The legendary Satchel Paige is considered by baseball fans as the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher, and a pitching legend period for the feats he achieved while playing in the Major League Baseball league. Paige is the first Black pitcher to play in the World Series, and the first Negro Leagues player to be inducted in the MLB’s Hall Of Fame.
Leroy Robert Paige was born July 7, 1906 in Mobile, Ala. The nickname “Satchel” has several roots, with one being that as a boy, Paige carried around a device that allowed him to tote bags at a local train station. Another was that he was caught trying to steal a bag as a boy.
Paige was arrested for shoplifting just shy of his 13th birthday and he was sent to a state reform school until he was 18. At the school, Paige developed a love for baseball and learned his formidable pitching style there. After playing semi-pro baseball for several Mobile teams, Paige caught the attention of a minor Negro Southern Leagues team, the Chattanooga White Sox.
Paige’s raw baseball skills dazzled but he still needed some refinement. After joining the National Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons, Pagie would dominate the league for over 22 years, drawing large crowds and becoming a vocal advocate for integrating baseball. In fact, Paige was a popular barnstorming player that toured around the country playing against white players and dominating as he did in the Negro Leagues. Paige also played in international leagues such as the Cuban and Dominican Leagues, which didn’t have race restrictions.
In his autobiography, Paige wrote that the signing of his former Negro Leagues teammate Jackie Robinson was perhaps for the best. Despite Paige’s well-known desire for diversity in the major leagues, Robinson was only given the chance for the “big time” after Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league squad. According to accounts, Paige would have seen such a start as an insult although he later came to an understanding that Robinson was the best choice.
After Robinson’s historic 1947 debut, Paige made his Major League debut at age 42 in 1948 for the Cleveland Indians. Paige’s record that year was 6-1 with three complete games pitched. Paige made his historic World Series run in game 5 against the Atlanta Braves.
Amazingly, Paige pitched for a few more years and played his final professional game at the age of 59 in 1965. Paige continued to pitch semi-pro for a few more years, despite being in his sixties.
Major League Baseball honored Paige by inducting him into its Hall Of Fame in 1971. The honor was well-deserved as baseball legends like fellow Negro Leagues star Cool Papa Bell and Joe DiMaggio called Paige the greatest pitcher they ever faced. Despite the fact Paige only had one style of pitch, he was considered the hardest thrower the game ever seen.
Whenever he was asked about his age and the fact he played well past his prime years, he would answer, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Paige died at the age of 75 in 1982.