As we celebrate The Negro Leagues Centennial season, we look back at some of the organizations brightest stars.
“I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.” – Satchel Paige
Satchel Paige was born on July 7th, 1906 in Mobile Alabama. Paige was the son to John Page, who was a Gardner and Lulu Page, who spent her professional career as a domestic worker.
On July 24th, 1918, when Satchel was just 12 years old, he was sentenced to 6 years in the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Law-Breakers. Nobody knows for sure why Paige was sent to the school, but some believe the main reason was that he was caught shoplifting at a local store. Ironically enough, this school was actually where Satchel learned how to pitch.
After Paige was discharged from the reform school, the 6’3 righty made his debut in the Negro Leagues for the Chattanooga White Sox. Paige’s impact was immediately felt as he had a fastball that was apparently clocked in at 105 MPH.
“I don’t believe it. “No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” Said MLB Networks, Harold Reynolds in disbelief.
And this is where Paige’s story truly becomes so great. Due to the fact that The Negro Leagues were so poorly documented, Paiges “Legend” paints him out to be the greatest pitcher to ever live. Take this video for example.
Pause. So you are telling me that THIS MAN, pitched THREE straight seasons of 160 games plus while throwing a 105 MPH fastball? And he was not offered a job in Major Leauge baseball until he was 42 years old? If Paige could have lived in a world of equal opportunity, who knows what he could have accomplished on the earth brightest stage.
On July 9, 1948, Satchel became the oldest man to ever make his major league debut at the young age of 42 years old. While most people would have been embarrassed that it took this long to finally get an opportunity, Paige took the moment by stride, throwing 2 shutout innings against the St Louis Browns.
Paige went on to compile a season that featured a 6-1 record, three complete games and an ERA of 2.48. After winning the AL Pennant with the Indians that fall, the hard-throwing righty would go on to become the first African American pitcher in Major League Baseball history to pitch in a world series game, tossing 2/3 of an inning in game 5.
Paige, who famously named each and every one of his pitches, would go on to pitch 6 years in the major leagues, acquiring a career ERA of 3.29 to go along with 7 complete games, 2 all-star appearances and 33 saves.
Satchel Paige was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 as the first electee of the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues.
Paige could have quit the game of baseball at an early age. He could have quit when he was forced to play for literally, every team under the sun in order to provide a roof over his families head. He could have quit when he, along with all of his teammates were told that they weren’t allowed to play in the bigs simply based off the color of their skin. He could have quit when he was in his mid 40’s going up against sprout 20-year-olds. But as Paige put it best “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”