Legends Corner

Nolan Ryan. Sandy Koufax. Tom Seaver. Steve Carlton.

All of these Hall of Famers make strong contenders for the title of greatest pitcher of all time. But there is one player who should never be forgotten. His name is Satchel Paige. Paige was to pitching what Josh Gibson was to homerun hitting.

“Paige is the best I’ve ever faced and the fastest,” New York Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio once said.

Leroy “Satchel” Paige is thought to have been born on July 7, 1906, but that date has never been confirmed. This enigma would only add to the lure of the man who would go down in baseball history as the “Ageless One.”

In 1948, Paige became the first African American pitcher and the oldest rookie in the history of Major League Baseball when he signed a contract to play with the Cleveland Indians, at the age of 42.

In his first season in the majors, Paige went 6-1 with an earned run average of 2.48, and the Indians won the American League Pennant by one game. Paige also brought the fans in by the drove. In his first three starts, more than 200,000 people came to watch him pitch.

But Paige was already a legend long before he debutted in the so-called “big leagues.”

Paige etched his way into the history books while pitching in the fabled Negro Leagues. While pitching for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Paige went 23-7 in 1932 and 31-4 in 1933. This included streaks of 21 straight wins and 62 scoreless innings. From 1939 to 1948 Paige pitched the Kansas City Monarchs to six pennants.

Paige was also a hustler. On off-days from the Crawfords, he freelanced wearing his own uniform with “Satchel” sewn across the front. Paige would make an appearance at the games of small town teams to ensure a sellout, for a fee of $500-2,000.

Almost as impressive as what Paige did was the way in which he did it. In an age when black athletes were not allowed to be proud, he put on a show. Paige would have his outfielders sit in behind the pitcher’s mound while he struck the first nine batters out.

As the Negro League’s main attraction, Paige earned $40,000 a year and toured the world over. At one point he even had a plan for his own Satchel Paige All-Stars.

Paige became the oldest player ever to pitch in the Major Leagues on September 25, 1965 at the age of 59. In 1971, Paige was the first Negro League baseball player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Compiled by: Nick BirdsongSource: www.blackfacts.com