Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

On May 31, 1981, a made-for-television movie titled Don’t Look Back aired starring Louis Gossett Jr. as Paige, Beverly Todd as Lahoma, and former baseball pro Bubba Phillips as Coach Hardy. Paige was paid $10,000 for his story and technical advice. The film was based on the 1962 book, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever. In August, with great difficulty because of health problems, he attended a reunion of Negro league players held in Ashland, Kentucky that paid special tribute to him and Cool Papa Bell. Attending the reunion were Willie Mays, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Judy Johnson, Chet Brewer, Gene Benson, Bob Feller and Happy Chandler.

Buck O’Neil, a former teammate and longtime friend of Paige, claimed in the 1994 documentary Baseball that Babe Ruth batted against Paige once. According to O’Neil’s story, the two men opposed each other in a barnstorming game after the Babe’s retirement, and that Ruth hit a 500-foot home run off Paige. O’Neil said that Paige was so awestruck by the shot that he met Ruth at the plate to shake his hand, and later had Ruth sign the ball. However, Paige stated in the 1948 book, Pitchin’ Man by Hal Lebovitz, that one of his greatest disappointments was, "I never pitched to Babe Ruth." While the Babe Ruth All-Stars did play exhibition games against Negro league teams, there is no documented evidence that Paige and Ruth ever faced each other. In addition, there is no mention of this claim in any of the biographies on Ruth, which would surely have been worth discussing.

In 1996, Paige was played by Delroy Lindo in the made-for-cable film Soul of the Game, which also starred Salli Richardson as Paige’s second wife, Lahoma, Mykelti Williamson as Josh Gibson, Blair Underwood as Jackie Robinson, Harvey Williams of Kansas City, as "Cat" Mays, the father of Willie Mays, Edward Herrmann as Branch Rickey and Jerry Hardin as Commissioner Happy Chandler.

In 1999, he ranked Number 19 on Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

On July 28, 2006, a statue of Satchel Paige was unveiled in Cooper Park, Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball.

Satchel Paige Elementary School in Kansas City is named in his honor.

Date of birth

While Satchel Paige was playing baseball, many ages and birthdates were reported, ranging from 1900 to 1908. Paige himself was the source of many of these dates. His actual birthdate, July 7, 1906, was determined in 1948 when Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck traveled to Mobile, Alabama and accompanied Paige’s family to the County Health Department to obtain his birth certificate.Tye 2009, pp. viii–x. Paige’s birth certificate is displayed in his autobiography.Paige and Lipman 1993, opposite p. 145.

In 1959, Paige’s mother told a reporter that he was 55 rather than 53, saying she knew this because she wrote it down in her Bible. Paige wrote in his autobiography, "Seems like Mom’s Bible would know, but she ain’t ever shown me the Bible. Anyway, she was in her nineties when she told the reporter that, and sometimes she tended to forget things."Paige and Lipman 1993, p. 14.

Major Leagues

Cleveland Indians

On July 9, 1948, Paige became the oldest man ever to debut in the major leagues, at the age of 42 years and two days. With the St. Louis Browns beating the Indians 4–1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Boudreau pulled his starting pitcher, Bob Lemon, and sent Paige in. Paige, not knowing the signs and not wanting to confuse his catcher, pitched cautiously. Chuck Stevens lined a ball left field for a single. Jerry Priddy bunted Stevens over to second. Up next was Whitey Platt, and Paige decided to take command. He threw an overhand pitch for a strike and one sidearm for another strike. Paige then threw his "Hesitation Pitch" (see "pitching style" section below), which surprised Platt so much that he threw his bat 40 feet up the third base line. Browns manager Zack Taylor bolted from the dugout to talk to umpire Bill McGowan about the pitch, claiming it was a balk, but McGowan let it stand as a strike. Paige then got Al Zarilla to fly out to end the inning. The next inning, he gave up a leadoff single, but with his catcher having simplified his signals, Paige got the next batter to hit into a double play, followed by a pop fly. Larry Doby pinch-hit for Paige the following inning.