The short story of Satchel Paige

His birth name was Leroy, but people called him Satchel Paige. It was a nickname he earned at seven years old while working at a railroad depot in Mobile, Alabama, carrying baggage. Young but diligent in his work, he invented a way to carry more bags.

“I rigged up ropes around my shoulders and my waist, and I carried a satchel in each hand and one under each arm. I carried so many satchels that all you could see were satchels. You couldn’t see no Leroy Paige,” he said.

Satchel Paige
Satchel Paige

Satchel became a baseball player. One of the best. A baseball superstar once remarked, “I know who’s the best pitcher I ever seen and it’s old Satchel Paige. My fastball looks like a change of pace alongside that little pistol bullet ol’ Satchel shoots up to the plate.” Many other superstars felt the same way.

He played in the Negro Leagues first, as Black players weren’t given opportunities to play in the Major Leagues then. But after spending twenty years in the Negro Leagues, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the Cleveland Indians signed Satchel to a Major League contract on July 7th, 1948. 

On July 9th, on a warm summer night in Cleveland, in front of almost 35,000 people, Satchel, who was already somewhere in his early 40’s, as no one knows for sure just how old he was, took the mound for the first time wearing his Indians jersey. That day he became the first black pitcher in American League history.

He pitched a couple of innings as a relief pitcher, giving up a couple of hits but no runs. Then, on August 3rd, he was given a chance to start, pitching in front of over 72,000 people. A couple of days later, Satchel started once again. This time throwing a shutout. He didn’t even allow a single extra base hit.

Seven days later, 78,382 fans came to watch him pitch in Cleveland. He threw another shutout, becoming the oldest pitcher to throw back-to-back shutouts.

Satchel finished the 1948 season with a 6–1 record, a 2.48 ERA and the Rookie of the Year award from The Sporting News.

Satchel was tall, lean, and had unique wisdom, a way with words that made him popular for interviews. He was tough, with a pitching schedule that would have him play multiple games a night. He would play into the 1960s, pitching three innings for the Kansas City A’s in 1965. Satchel was around 59 years old.

Satchel had a list of secrets for his longevity:

  1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
  2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
  4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
  5. Avoid running at all times.
  6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

He would also remark, “there never was a man on earth who pitched as much as me. But the more I pitched, the stronger my arm would get.”

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“Satchel Paige achieves his dream to be an MLB pitcher” sources: Portrait of Satchel Paige taken in 1948 – Wikimedia Commons / Dizzy Dean Quotes – Baseball Almanac / Baseball: the biographical encyclopedia by David Pietrusza, Published by Total Sports Illustrated, Kingston, N.Y., 2000 / https://nyti.ms/2L1zoew

To cite: “The short story of Satchel Paige.” Historical Snapshots.