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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Paige turner
Paige was greatest pitcher ever.
By Jonathan Mayo/

Satchel Paige played 14 seasons for the Kansas City Monarchs between 1935 and 1955.
Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige
Born: July 7, 1906, Mobile, Alabama
Died: June 8, 1982, Kansas City, Missouri
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hall of Fame induction: 1971

Buck O'Neil on Satchel Paige: 56k | 300k

It's hard to say what people remember most about Satchel Paige: his incredible abilities on the pitcher's mound, or his charisma and talent as a storyteller. Either way, Paige was one of the most entertaining players in baseball history.

Paige was born into a large family -- one of twelve. As an adolescent, he was sent to the Industrial School for Negro Children after getting caught for shoplifting and truancy. It was at the Industrial School that Paige learned the art of pitching. At 18, he became a member of the semipro Mobile Tigers.

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He made his pro debut in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts in the Negro Southern League. Between 1928 and 1932, he played for the Birmingham Black Barons, the Baltimore Black Sox, the Nashville Elite Giants , the Cleveland Cubs, and finally the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Teaming up with future Hall of Famers Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson and Josh Gibson, Paige helped the Crawfords win the league championship in 1935.

Paige stayed in Pittsburgh until 1937, when he went to play in the Dominican Republic. When he came back, his contract was sold to the Newark Eagles. Paige refused to report, instead going to Mexico, where he came down with a sore arm that nearly ended his career.

He rehabilitated his arm by playing first and pitching short stints for the Kansas City Monarchs' B-Team. Eventually, he returned to good health and became the Monarch's top pitcher, leading them to the World Series in 1942 and 1946.

A year after Jackie Robinson integrated the Major Leagues in 1947, Paige signed with the Cleveland Indians on his 42nd birthday, becoming the oldest rookie in baseball. He went 6-1 in his first season and helped the Indians win their first World Series in 28 years.

He followed owner Bill Veeck, who had originally signed him in Cleveland, to the St. Louis Browns in 1951. In 1952, Paige won 12 games and became the oldest player selected to an All-Star team. He pitched one more season with the Browns before seemingly retiring.

Satchel Paige, who made the American League All-Star team in 1952, demonstrates his pitching grip to Mickey Mantle, Allie Reynolds and Dom DiMaggio.
Always the showman, Paige returned to baseball in 1965 with the Kansas City Athletics at the age of 59. He pitched three innings. Not surprisingly, he didn't give up a run.

He became the first player from the Negro Leagues to be selected to the Hall of Fame in 1971. At his acceptance, he said that in the Negro Leagues, "there were many Satchels and many Joshes," referring to Josh Gibson.

Dizzy Dean once said about Paige, "If Satch and I was pitching on the same team, we'd clinch the pennant by the fourth of July and go fishing until World Series time."

Paige died in 1982 from emphysema shortly after the dedication of a renovated park in Kansas City, called the Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium. He was 75.

Or at least that's how old it's believed he was. Even though it's now widely accepted he was born in 1906, there was uncertainty about his age for most of his life. It became part of his mystique and persona. His autobiography, after all, was titled, "Maybe I'll Pitch Forever."

If his actual age is a mystery, his nickname isn't. Growing up, Paige used to carry suitcases at the train station in Mobile to make money. He put together a pole and rope to enable him to carry three or four bags at a time, causing friends to call him Satchel. The name stuck.

What year was Satchel Paige born? Nobody knows for sure, but the bottom line is that he was one of the best pitchers ever.
Paige's personality and reputation as the ultimate showman may be the biggest legacy he left behind. He frequently would call in his outfielders before an inning and then proceed to strike out the side. Paige had his own philosophy, which included tenets such as, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

The nicknames for his pitches were wonderfully descriptive. He had the "two-hump blooper," a changeup, "Little Tom," a medium speed fastball, "Long Tom," the hard stuff; and, of course, "the hesitation pitch."

Paige was the Negro Leagues' top draw for years, combining his ability to put on a show with extraordinary raw talents to keep the turnstiles moving. His success against Major Leaguers such as Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby and Bob Feller helped raise awareness that African American could play in the Major Leagues.

Jonathan Mayo is a senior writer for based in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.