Satchel Paige

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Satchel Paige : biography

July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982

1934 was perhaps the best season of Paige’s career, as he went 14–2 in league games while allowing 2.16 runs per game, recording 144 strikeouts, and giving up only 26 walks.Tye 2009, pp. 65–66. On July 4, Paige threw his second no-hitter, this time against the Homestead Grays. He struck out 17, and only a first inning walk to future Hall of Famer Buck Leonard and an error in the fourth inning prevented it from being a perfect game. Leonard, unnerved by the rising swoop of the ball, repeatedly asked the umpire to check the ball for scuffing. When the umpire removed one ball from play, Paige hollered, "You may as well thrown ’em all out ’cause they’re all gonna jump like that."Ribowsky 1994, p. 100; Tye 2009, pp. 66–67.

The Denver Post conducted an annual baseball tournament (sometimes known as the "Little World Series") that attracted semi-pro and independent professional teams from across the country. In 1934 it was open, for the first time, to black players. Greenlee leased Paige to the Colored House of David, a prominent barnstorming team of white men who represented a religious commune and wore beards. Their manager was Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. Paige pitched shutouts in his first two starts, striking out 14 and 18. The final, championship game was his third start in five days and he faced the Kansas City Monarchs—at the time an independent, barnstorming team—who were participating in the tournament with a lineup augmented by Negro league stars Turkey Stearnes and Sam Bankhead. Paige faced Chet Brewer before a crowd of 11,120. Paige won the pitchers’ duel 2–1, striking out 12 Monarchs for a tournament total of 44 strikeouts in 28 innings. The 1934 tournament was Paige’s first major exposure in front of the white press.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 102–05; Tye 2009, pp. 88–90.

Paige received his first East–West All Star Game selection in 1934. Playing for the East, Paige came in during the sixth inning with a man on second and the score tied 0–0, and proceeded to strike out Alec Radcliffe and retire Turkey Stearnes and Mule Suttles on soft fly balls. The East scored one run in the top of the eighth and Paige held the West scoreless the rest of the way, giving him his first All-Star Game victory.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 105–07.

Despite an outstanding season, Paige had a strong competitor for best Negro league pitcher of 1934, the 21-year old Slim Jones of the Philadelphia Stars, who went 22–3 in league games. In September, a four-team charity benefit doubleheader was played at Yankee Stadium, with the second game featuring a faceoff between Paige and Jones. Paige recalled driving all night from Pittsburgh and parking near the stadium, then falling asleep in the car. A batboy found and woke him, and he got into uniform just in time for his scheduled start. In a game that was sometimes described as the greatest game in Negro league history, Paige and Jones battled to a 1–1 tie that was called because of darkness.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 108–11; Tye 2009, pp. 68–70. In his autobiography (Paige and Lipman 1993, pp. 81–82), Paige claims he won the game 2–1 in 11 innings. A rematch was scheduled, and this time Paige and the Crawfords beat Jones and the Stars 3–1.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 110–11; Tye 2009, pp. 70.

That fall, Paige faced off against major league star Dizzy Dean, who that season had won 30 regular season games plus two more in the World Series, in several exhibition games. In Cleveland, Paige struck out 13 while beating Dean 4–1, although for that game Dean was playing with a minor league team. Later, while playing in the California Winter League, Paige faced Dean in front of 18,000 fans in Los Angeles, with Dean’s team including major league stars like Wally Berger. The two teams battled for thirteen innings, with Paige’s team finally winning 1–0.Ribowsky 1994, pp. 117–18, 120–21; Tye 2009, pp. 90–94. Bill Veeck, future owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox, was watching the game and many years later described it as "the greatest pitchers’ battle I have ever seen."Tye 2009, pp. 93–94. Paige and Dean would continue to barnstorm against each other until 1945.Tye 2009, p. 94. Later, when Dean was a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, he called Paige "the pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw."Ribowsky 1994, pp. 121–22.