Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

Death

During a power failure on June 8, 1982, Paige died of a heart attack at his home in Kansas City, a month before his 76th birthday. He is buried on Paige Island in the Forest Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City.

Negro leagues

Chattanooga and Birmingham: 1926–29

A former friend from the Mobile slums, Alex Herman, was the player/manager for the Chattanooga White Sox of the minor Negro Southern League. In 1926 he discovered Paige and offered to pay him $250 per month, of which Paige would collect $50 with the rest going to his mother. He also agreed to pay Lula Paige a $200 advance, and she agreed to the contract.Tye 2009, p. 25.

The local newspapers—the Chattanooga News and Chattanooga Times—recognized from the beginning that Paige was special. In April 1926, shortly after his arrival, he recorded nine strikeouts over six innings against the Atlanta Black Crackers.Tye 2009, pp. 41–42. Part way through the 1927 season, Paige’s contract was sold to the Birmingham Black Barons of the major Negro National League (NNL). According to Paige’s first memoir, his contract was for $450 per month, but in his second he said it was for $275.Tye 2009, p. 42; Paige and Lipman 1993, pp. 45–46.

Pitching for the Black Barons, Paige threw hard but was wild and awkward. In his first big game in late June 1927, against the St. Louis Stars, Paige incited a brawl when his fastball hit the hand of St. Louis catcher Mitchell Murray. Murray then charged the mound and Paige raced for the dugout, but Murray flung his bat and struck Paige above the hip. The police were summoned, and the headline of the Birmingham Reporter proclaimed a "Near Riot."Tye 2009, p. 43. Paige improved and matured as a pitcher with help from his teammates, Sam Streeter and Harry Salmon, and his manager, Bill Gatewood.Tye 2009, pp. 44–45. He finished the 1927 season 7–1 with 69 strikeouts and 26 walks in 89 innings.Hogan 2006, pp. 406–07.

Over the next two seasons, Paige went 12–5 and 10–9 while recording 176 strikeouts in 1929. (Several sources credit his 1929 strikeout total as the all-time single-season record for the Negro leagues, though there is variation among the sources about the exact number of strikeouts.Ribowsky 1994, p. 56, credits him with a record 184 strikeouts, while Holway 2001, p. 244, also credits him with the record, albeit with 194 strikeouts. The statistics from the Hall of Fame study published by Hogan 2006, pp. 406–07, credit him with 176 strikeouts, which is the highest single-season total for any of the Hall of Fame or Hall-of-Fame candidate pitchers that were published in 2006, but the complete data for all pitchers were not yet available as of January 2010.) On April 29 of that season he recorded 17 strikeouts in a game against the Cuban Stars, which exceeded what was then the major league record of 16 held by Noodles Hahn and Rube Waddell. Six days later he struck out 18 Nashville Elite Giants, a number that was tied in the white majors by Bob Feller in 1938.Holway 2001, p. 244. Due to his increased earning potential, Barons owner R. T. Jackson would "rent" Paige out to other ball clubs for a game or two to draw a decent crowd, with both Jackson and Paige taking a cut.Ribowsky 1994, p. 58.

Cuba, Baltimore, and Cleveland: 1929–31

Abel Linares offered Paige $100 per game to play winter ball for the Santa Clara team in the Cuban League. Gambling on baseball games in Cuba was such a huge pastime that players were not allowed to drink alcohol, so they could stay ready to play. Paige—homesick for carousing, hating the food, despising the constant inspections and being thoroughly baffled by the language—went 6–5 in Cuba.Ribowsky 1994, p. 61; Paige and Lipman, pp. 54–55; Figueredo, p. 183. He left Cuba abruptly before the end of the season, with several stories told about the circumstances. Paige told one version in which the mayor of a small hamlet asked him, in Spanish, if he had intentionally lost a particular game. Paige, not understanding a word the man said, nodded and smiled, thinking the man was fawning over him, and then had to flee from the furious mayor.Ribowsky 1994, p. 61. Another version, also told by Paige, says that when he called on an attractive local girl at her home, she and her family interpreted his attentions as an official engagement and sent the police to enforce it, leading Paige to flee the island with police in pursuit.Tye 2009, p. 133. A third version, told by the general manager of the Santa Clara Leopards, says that he left Cuba in haste after legal charges were brought against him regarding an amorous incident with "a young lady from the provincial mulatto bourgeoisie."González Echevarría 1999, p. 185; Tye 2009, p. 133.