People called him Satchel.
It was a nickname he earned at just seven years old when he worked at a railroad depot in Mobile 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 became a baseball player. A great baseball player. One of the best. In the Negro Leagues first, where he spent over twenty years. Where “he once started 29 games in one month in Bismarck, N.D.” and where he “won 104 of the 105 games he pitched in 1934.”
And then in the Major Leagues. When at 42 years old he became a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. 72,000 people came out to watch him pitch his first game.
Satchel had a list of secrets for his longevity:
- Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
- If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
- Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
- Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
- Avoid running at all times.
- Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
He pitched his last game in 1965. Three innings for the Kansas City A’s. Satchel was 59 years old.
He would 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.”
Happy birthday, Satchel Paige. He would have been 112 today.
Sources: Photo from Library of Congress, https://nyti.ms/2L1zoew