Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

Paige got his first big league victory on July 15, 1948, the night after he pitched in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in front of 65,000 people in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. It came at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The Indians were up 5–3 and the bases were loaded in the sixth inning of the second game of a double header. He got Eddie Joost to fly out to end the inning, but gave up two runs the next inning when Ferris Fain doubled and Hank Majeski hit a home run. Paige buckled down and gave up only one more hit the rest of the game, getting five of the next six outs on fly balls. Larry Doby and Ken Keltner hit home runs in the ninth to give the Indians an 8–5 victory.

Longtime Chicago Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse once said with amusement that Paige "threw a lot of pitches that were not quite ‘legal’ and not quite ‘illegal. American League President Will Harridge eventually ruled the Hesitation Pitch definitely illegal and, if thrown again, it would result in a balk. Paige said, "I guess Mr. Harridge did not want me to show up those boys who were young enough to be my sons."

On August 3, 1948, with the Indians one game behind the Athletics, Boudreau started Paige against the Washington Senators in Cleveland. The 72,562 people that saw the game set a new attendance record for a major league night game. Although a nervous Paige walked two of the first three batters and gave up a triple to Bud Stewart to fall behind 2–0, by the time he left in the seventh, the Indians were up 4–2 and held on to give him his second victory. His next start was at Comiskey Park in Chicago. 51,013 people paid to see the game, but many thousands more stormed the turnstiles and crashed into the park, overwhelming the few dozen ticket-takers. Paige went the distance, shutting out the White Sox, 5–0, debunking the assumption that nine innings of pitching was now beyond his capabilities.

The Indians were in a heated pennant race on August 20, 1948. Coming into the game against the White Sox, Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden and Sam Zoldak had thrown shutouts to run up a thirty-inning scoreless streak, eleven shy of the big league record. 201,829 people had come to see his last three starts. For this game in Cleveland, 78,382 people came to see Paige, a full 6,000 more people than the previous record night game attendance record. Paige went the distance, giving up two singles and one double for his second consecutive three hit shutout. At that point in the season, Paige was 5–1 with an astoundingly low 1.33 ERA. He made one appearance in the 1948 World Series. He pitched for two-thirds of an inning in Game Two while the Indians were trailing the Boston Braves, giving up a sacrifice fly to Warren Spahn, got called for a balk and struck out Tommy Holmes. The Indians ended up winning the series in six games.

Paige ended the 1948 season with a 6–1 record with a 2.48 ERA, 2 shutouts, 43 strikeouts, 22 walks and 61 base hits allowed in 72 innings. There was some discussion of Paige possibly winning the Rookie of the Year Award. While technically a "rookie" to the majors, the 20-plus-year veteran Paige regarded such an idea with disdain and considered rejecting the award if it were to be given. The issue proved moot, as both versions of the award (by Major League Baseball and by Sporting News) were given to other players. The year 1949 was not nearly as good for Paige as 1948. He ended the season with a 4–7 record and was 1–3 in his starts with a 3.04 ERA. After the season, with Veeck selling the team to pay for his divorce, the Indians gave Paige his unconditional release.

St. Louis Browns

Penniless, Paige returned to his barnstorming days after being released from the Indians. In 1950, he signed with the Philadelphia Stars in the Eastern Division of the NAL for $800 per game. When Veeck bought an 80% interest in the St. Louis Browns, the first thing he did was sign Paige. In his first game back in the major leagues, on July 18, 1951, against the Washington Senators, Paige pitched six innings of shutout baseball until the seventh when he gave up three runs. He ended the season with a 3–4 record and a 4.79 ERA.