Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

In 1957, the Marlins finished in sixth place, but Paige had a 10–8 record with 76 strikeouts versus 11 walks and 2.42 ERA. The following year, Osborn was replaced as manager by Kerby Farrell, who was not as forgiving when it came to Paige missing curfews or workouts. He was fined several times throughout the year and finished 10–10, saying that he would not return to Miami the following season. In 1959, Paige returned to his barnstorm roots and signed a pitching contract with the Havana Cuban Stars who were owned by Dempsey Hovland. Paige was in and out of baseball, pitching sporadically, over the next decade. At the age of 56, in 1961, Paige signed on with the Triple-A Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, pitching twenty-five innings, striking out 19 and giving up eight earned runs. He failed to record a single decision in his stint with the Beavers.

Kansas City Athletics

In 1965, Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley signed Paige, 59 at the time, for one game. On September 25, against the Boston Red Sox, Finley invited several Negro league veterans including Cool Papa Bell to be introduced before the game. Paige was in the bullpen, sitting on a rocking chair, being served coffee by a "nurse" between innings. He started the game by getting Jim Gosger out on a pop foul. The next man, Dalton Jones, reached first and went to second on an infield error, but was thrown out trying to reach third on a pitch in the dirt. Carl Yastrzemski doubled and Tony Conigliaro hit a fly ball to end the inning. The next six batters went down in order, including a strikeout of Bill Monbouquette. In the fourth inning, Paige took the mound, to be removed according to plan by Haywood Sullivan. He walked off to a boisterous ovation despite the small crowd of 9,000. The lights dimmed and, led by the PA announcer, the fans lit matches and cigarette lighters while singing "The Old Gray Mare".

In 1966, Paige pitched in his last game in organized baseball, getting some measure of revenge when he pitched for the Carolina League’s Peninsula Grays of Hampton, Virginia, against the very same Greensboro Patriots who had been forced to release him before his first pitch back in 1955. Paige gave up two runs in the first, threw a scoreless second and then left, never to return as a player in organized baseball again. Interestingly, Peninsula used their backup catcher that day, rather than play their regular starter, a young Johnny Bench. Also in 1966, Paige pitched for the semipro Anchorage Earthquakers, a team that barnstormed through Canada. In 1967, Paige appeared with the Globetrotters in Chicago and played with the Indianapolis Clowns for $1,000 a month.

Pitching style

The spectacle of watching Paige pitch was made all the more entertaining by the expansive pitching repertoire he developed over the years. Until 1938, Paige threw mostly hard fastballs and an occasional curveball. Before the 1939 season, Paige suffered an arm injury that robbed his fastball of some velocity. Paige responded by adding a changeup and experimenting with different arm angles. Then, in 1943, Paige debuted the "hesitation pitch":

The idea came to me in a game, when the guy at bat was all tighted up waiting for my fast ball. I knew he’d swing as soon as I just barely moved. So when I stretched, I paused just a little longer with my arms above my head. Then I threw my left foot forward but I didn’t come around with my arm right away. I put that foot of mine down, stopping for a second, before the ball left my hand. When my foot hit the ground that boy started swinging, so by the time I came around with the whip he was way off stride and couldn’t get anywhere near the ball. I had me a strikeout.

By the 1950s, Paige was throwing almost any pitch imaginable, including a screwball, a knuckleball, and an eephus pitch.

Statistics

Negro leagues

North Dakota

Year Team W L Pct CG IP BB SO RA
1933 Bismarck 6 0 1.000 7 72.0 11 119 1.25
1935 Bismarck 29 2 .935 18 229.7 16 321 1.96
Total 2 seasons 35 2 .946 25 301.7 27 440 1.79