Satchel Paige : biography
Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige (July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982) was an American baseball player whose pitching in the Negro leagues and in Major League Baseball (MLB) made him a legend in his own lifetime. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player to be inducted based upon his play in the Negro leagues.
Paige was a right-handed pitcher and was the oldest rookie to play in MLB at the age of 42. He played with the St. Louis Browns until age 47, and represented them in the All-Star Game in 1952 and 1953. He first played for the semi-professional Mobile Tigers from 1924 to 1926.
Paige began his professional career in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts of the Negro Southern League, and played his last professional game on June 21, 1966, for the Peninsula Grays of the Carolina League.Tye 2009, pp. 24–29, 272.
Paige was among the most famous and successful players from the Negro Leagues. While his outstanding control as a pitcher first got him noticed, it was his infectious, cocky, enthusiastic personality and his love for the game that made him a star. On town tours across America, Paige would have his infielders sit down behind him and then routinely strike out the side..Kelley, James. Baseball. New York: Shoreline Publishing Group, 2000. 44-45. Print. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Paige became the oldest rookie in Major league Baseball and attracted record crowds wherever he pitched.
Satchel was born Leroy Robert Page to John Page, a gardener, and Lula Page (née Coleman), a domestic worker, in a section of Mobile, Alabama known as Down the Bay.Tye 2009, pp. 3–4, 6. Lula and her children changed the spelling of their name from Page to Paige in the mid-1920s, just before the start of Satchel’s baseball career. Lula said, "Page looked too much like a page in a book," whereas Satchel explained, "My folks started out by spelling their name ‘Page’ and later stuck in the ‘i’ to make themselves sound more high-tone." The introduction of the new spelling coincided with the death of Satchel’s father, and may have suggested a desire for a new start.Paige and Lipman 1993, p. 14; Tye 2009, pp. 10, 22–23.
According to Paige, his nickname originated from childhood work toting bags at the train station. He said he was not making enough money at a dime a bag, so he used a pole and rope to build a contraption that allowed him to cart up to four bags at once. Another kid supposedly yelled, "You look like a walking satchel tree."Paige and Lipman 1993, p. 17; Tye 2009, p. 9. A different story was told by boyhood friend and neighbor, Wilber Hines, who said he gave Paige the nickname after he was caught trying to steal a bag.Tye 2009, p. 10. At the age of ten, Satchel was playing "top ball" which was what got him into baseball. "Top ball" was when kids used sticks and bottle caps instead of baseballs and bats to play a variation of the diamond sport.Tye 2009, pp. 8. Satchel’s mother, Lula, would even comment on how Satchel would rather "play baseball than eat. It was always baseball, baseball." Tye2009, pp. 8.
Two weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Paige was arrested for shoplifting. Because this incident followed several earlier incidents of theft and truancy, he was committed to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama, the state reform school, until the age of eighteen. During the more than five years he spent at the school, he developed his pitching skills under the guidance of Edward Byrd. Byrd taught Paige to kick his front foot high and to swing his arm around so it looked like his hand was in the batter’s face when he released the ball. Paige was released from the reform school in December 1923, six months early.Paige and Lipman 1993, pp. 22–28; Tye 2009, pp. 14–20.
After his release, Paige played for several Mobile semi-pro teams. He joined the semi-pro Mobile Tigers where his brother Wilson was already pitching.Paige and Lipman, pp. 28–32; Tye, pp. 21–22. He also pitched for a semi-pro team named the Down the Bay Boys, and he recalled that he once got into a jam in the ninth inning of a 1–0 ballgame when his teammates made three consecutive errors, loading the bases for the other team with two outs. Angry, Paige said he stomped around the mound, kicking up dirt. The fans started booing him, so he decided that “somebody was going to have to be showed up for that.” He called in his outfielders and had them sit down in the infield. With the fans and his own teammates howling, Paige struck out the final batter, winning the game.Paige and Lipman 1993, pp. 34–35; Tye 2009, pp. 23–24.