Satchel Paige

"Satchel Paige was the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced." -Joe DiMaggio

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama on July 7, 1906. The man often called the "catalyst for integration" started his career as a pitcher while playing for the Mobile Tigers in 1924. That position on that semipro team would prove to be the launching pad for one of the most successful careers in baseball history.
His career spanned several decades, lasting from 1924 until he took the mound for the last time as a professional in 1965, playing for the Kansas City Athletics. Soon, though, after his start in Mobile, Satchel went on to shine in the Negro Leagues. He was popular not only for his amazing talents, but his showmanship and style. Satchel was playing at a time when white owners, especially in the South, were eager to draw more white fans to the Negro League games. In order to do so, they drew upon the success of black minstrelry in vaudeville shows. They decided to duplicate that success with a combination of baseball and comedy. Satchel developed a signature style of talent, comedy, and confidence. He made his success look effortless; his popularity drew thousands of fans, black and white, and made the Negro League famous.

Paige with his barnstorming plane

Satchel was known to send all of his outfielders down to the dugout as he faced the league's biggest powerhitters, and struck them out effortlessly. Such antics were typical of Satchel's playing, and were what drew people's attention. He enjoyed great success in the Negro Leagues; his most successful years were probably with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He played with the Crawfords from 1931-1936, and had a 31-4 record in 1932-33. Years playing in the Dominican Republic and Mexico in the 1930s, and his years as the leader of a barnstorming team broke up his time in the Negro Leagues. He returned to the Negro Leagues in 1939 when he joined the Kansas City Monarchs. Satchel led the Monarchs to numerous League pennants, and he himself enjoyed great success in league All-Star games.

As he continued to succeed in the Negro Leagues, Satchel looked to the major leagues as his next goal. As Branch Rickey started to think seriously about integrating the Brooklyn Dodgers everyone looked to Satchel as the prime candidate. His showmanship and follies, though, may have cost him the position. Satchel was also already in his 40s at that point, and though he had no thoughts of retiring, he was not considered a prime candidate to integrate the major leagues. When Jackie Robinson was chosen, Satchel was angered; he stated, "They said I was the greatest pitcher they ever saw…I couldn't understand why they couldn't give me no justice."

Although he missed the opportunity to be the great integrator, Satchel did join the majors in 1948. The Cleveland Indians provided his first entry into the major leagues, and from there he later went on to play with the St. Louis Browns and the Kansas City Athletics.

Satchel Paige was finally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971; he was the first inductee elected from the Negro Leagues. Satchel's great abilities and showmanship carried the black player out of segregation into the national limelight.

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