Despite a storied career, at age 47, he became the oldest man ever to play in the MLB All-Star game. He wasn’t allowed to play in earlier games because of the color of his skin. As it is the day after the MLB All-Star game and two weeks after the 116th anniversary of his birthday, it’s appropriate to honor his greatness.
On July 7, 1906, the greatest pitcher ever to play professional baseball was born.
As baseball fans like to do, they argue who was the best pitcher ever. Was it Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, etc? Well, they’re all wrong Those pitchers were all great, but the greatest pitcher ever to play professional baseball was named Leroy Satchel Paige.
His nickname, Satchel, was earned when he was just a boy. He carried bags (and satchels) at railroad stations for passengers.
The great Joe DiMaggio called Satchel Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
Page was not only a great pitcher but a consummate showman. He’d call in his outfielders to the infield more than once and then single-handedly strike out the other side. During a Negro League World Series game in 1942, he intentionally walked two batters so he could face power hitter Josh Gibson with the bases loaded. Gibson was the Babe Ruth of the Negro leagues. Gibson was the only man in history (that includes MLB players) to hit a home run clear out of the old Yankee Stadium. For his World Series stunt, after loading the bases, Paige taunted Gibson and told him where he intended to place each throw. The great Josh Gibson struck out in three pitches.
The Negro leagues were on the same level as what today is called the MLB. Paige didn’t get to play in the major leagues until he was 42 because he was black. Sadly before Jackie Robinson, baseball was all-white. But even past his prime, at age 42, Satchel’s fastball could stun batters.
Before he was allowed to play in the MLB, Satchel Paige played in the Negro professional leagues. During the off-season, he pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. He also played as a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played against MLB stars. Between barnstorming, Caribbean and Central and South American games, Paige pitched an estimated 2,500 games and had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games.
When he was finally allowed to play in the MLB, Satchel 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 his contemporaries tell, he would have been the greatest MLB pitcher if there were no restrictions against blacks in MLB.
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.”
Satchel Paige was cheated out of a long career in the MLB by segregation. Even more so, baseball fans were cheated out of seeing possibly the greatest pitcher who ever lived.
Even though he never looked back, death finally caught up with Satchel Paige on June 8, 1982.
Below is a short video about Satchel Paige’s career;