On this day in 1971, pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige became the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
Paige didn’t get to play in the major leagues until he was 42, because he was black and sadly before Jackie Robinson, baseball was all-white. Before then he played in the Negro professional leagues and during the off season pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played for whichever team met his asking price, he pitched an estimated 2,500 games, had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games.
He played parts of six seasons in the major leagues his W-L record was 28-31 and he had a 3.29 ERA (his last MLB pitch was thrown in 1965 when he was 59. But stats don’t tell the story of this man who was kept out of the major leagues until he was in the declining years of his career. From the stories if there was no restrictions against blacks in MLB, he may have been the greatest pitcher ever.
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Along with being a great pitcher, Leroy “Satchel” Paige was a master of home-spun philosophy. Some of his quotes are still famous. My favorite of which was, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Some of his others were:
“Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”
“You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.”
“I never rush myself. See, they can’t start the game without me.”
“It’s funny what a few no-hitters do for a body.”
“Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”
“Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.”
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
“Money and women. They’re two of the strongest things in the world. The things you do for a woman you wouldn’t do for anything else. Same with money.”
“Mother always told me, if you tell a lie, always rehearse it. If it don’t sound good to you, it won’t sound good to no one else.”
“Don’t eat fried food, it angries up the blood.”