Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

When Paige returned to the United States, he and Jackson revived their practice of renting him out to various teams. In the spring of 1930, Jackson leased him to the Baltimore Black Sox, who had won the 1929 American Negro League championship led by their bowlegged third baseman Jud "Boojum" Wilson. Paige, as a Southerner, found that he was an outsider on the Black Sox, and his teammates considered him a hick. Moreover, he was the team’s number two pitcher behind Lamon Yokely, and Paige did not like being overshadowed.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 65–66.

In mid-summer Paige returned to Birmingham, where he pitched well the rest of the summer, going 7–4. In September he was leased to the Chicago American Giants of the NNL for a home-and-home series with the Houston Black Buffaloes of the Texas-Oklahoma League. Paige won one and lost one in the series and then returned to Birmingham.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 66–68.

By the spring of 1931, the Depression was taking its toll on the Negro leagues, and the Black Barons had temporarily disbanded. Few teams could afford Paige, but Tom Wilson, who was moving the Nashville Elite Giants to Cleveland as the Cleveland Cubs, thought he could.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 71–72; Tye 2009, p. 52. Playing in the same city as a white major league team, Paige recalled, "I’d look over at the Cleveland Indians’ stadium, called League Park … All season long it burned me, playing there in the shadow of that stadium. It didn’t hurt my pitching, but it sure didn’t do me any good."Paige and Lipman 1993, p. 57.

Pittsburgh, California, and North Dakota: 1931–36

In June 1931, the Crawford Colored Giants, an independent club owned by Pittsburgh underworld figure Gus Greenlee, made Paige an offer of $250 a month.Appel 2002; Ribowsky 1994, p. 74, Tye 2009, pp. 53–58. On August 6, Paige made his Crawford debut against their hometown rivals, the Homestead Grays. Entering the game in the fourth inning, Paige held the Grays scoreless and had six strikeouts and no walks in five innings of relief work to get the win.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 79–81; Tye 2009, p. 58.

In September, Paige joined a Negro all-star team organized by Tom Wilson, called the Philadelphia Giants, to play in the California Winter League. This was the first of nine winters that he played in a league that provided ongoing competition between elite black and white baseball players, including major and minor league players. On October 24 Paige won his first California game 8–1, allowing five hits and striking out 11, including Babe Herman four times. He finished the winter with a 6–0 record and 70 strikeouts in 58 innings.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 80–81; Tye 2009, pp. 85–87, 303.

In 1932, Greenlee signed Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe away from Cumberland Posey’s Homestead Grays to assemble one of the finest baseball clubs in history. Paige took the mound when the Crawfords opened the season on April 30 in their newly built stadium, Greenlee Field, the first completely black-owned stadium in the country. Paige lost the opener to the New York Black Yankees in a pitching duel with Jesse "Mountain" Hubbard, but got even with them by beating them twice that season, including Paige’s first Negro league no-hitter in July.Holway 2001, p. 289; Ribowsky 1994, pp. 84–86; Tye 2009, pp. 60–61. Paige went 10–4, allowing 3.19 runs per game and striking out 92 in 132 innings.

In the midst of the Depression, Cum Posey’s new East-West League had collapsed by mid-season, and Greenlee was able to obtain many of the best players in black baseball. By the end of the season, Greenlee had signed to contracts Cool Papa Bell, John Henry Russell, Leroy Matlock, Jake Stephens, "Boojum" Wilson, Jimmie Crutchfield, Ted Page, Judy Johnson and Rap Dixon.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 86–87. With the Crawfords playing five future Hall of Famers, many Negro league historians regard the 1930s Crawfords as the greatest team in Negro league history.Neyer and Epstein 2000, pp. 227–28.

The next season Greenlee organized a new Negro National League, which survived for 16 years. Despite Greenlee’s efforts to control his biggest star, Paige followed his own schedule and was often late to games that he was scheduled to pitch. In August, he jumped the Crawfords, accepting an offer from Neil Churchill’s North Dakota semi-pro team, the Bismarcks (sometimes known as the "Bismarck Churchills" today), of $400 and a late model car for just one month’s work. It was Paige’s first experience playing with an integrated team in the United States. He helped Bismarck beat their local rivals in Jamestown, who were also featuring a Negro league ace pitcher, Barney Brown. Paige was unapologetic when he returned to Pittsburgh in September to help the Crawfords win the second-half championship. Paige was snubbed by other Negro league players and fans when he was not selected for the first ever East-West All-Star Game.McNary 2000–01; Ribowsky 1994, pp. 90–95, 113–17; Tye 2009, pp. 64–65.