Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

After the 1947 season, Feller organized another all-star team for a barnstorming tour. This time, Paige was not invited to tour with him, with Feller opting to play more games in the South against white opponents. Paige did face Feller twice, however, while playing with Chet Brewer’s Kansas City Royals in Los Angeles. In the first game, on October 15, both pitchers went four innings. Feller gave up four hits and one walk and struck out two, while Paige gave up just two hits and one walk and struck out seven. Nevertheless, Paige took the loss when he gave up a run in the fourth when Keltner singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Heath. On October 19, they again faced each other in front of a crowd of 12,000-plus. Both pitchers went five innings. Paige allowed three hits and no walks, and struck out eight, including Ralph Kiner twice. He left the game with a 1–0 lead, but Feller’s team came back in the late innings to win 2–1.Gay 2010, pp. 246–256.

Integration in baseball

When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, a former teammate of Paige, Paige realized that it was for the better that he himself was not the first black player in major league baseball. Robinson started in the minors, and had a major league team started him in its minor league affiliate, Paige would have probably seen this as an insult. Paige eventually realized that by integrating baseball in the minor leagues first with Robinson, the white major league players got the chance to "get used to" the idea of playing alongside black players. Understanding that, Paige said in his autobiography that, "Signing Jackie like they did still hurt me deep down. I’d been the guy who’d started all that big talk about letting us in the big time. I’d been the one who’d opened up the major league parks to colored teams. I’d been the one who the white boys wanted to go barnstorming against." Paige, and all other black players, knew that quibbling about the choice of the first black player in the major leagues would do nothing productive, so, despite his inner feelings, Paige said of Robinson, "He’s the greatest colored player I’ve ever seen."

Finally, on July 7, 1948, with his Cleveland Indians in a pennant race and in desperate need of pitching, Indians owner Bill Veeck brought Paige in to try out with Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau. On that same day, his 42nd birthday, Paige signed his first major league contract, for $40,000 for the three months remaining in the season, becoming the first Negro pitcher in the American League and the seventh Negro big leaguer overall.InPowell, Larry. Leroy "Satchel" Paige. 2008. Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 April 2009. Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American League at the age of 23 the same year Robinson did in the National League, would be a teammate of Paige.

Legacy

In 2010, sportswriter Joe Posnanski, writing for Sports Illustrated, named Paige as the hardest thrower in the history of baseball. He based this, in part, on the fact that: "Joe DiMaggio would say that Paige was the best he ever faced. Bob Feller would say that Paige was the best he ever saw. Hack Wilson would say that the ball looked like a marble when it crossed the plate. Dizzy Dean would say that Paige’s fastball made his own look like a changeup." Posnanski further noted that: "for most of his career Satchel Paige threw nothing but fastballs. Nothing. Oh, he named them different names—Bat Dodger, Midnight Rider, Midnight Creeper, Jump Ball, Trouble Ball—but essentially they were all fastballs. And he was still unhittable for the better part of 15 years. One pitch. It’s a lot like Mariano Rivera, except he wasn’t doing it for one inning at a time. He was pitching complete games day after day. That had to be some kind of incredible fastball…. [he was] perhaps the most precise pitcher in baseball history—he threw ludicrously hard. And he also threw hundreds and hundreds of innings."

In an article in Esquire magazine in 1976, sportswriter Harry Stein published an article called the "All Time All-Star Argument Starter", a list of five ethnic baseball teams. Paige, a choice Stein meant more out of sentiment than anything else, was the relief pitcher on his black team.