(SATCHEL) (ca. 1906–1982)
Satchel Paige was one of the greatest stars of the Negro Leagues and, by most accounts, one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game in any league. He also became famous, perhaps even more famous to the broader public, as one of baseball’s all-time great philosophers. “Don’t look back,” his most famous truism went. “Something might be gaining on you.”
Not many batters gained on Satchel Paige, who got his nickname, as Paige told the story, carrying satchels for passengers at the railroad depot in Mobile, Alabama, where he was born sometime around 1906. Telling the story of Satchel Paige inevitably comes back to stories he himself told and retold; it is hard to discern fact from what may have been just a good story. When Paige was first brought up to the majors by Bill Veeck to pitch for the Cleveland Indians in 1948, a rookie well past 40, he was asked whether he still had his world-famous control. As Paige told this story, he gave his catcher, Jim Hegan, a gum wrapper and directed him to lay it on the plate. Old Satch then proceeded to fire his fastball right across the wrapper.
Satchel Paige was an effective pitcher for Cleveland and the St. Louis Browns through 1953- In 1965, when Paige was almost 60 by his own (perhaps optimistic) reckoning, he returned to the majors with the Kansas City Athletics. He worked just one game, pitching three innings, but he allowed only one hit and no runs or walks while striking out a batter. A few years later, in 1971, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The image of Satchel Paige that many fans carry is that of the ancient pitcher rocking in his rocking chair in the bullpen while waiting to be summoned to the mound.
Those who saw Satchel Paige in his prime, though, saw something far different. Paige had a blazing fastball and could pitch almost every day. He played his first professional season in 1924 and kept striking out batters for decades, often pitching during the summer in the United States and then in the Caribbean leagues during the winter. He played for some of the finest teams in Negro League history, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the 1930s. That team included