several newcomers on their starry roster, including ‘Pee Wee’ Dwight, Chet Brewer and ‘Lefty’ Beverley [sic],” the Winnipeg Tribune wrote the day before the game.1 Brewer was in his 11th season with the Monarchs, while Paige had recently returned to Bismarck after a stint there in 1933.

Paige was brought to Bismarck by Neil Churchill, a bombastic auto dealer who also ran the local baseball team. Churchill stood 5-feet-8, didn’t smoke or drink, and was nicknamed “Church.” He was known for always wearing a three-piece suit and carrying a pencil and notepad. Churchill was a player-manager for Bismarck in 1926, stepping foot on the field only occasionally as a pinch-hitter or substitute first baseman.2

Churchill believed in signing the most talented players, regardless of their skin color. Bismarck’s lineup for a 1935 national semipro tournament in Wichita, Kansas, consisted of five black players and four white players. “It wasn’t until after I signed up with Mr. Churchill that I found out I was going to be playing with white boys,” Paige said. “For the first time since I’d started playing, I was going to have some of them on my side. It seemed real funny. It looked like they couldn’t hold out against me forever after all.”3 One White major leaguer told another after a 1934 exhibition in Bismarck, “I knew there were a lot of good Negroes in baseball. I just didn’t know they were all in Bismarck.”4

Bismarck’s 1935 team photo symbolizes the team’s integration and unity. In the back row of the photo, White outfielder Moose Johnson has his right hand on Paige’s left shoulder, showing his acceptance and friendship. Churchill appears in the front row of the team photo.5 Paige was impressed with his Bismarck teammates, calling them “the best players I ever played with. But who ever heard of them?”6

Paige’s 1935 contract from Churchill gave him $500 per month and use of a new Chrysler. While his great pitching and eccentric personality made him a celebrity in North Dakota, segregation still made it challenging for Paige to rent an apartment there in 1935. He and his wife had to live in a remodeled boxcar near the Soo Line railroad station.7

When Bismarck and Kansas City met in Winnipeg, it was a cool June afternoon, with a high of only 54 degrees.8 The game’s lone umpire was Snake Siddle, who was a standout hitter in the Winnipeg Senior League in the 1920s. Siddle was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 for his playing achievements.9

After Brewer struck out the first two Bismarck batters in the top of the first, Quincy Trouppe singled and Red Haley hit a ground-rule double off the Winnipeg Amphitheatre, the home arena for Manitoba’s Junior Hockey League team, who, coincidentally, were named “Monarchs.” A groundout left two Bismarck runners on base and ended the first-inning threat.

Paige struck out the side in the bottom of the first and allowed only two Kansas City hits in the first five innings. With the score still 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Kansas City loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and an intentional walk. In a battle of two future Hall of Famers, Paige struck out Willard Brown on three pitches to end the inning.10

Kansas City had another opportunity in the seventh to bring in the game’s first run. Newt Joseph tripled to center field off Paige with one out but was then thrown out at home trying to score on a groundball.

Brewer was matching Paige inning by inning but ran into trouble in the top of the eighth when Bismarck loaded the bases with two outs on a single and two walks. Brewer responded by striking out LeRoy Drengberg to end the rally.

Ed Mayweather’s double with one out in the bottom of the ninth put the potential winning run in scoring position for the Monarchs, but Paige struck out the next two batters to leave Mayweather on base.

The game was scoreless at the end of nine, but there would be no extra innings. As “twilight descended at the end of the ninth inning,” umpire Siddle called the game.11 The exhibition ended in a 0-0 tie. Bismarck collected five hits, while Kansas City had seven. The game took 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Paige struck out 17 Monarchs and was featured prominently in the Winnipeg Tribune’s recap, which said he was “displaying more smoke than Winnipeg fans have seen since Lefty Grove pitched here in the fall of 1933.”12 It appears Paige kept his outfielders in the outfield that day legend has it Paige sometimes confidently “sent the outfielders to the dugout and pitched to an opponent with an empty outfield.”13

Brewer struck out 13 Bismarck batters and the same Winnipeg Tribune article mentioned his “fast-breaking sinker” and applauded his “combination of speed and curves.”14 It appears fielding was sharp on both sides the teams combined to make only one error.

Paige appeared in three games, all starts, for Bismarck in 1935 and had dominant results. All three of his starts were complete games and he had a 2-0 record with a 0.33 ERA. Paige struck out 44 batters and walked only five. The hitters Paige shut out in Winnipeg became his teammates three months later when Paige joined the Monarchs.15 It was the first of his eight seasons with the famed Negro League franchise. Years later, Paige pitched in the American League for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Kansas City Athletics. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.

Brewer made seven appearances for the Monarchs in 1935, starting four games. He had a 2-3 record with a 2.28 ERA, striking out 37 and walking 10. It was the next-to-last of his 12 seasons with the Monarchs. Brewer never pitched for an American League or National League team, but he was still pitching professionally at age 45 with the California League’s Visalia Cubs in 1952.

Even though Paige’s stints in Bismarck were short, it’s obvious he left a legacy there. In a 1985 retrospective of Paige’s time in North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune sentimentalized how “wives, daughters, sons and grandsons suffered through grandpa’s tales about the unbelievable black Paul Bunyan of pitching who cut down batters instead of trees about his ability to consistently throw fastballs directly over a gum wrapper on home plate when warming up about times he called his fielders back to the dugout while he and his catcher, Quincy Troupe [sic], took on three batters with nine pitches for three consecutive outs all about a black man who could perform magic with a baseball.”16

Paige also connected with the Native American community in North Dakota. “Among the customers who sat fascinated by the sight of Paige at his peak were many Sioux Indians from nearby reservations. They named him Long Rifle and worked him into at least one tribal legend, in which he uses the bean ball on a cantankerous local Indian commissioner.”17

Paige returned to Bismarck in 1959 at age 53 while barnstorming with the Cuban Stars and “was amazed at Bismarck’s growth and saddened that it no longer fielded a semipro team. He dreamed aloud about personally building a team in Bismarck. He also spent time enlarging on how he got his nickname and how old he was.”18

The longest scoreless game in professional baseball history is also associated with North Dakota. The Fargo Red Stockings and Grand Forks Black Stockings hold that record after playing 25 innings in Devils Lake, North Dakota, on July 18, 1891. That 0-0 tie ended after 25 innings because the players had to catch a train.19

Winnipeg has hosted various levels of independent and minor-league baseball since that exhibition game in 1935. The city has a deep baseball history, including the time Satchel Paige struck out 17 batters in a scoreless tie.

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and the Seamheads.com Negro Leagues database.

1 “Kansas City Monarchs Play Bismarck Here,” Winnipeg Tribune, June 6, 1935: 14.

2 Tom Dunkel, Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line (New York: Grove Press, 2014), 37.

3 Marc Conrad, “A Paige in Bismarck Hhistory,” Bismarck Tribune, August 25, 1985: 4C.

4 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”

7 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”

10 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout,” Winnipeg Tribune, June 7, 1935: 15.

11 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”

12 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”

14 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”

15 “Exhibition Tuesday,” St. Joseph (Missouri) News-Press, September 22, 1935: 11 A.

16 Conrad, “A Paige in Bismarck history.”

17 “To Area Sioux He Became Known as ‘Long Rifle,’” Bismarck Tribune, August 25, 1985: C.

18 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”

19 Phil Lowry, Baseball’s Longest Games: A Comprehensive Worldwide Record Book (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010), 71.


Watch the video: Leroy Satchel Paige Negro League Autograph Analysis (December 2021).