Satchel Paige: The “Rookie” and First Black American Athlete to Pitch in a World Series

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Satchel Paige was one of the best baseball pitchers in the game. He developed his pitching skills in a reform school. Unfortunately, black players weren’t allowed to play in the Major League, which delayed Paige’s entry. Nonetheless, he was one of the best players in the Negro Leagues and when he eventually joined MLB, Paige was unplayable. In 1971, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Here’s his full story.

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Satchel Paige’s Early Life

Satchel Paige: The “Rookie” and First Black American Athlete to Pitch in a World Series
professional baseball player Satchel Paige. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Public domain

Paige was born Leroy Robert Page on 8 July 1906 as the seventh child in a family of 12. One version of the story says that his family changed his name to Paige to make it sound high-pitched. Another points out that this happened after the death of his father and thus it signalled a new beginning. 

The baseballer came from an impoverished background. To make ends meet, he sold bags but didn’t make a lot of money. He got his nickname Satchel from someone who likened him to a satchel tree, alluding to a pole he made to hang his bags and show them off. 

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Entry to Baseball

Life was tough and Satchel was involved in some petty theft that saw him sent to a reform school when he was 12. He was there until his 18th birthday. During those years, he met Revered Davis Moses who taught baseball in the school. He showed him how to pitch. He was released in 1923 and Paige positively reflected on his incarceration, “I traded freedom to learn how to pitch.”

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Professional Baseball

Satchel Paige: The “Rookie” and First Black American Athlete to Pitch in a World Series
Satchel Paige with bat boys in the dugout watching the game in Los Angeles. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-4.0

Satchel Paige couldn’t play in the Major League due to racial segregation. He played for several semi-professional teams like Mobile Tigers and Dawn the Bay Boys. From there, he joined the Negro Leagues. He started with the Chattanooga White Sox in the Negro Southern League. He made a good impression and built his reputation. 

After three years in the Southern League. He traveled around the country playing in: 

  • California 
  • Maryland
  • North Dakota
  • Cuba
  • the Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Mexico. 

He was a popular figure who engaged in exhibition games. At one time, he even played for the ‘Satchel Paige All-Stars,’ where he pitched for Joe DiMaggio.

The worst thing about this period was the lack of statistics. That said, Paige kept his own records, which can’t be verified. In 1993, he won 31 games and only made four losses. Paige scored 64 innings, pitched in 2500 games, and won 2000. He also indicated that he played for 250 teams. 

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Playing in the Major League

Satchel Paige eventually got a chance to play in the Major League. The owner of the Cleveland Indians, Bill Veeck, bought him when the team desperately needed a pitcher. He debuted in 1948 and became the oldest player to do so in the Major League. He helped the Indians win the World Series and became the first black man to pitch in a World Series. 

Despite his advanced age, Paige continued playing. At 59, the baseballer became the oldest player to feature in the competition. By the end, he finished his career with a 28-31 record. 

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After Baseball

Paige wrote an autobiography titled Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend. His life outside the field was just as interesting. Questions about his real age went unanswered. He allegedly determined the outcome of the Dominican’s election through a pitch and got divorced. In 1982, Paige passed away due to a heart attack.

Satchel Paige continues to be remembered in the baseball world. His performances remain a highlight of who a pitcher should be. His achievements are even bigger, considering he didn’t play in the Major League until he was in his forties.

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