When asked about the year Paige was born, his mother said, "I can't rightly recall whether Leroy was first born or my fifteenth." On a separate occasion, she confided to a sportswriter that her son was actually three years older than he thought he was. A few years later she had another epiphany—he was, she said, two years older. She knew this because she wrote it down in her Bible. When Paige wrote his memoirs in 1962, he was not convinced about this. He wrote, "Seems like Mom's Bible would know, but she ain't never shown me the Bible. Anyway, she was in her nineties when she told the reporter that and sometimes she tended to forget things."
According to legend, Paige got the nickname "Satchel" from friend and next door neighbor Wilber Hines. The two would go down to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad station and carry bags for the passengers for money. Hines supposedly gave Paige the nickname after he was caught trying to steal one of the bags that he was carrying.
On July 24 1918, Paige was sent to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama for shoplifting and for truancy from W.C. Council School. There he developed his pitching skills under the guidance of Edward Byrd. It was Byrd who taught Paige how to kick his front foot high and to release the ball at the last possible instant. After his release, shortly before Christmas of 1923, Paige joined the semi-pro Mobile Tigers where his brother Wilson was already playing. Also on the team were future Negro League stars Ted Radcliffe and Bobby Robinson.
Pitching for the semi-pro team named the Down the Bay Boys, Paige got into a jam in the ninth inning of a 1–0 ballgame. Angry at himself, he stomped around the mound, kicking up dirt. The fans started booing him, so he decided that “somebody was going to have to pay for that.” He called in his outfielders and had them squat in the infield. With the fans and his own teammates howling, Paige worked his way out of the jam and made a name for himself.
Paige was used sparingly in 1926; on June 22 he got the starting job against the Albany Giants and ended up giving up 13 runs in the loss. It was during a game against the Memphis Red Sox that Bill “Plunk” Drake taught Paige the hesitation pitch that Paige would make famous. For the 1927 season, Paige was given a raise to $200 per month and a slick Ford Model A roadster. After just a few games, Paige abandoned the Lookouts for the $276 per month the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League were willing to pay.
Pitching for the Barons, Paige was wild and awkward and didn’t want to take advice on how to pitch from his manager, Bill Gatewood. During a game on June 27, 1927, against Cool Papa Bell’s St. Louis Stars, Paige incited a riot by beaning three consecutive Stars players. Finally Paige accepted help with his mechanics from Sam Streeter and Harry Salmon. He finished the season 8-3 with 80 strikeouts and 19 walks in 93 innings.
Over the next 2 seasons, Paige went 23-25 while setting the Negro League single season strikeout record in 1929 with 184 including the then record of 17 in one game against the Detroit Stars. Due to his increased earning potential, Barons owner R. T. Jackson would “rent” Paige out to other ball clubs for a game or two to draw a decent crowd, with both Jackson and Paige taking a cut.
Gambling on baseball games in Cuba was such a huge pastime that players were not allowed to drink alcohol, so they could stay ready to play. Paige – homesick for carousing, hating the food, despising the constant inspections and being thoroughly baffled by the language – stayed on the island for 11 games. He ended up going 5-6 and almost got himself killed when the mayor of a small hamlet asked him, in Spanish, if he had intentionally lost a particular game. Paige, not understanding a word the man said, nodded and smiled, thinking the man was fawning over him. Paige took his $1100 and left on a steamship out of Havana.
When Paige returned to the United States, he and Jackson revived their practice of renting Paige out to various teams. In the spring of 1930, Jackson leased him to the American Negro League champions, the Baltimore Black Sox, led by their bow-legged third baseman Jud “Boojum” Wilson. Paige, being from the south, found that he was an outsider on the Black Sox and his teammates considered him a hick. Frank Warfield, the player/manager of the Black Sox, made sure that Paige knew he was the number two pitcher behind Lamon Yokely, and that didn’t sit well with Paige.
Paige returned to Birmingham for a few games and then was shipped to the Chicago American Giants of the NNL for a home-and-home series with the Houston Black Buffaloes of the Texas-Oklahoma League. Paige won one and lost one in the series and then returned to Birmingham.
By the spring of 1931 the Depression was taking its toll on the Negro Leagues. No one team could afford Paige. Tom Wilson of the Nashville Elite Giants in the Negro Southern League thought he could. Wilson then moved the team to Cleveland, as the Cleveland Cubs. By the end of 1931, the Cubs moved back to Nashville.
In 1932, Greenlee signed Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and Ted Radcliffe away from the Homestead Grays to assemble one of the finest baseball clubs in history. Crawford opened up the season on April 30 in their newly built stadium, Greenlee Field, the first completely black-owned stadium in the country. Paige ended up losing to the New York Black Yankees in a tight one but got even with them by beating them twice that season, including Paige’s first Negro League no-hitter on July 16.
By the end of the season, Greenlee had signed to contracts Cool Papa Bell, John Henry Russell, Leroy Matlock, Jake Stephens, "Boojum" Wilson, Jimmie Crutchfield, Ted Page, Judy Johnson and Rap Dixon. With Crawford holding, for now, five future Hall of Famers, there was no doubt about the identities of the true "Black Yankees."
In 1933, Paige, snubbed by other Negro League players and fans when he wasn’t selected for the first ever East-West All Star Game, ended up going 6-6 for the season.
On July 4, 1934, Paige threw another no-hitter, this time against the Homestead Grays. Only a first inning walk to future Hall of Famer Buck Leonard, and an error in the fourth inning, prevented Paige from chalking up a perfect game. Leonard, unnerved by the rising swoop of the ball, repeatedly asked the umpire to check the ball for scuffing. When the umpire removed one ball from play, Paige said, “You may as well thrown ‘em all out ‘cause they’re all gonna jump like that.”
To head off an attempt by Paige to jump to the Kansas City Monarchs, Greenlee leased Paige to J. Leslie Wilkinson, owner of the Monarchs, for use on his Colored House of David during The Denver Post’s “Little World Series” baseball tournament. Paige won three games in five days while striking out 14, 18 and 12 in each game. During the East-West All Star game of 1934, Paige – who this time wasn’t denied by fans – came in during the sixth inning with the score tied at 0-0 with a man on second, and proceeded to strike out Alec Radcliffe and retire Turkey Stearnes and Mule Suttles on soft fly balls. The East scored one run in the top of the eighth and Paige did the rest by shutting down the West’s offense.
Towards the end of the 1934 season, Paige accepted an offer from Neil Orr Churchill’s semi-pro team, the Bismarcks (sometimes known as the Bismarck Churchills today) in North Dakota, of $400 and a late model Chrysler straight off of Churchill’s lot for just one month’s work. There, he picked up the nickname Long Rifle from local Sioux Indians.
On October 26, 1934, Paige married his longtime sweetheart Janet Howard. During the wedding reception, Greenlee – who paid for the reception – had Paige sign a new long-term contract for the same $250 that he’d been making. On his honeymoon in Las Vegas, which Greenlee also paid for, Paige pitched for Tom Wilson’s Philadelphia Giants in the California Winter League. Paige did particularly well against Dizzy Dean’s all-star team. Later, when Dean was a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, he would call Paige the pitcher with the best stuff he’d ever seen.
Paige ended up going 13-3 for the Crawfords for the season and 31-4 including all the games he pitched in during 1934.
On March 3, 1935, Paige jumped teams again, this time from the Giants to another team in the CWL, the El Paso Mexicans. When Paige returned to Pittsburgh, after going 17-2 in the CWL, he got into a contract dispute with Greenlee and decided to return to Bismarck for the same $400 per month and late model used car that he got before while his new bride stayed in Pittsburgh.
On February 7, 1936, Joe DiMaggio was making his last stop as a minor leaguer before joining the New York Yankees, and he was going to have to face one of baseball’s best pitchers: Satchel Paige. DiMaggio ended up going 1-4 with the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the tenth. A Yankee scout watching the game wired the big club that day a report which read, “DIMAGGIO EVERYTHING WE’D HOPED HE’D BE: HIT SATCH ONE FOR FOUR.” DiMaggio himself said he knew now he could make it in the big leagues "because I hit off of Satch."
Paige, at the demand of his wife, returned to Pittsburgh where Greenlee acquiesced to Paige’s salary demands and gave him a $600-per-month contract, by far the highest in the Negro Leagues. In order to get Wilkinson not to sign Paige again, Greenlee agreed that the NNL would recognize a competing league the following season, to be made up of Midwest teams and overseen by Wilkinson. That would lead to the renewing of the Negro League World Series, which hadn’t been played since 1927.
Paige ended up going 7-2 with three shutouts, but things were getting bad for him at home. At the end of the season, Tom Wilson, owner of the Washington Elites, assembled an all-star team composed of Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Leroy Matlock, Buck Leonard, Felton Snow, Wild Bill Wright and Sammy Hughes, barnstorming through the Midwest. They swept through the Denver Post tournament in seven straight games, Paige winning three of them by the scores of 7-1, 12-1 and 7-0 with 18 strikeouts in the title game against an overmatched semi-pro team from Borger, Texas. During another series against a team of big leaguers led by Rogers Hornsby, Paige won a pitching duel with a 17-year-old phenom by the name of Bob Feller.
Having little choice because they were all banned from the NNL, the returning players formed Trujillo’s All-Stars and barnstormed around the Midwest. J. Leslie Wilkinson got around the ban by having promoter Ray Dean schedule House of David games with the All-Stars and then he used his influence to get them entered into the Denver Post tournament. The rift between him and the rest of the players was never more evident than when Paige didn’t show up for the first six games of the tournament, but did show up for the final, for which the winning pitcher would receive a $1,000 bonus. His team ended up losing to a semi-pro team from Oklahoma. It was a double-elimination tournament – necessitating another game between the same two teams – suspicion persisted that Paige’s teammates threw the game so he wouldn’t get the winning pitcher’s bonus.
Due to his ongoing dispute over salary with Paige, Greenlee sold his contract to the Newark Eagles for $5,000. Paige was interested in playing for the Eagles, not so much for the money, but for one of the owners, Effa Manley. Rumor around the Negro League was that she would have an affair with the best players, and Paige thought that he qualified. When Manley rejected his offer, Paige, having learned about an injunction that wouldn’t allow him to play for any other team in New York or New Jersey, went to play in Mexico.
Three games into the season, Paige’s arm went dead. He could barely lift his arm, much less pitch. In the final game of the season, Paige was matched up against Dihigo. Paige relied on throwing junkballs while Dihigo was throwing blistering fastballs. Through six innings, Paige threw from every angle from overhead to crossfire, even underhanded. He was able to hit the corners of the plate for strikes and the batters, always wary of his fastball, couldn’t dig in properly and take advantage of his lack of velocity. Finally in the seventh, his arm gave out completely. With the game scoreless, Paige gave up a hit and two walks. Rearing back to throw a fast ball, he uncorked a wild pitch that resulted in a run scoring. He managed to retire the side by going back to throwing junkballs.
Paige was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning, and Agrario tied it up against Dihigo, taking Paige off the hook for the loss. Dihigo ended up winning the game with a two-run homer in the ninth, but the flood gates were open as Negro League players streamed into Mexico, again forsaking their teams. Paige returned to Pittsburgh a broken man.
Managed by Newt Joseph, the team included Big Train Jackson, George Giles and Johnny Marcum, but it was mostly full of Monarch wannabees and has-beens. Paige would get a percentage of the gate receipts for showing up and throwing just a couple of innings, relying on junkballs. On September 22, 1939 in the first game of a double-header against the powerful American Giants, Paige won a 1-0 game, striking out 10 men in the seven innings before the game was called on account of darkness. After pitching non-stop for over a decade, the seven months since his last pitching game in Mexico gave his arm a chance to heal. In the process, Paige became a better pitcher, utilizing control, finesse and even trickery.
To get his arm in shape, Paige spent the winter playing for the Guayama Brujos (later, Caguas-Guayama team) in Puerto Rico where he went 19-3 with a 1.93 ERA and a league high 208 strikeouts. Paige won two games in the playoff finals against the San Juan Senadores (who played in at the Sixto Escobar Stadium) and won the league’s most valuable player award (MVP).
Paige returned to the Travelers for the 1940 season. During the latter part of the season he was promoted to the Monarchs. On September 12, Paige made his debut with the Monarchs against the American Giants. He went all five innings and would have gone all nine, but the game was called by darkness. The Monarchs won 9-3 and Paige struck out ten.
Because the Monarchs' season didn’t begin until July, Paige, with Wilkinson’s permission, bounced between his All-Star team (once named the “Travelers’) and NNL teams that needed him to sell out their parks. The New York Black Yankees were the first team to take advantage of Paige’s rebirth. While pitching for the Black Yankees, Life did a pictorial of him. In 1941 Wilkinson purchased a DC-3 airplane just to ferry Paige around to his outside appearances.
On August 1, 1941, Paige made his first return to the East-West All Star Game in five years, collecting 305,311 votes, 40,000 more than the next highest player, Buck Leonard. Due to a minor injury to his left arm when he was hit by a pitch on July 23, 1941, he did not start the game, but because of his presence, 50,256 people packed Comiskey Park. Paige came in for the start of the eighth inning when the game was well in hand for the east 8-1. The only hit he gave up was a slow roller to the NNL’s new starting catcher — Josh Gibson was still in Mexico – the Baltimore Elite Giants’ Roy Campanella.
On October 5, 1941, Wilkinson booked a game in Sportsman's Park between the Satchel Paige All-Stars and the Bob Feller All-Stars. The Fellers won the game 4-3 with St. Louis Cardinals rookie Stan Musial hitting a Paige fastball over the right field pavilion roof. After the season was over, Paige once again played in the California Winter League, this time he pitched against a team that had Jimmie Foxx and, coming off his .406 season, Ted Williams.
Janet Paige finally caught up to Paige when she had him served with divorce papers while he was walking onto the field during a game at Wrigley Field. At his court date, on August 4, 1943, Paige’s divorce was finalized with him paying a one time payment of $1,500 plus $300 for attorney’s fees to Janet.
With America’s entrance into World War II, Paige committed himself to pitching in frequent exhibitions to sell war bonds and raise money for war-related charities. One such game was on May 24 at Wrigley Field against the Dizzy Dean All-Stars. The game, which was played to raise money for the Navy Relief Fund, was the first time a colored team ever played at Wrigley. With many of the major league’s best players in the service, including DiMaggio and Ted Williams, Paige, whose income was nearly $40,000, was easily the highest paid athlete in the world.
After losing two of the first four games of the 1946 Negro League World Series, and not showing up at all for the last three games of the series, Paige and Bob Feller started barnstorming across the United States with their respective All-Star teams. The tour helped revive Paige’s reputation, which had languished since the 1942 Negro League World Series.
Finally, on July 7, 1948, with his Cleveland Indians in a pennant race and in desperate need of pitching, Indians owner Bill Veeck brought Paige in to try out with Indians player/manager Lou Boudreau. On that same day, his 42nd birthday, Paige signed his first major league contract, for $40,000 for the three months remaining in the season, becoming the first Negro pitcher in the American League and the seventh Negro big leaguer overall.
Paige got his first big league victory on July 15, 1948, the night after he pitched in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in front of 65,000 people in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. It came at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The Indians were up 5-3 and the bases were loaded in the sixth inning of the second game of a double header. He got Eddie Joost to fly out to end the inning, but gave up two runs the next inning when Ferris Fain doubled and Hank Majeski hit a home run. Paige buckled down and gave up only one more hit the rest of the game, getting five of the next six outs on fly balls. Larry Doby and Ken Keltner hit home runs in the ninth to give the Indians an 8-5 victory.
American League President Will Harridge eventually ruled the Hesitation Pitch definitely illegal and if thrown again it would result in a balk. Paige said, “I guess Mr. Harridge didn’t want me to show up those boys who were young enough to be my sons.”
On August 3, 1948, with the Indians one game behind the Athletics, Boudreau started Paige against the Washington Senators in Cleveland. The 72,562 people that saw the game set a new attendance record for a major league night game. Nervous, Paige walked two of the first three batters and then gave up a triple to Bud Stewart to fall behind 2-0. By the time he came out in the seventh, the Indians were up 4-2 and held on to give him his second victory.
His next start was at Comiskey Park in Chicago. 51,013 people paid to see the game, but many thousands more stormed the turnstiles and crashed into the park, overwhelming the few dozen ticket-takers. Paige went the distance, shutting out the White Sox 5-0, debunking the assumption that nine innings of pitching was now beyond his capabilities.
The Indians were in a heated pennant race on August 20, 1948. Coming into the game against the White Sox, Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden and Sam Zoldak had thrown shutouts to run up a thirty-inning scoreless streak, eleven shy of the big league record. 201,829 people had come to see his last three starts. For this game in Cleveland, 78,382 people came to see Paige, a full 6,000 more people than when he last broke the night attendance record. Paige went the distance, giving up two singles and one double for his second consecutive three hit shutout. At that point in the season, Paige was 5-1 with an astoundingly low 1.33 ERA. He made one appearance in the 1948 World Series. He pitched for two-thirds of an inning in Game Two while the Indians were trailing the Boston Braves, giving up a sacrifice fly to Warren Spahn, got called for a balk and struck out Tommy Holmes. The Indians ended up winning the series in six games.
Paige ended the 1948 season with a 6-1 record with a 2.48 ERA, 2 shutouts, 43 strikeouts, 22 walks and 61 base hits allowed in 72 2/3 innings. There was some discussion of Paige possibly winning the Rookie of the Year Award. While technically a "rookie" to the majors, the 20-plus-years veteran Paige regarded such an idea with disdain and considered rejecting the award if it were to be given. The issue proved moot, as both versions of the award (by Major League Baseball and by The Sporting News) were given to other players.
The year 1949 wasn’t nearly as good for Paige as 1948. He ended the season with a 4-7 record and was 1-3 in his starts with a 3.04 ERA. After the season, with Veeck selling the team to pay for his divorce, the Indians gave Paige his unconditional release.
When Veeck bought an eighty percent interest in the St. Louis Browns, the first thing he did was sign Paige. In his first game back in the major leagues, on July 18, 1951, against the Washington Senators, Paige pitched six innings of shutout baseball, but was roughed up in the seventh, giving up three runs. He ended the season with a 3-4 record and a 4.79 ERA.
In 1952, Rogers Hornsby, an alleged former member of the Ku Klux Klan, took over as manager of the Browns. Despite past accusations of racism, Hornsby was less hesitant to use Paige than Boudreau was four years before. Paige was so effective that when Hornsby was fired by Veeck, his successor Marty Marion seemed not to want to risk going more than three games without using Paige in some form. By July 4, with Paige having worked in 25 games, Casey Stengel named him to the American League All-Star team, making him the first black pitcher on an AL All-Star team. The All-Star game was cut short after five innings due to rain and Paige never got in. Stengel resolved to name him to the team the following year. Paige finished the year 12-10 with a 3.07 ERA for a team that lost ninety games.
Stengel kept to his word and named Paige to the 1953 All-Star team despite Paige not having a very good year. He got in the game in the eighth inning. First Paige got Gil Hodges to line out, then after Roy Campanella singled up the middle, Eddie Mathews popped out. He then walked Duke Snider and Enos Slaughter lined a hit to center to score Campanella. National League pitcher Murry Dickson drove in Snider, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double. Paige ended the year with a disappointing 3-9 record, but a respectable 3.53 ERA. Paige was released after the season when Veeck once again had to sell the team.
Paige once again returned to his barnstorming days with Abe Saperstein. They formed a baseball version of Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters. Paige then joined the real Globetrotters when he joined one of their most popular “reams” – the “baseball routine.” Paige would “pitch” the basketball to Goose Tatum, who would “bat” the ball with his arms, run around the “bases” and slide “home” safely. Paige never actually played on the team, though. Although he was making a decent living, Paige grew tired of the constant travel. His family had grown with the birth of his fourth child and first son, Robert Leroy.
Paige then signed for $300 a month and a percentage of the gate to play for the Monarchs again. Then, on August 14, 1955, Paige signed a contract with the Greensboro Patriots of the Carolina League. He was scheduled to pitch at home three days later against the Philadelphia Phillies farm team, the Reidsville Luckies, but before he could suit up, Phillies farm director Eddie Collins wired George Trautman, president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, to protest Paige’s appearance. Trautman, dealing with the integration of southern baseball against a Jim Crow backdrop, ruled that the signing was invalid, but the Greensboro team reminded him that the Carolina League had already approved the contract. Trautman then ruled that Greensboro could only use Paige in exhibition games. Unfortunately, Greensboro had already scheduled Paige to pitch in a regular season game which was sold out in advance and couldn’t change it to an exhibition. In the end, the game was canceled when Hurricane Diane hit the Carolinas.
Bill Veeck once again came to Paige’s rescue when, after taking control of the Phillies' triple-A farm team, the Miami Marlins of the International League, he signed Paige to a contract for $15,000 and a percentage of the gate. Marlins manager Don Osborn didn’t want Paige and said that he would only use him in exhibition games. Veeck made a deal with Osborn that he could line up his best nine hitters, rotating them in from their positions in the field, and Veeck agreed to pay ten dollars to any of them who get a clean hit off of Paige. Paige retired all nine and Osborn agreed to make Paige a roster player. In Paige’s first game as a Marlin, he pitched a complete-game, four hit, shutout. Osborn, a former minor league pitcher, taught Paige the proper way to throw a curveball, which allowed Paige to tear through the International League. Paige finished the season 11-4 with an ERA of 1.86 with 79 strikeouts and only 28 walks. This time, when Veeck left the team, Paige was allowed to stay on, for two more years.
In 1957 the Marlins finished in sixth place, but Paige had a 10-8 record with 76 strikeouts versus 11 walks and 2.42 ERA. The following year, Osborn was replaced as manager by Kerby Farrell who wasn’t as forgiving when it came to Paige missing curfews or workouts. He was fined several times throughout the year and finished 10-10, saying that he would not return to Miami the following season.
After the season ended, Paige went to the Mexican state of Durango to appear in a United Artists movie, The Wonderful Country, starring Robert Mitchum and Julie London. Paige played Sgt. Tobe Sutton, a hard-bitten Union army cavalry sergeant of a segregated black unit. He was paid $10,000 to be in it, and the movie became the pride of his life.
Paige was in and out of baseball, pitching sporadically, over the next decade.
At the age of 56, in 1961 Paige signed on with the Triple-A Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, pitching twenty-five innings, striking out 19 and giving up 18 earned runs. He failed to record a single decision in his stint with the Beavers.
In 1965, Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley signed Paige, 59 at the time, for one game. On September 25, against the Boston Red Sox, Finley invited several Negro League veterans including Cool Papa Bell to be introduced before the game. Paige was in the bullpen, sitting on a rocking chair, being served coffee by a “nurse” between innings. He started the game by getting Jim Gosger out on a pop foul. The next man, Dalton Jones, reached first and went to second on an infield error, but was thrown out trying to reach third on a pitch in the dirt. Carl Yastrzemski doubled and Tony Conigliaro hit a fly ball to end the inning. The next six batters went down in order, including a strikeout of Bill Monbouquette. In the fourth inning, Paige took the mound, to be removed according to plan by Haywood Sullivan. He walked off to a boisterous ovation despite the small crowd of 9,000. The lights dimmed and, led by the PA announcer, the fans lit matches and cigarette lighters while singing “The Old Gray Mare.”
In 1966, Paige pitched in his last game, getting some measure of revenge when he pitched for the Carolina League’s Peninsula Pilots of Hampton, Virginia, against the very same Greensboro Patriots who had been forced to release him before his first pitch back in 1955. Paige gave up two runs in the first, threw a scoreless second and then left, never to return as a player in organized baseball again. (Interestingly, Peninsula used their backup catcher that day, rather than play their regular starter, a kid named Johnny Bench.)
Also in 1966 Paige pitched for the semipro Anchorage Earthquakers, a team that barnstormed through Canada. In 1967 Paige appeared with the Globetrotters in Chicago and lowered himself to play with the Indianapolis Clowns for $1,000 a month.
In 1968 Paige assumed the position of deputy sheriff in Kansas City, with the understanding that he need not bother to actually come to work in the sheriff’s office. The purpose of the charade was to set up Paige with political credentials. Soon after, he was running for a Missouri state assembly seat with the support of the local Democratic club. Candidate Paige never gave a speech, and was never taken seriously. Paige lost the election in a landslide.
In August 1969, the owner of the Atlanta Braves, William Bartholomay, signed Paige to a contract running through the 1969 season – supposedly as a pitching coach, but actually to raise some fan interest in the club’s new hometown at the same time that he was meeting Paige’s pension requirements. Paige did most of his coaching from his living room in Kansas City.
Bowie Kuhn replaced William Eckert as the Commissioner of Baseball in 1969. In the wake of Ted Williams' 1966 Hall of Fame induction speech urging induction of Negro Leaguers, and on the recommendation of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Kuhn empowered a ten-man committee to sift through hundreds of names and nominate the first group of four Negro League players to go to the Hall of Fame. Because Paige pitched in Greensboro in 1966, he would not have been eligible for enshrinement until 1971, as players have to be out of professional baseball for at least five years before they can be elected. All of the men on the committee agreed that Paige had to be the first Negro league player to get elected, so this gave Kuhn plenty of time to create some sort of Negro league branch in the Hall of Fame. On February 9, 1971 Kuhn announced that Paige would be the first member of the Negro wing of the Hall of Fame. Because many in the press saw the suggestion of a "Negro wing" as separate-but-equal and blasted major league baseball for the idea, by the time that Paige’s induction came around on August 9, Kuhn convinced the owners and the private trust of the Hall of Fame that there should be no separate wing after all. It was decided that all who had been chosen and all who would be chosen would get their plaques in the “regular” section of the Hall of Fame.
In an article in Esquire magazine in 1976, sportswriter Harry Stein published an article called the "All Time All-Star Argument Starter", a list of five ethnic baseball teams. Paige, a choice Stein meant more out of sentiment than anything else, was the relief pitcher on his black team.
On May 31, 1981, a made-for-television movie titled Don’t Look Back, starring Louis Gossett Jr. as Paige and Beverly Todd as Lahoma aired. Paige was paid $10,000 for his story and technical advice. In the spring of 1981 Paige was made vice president of the Triple-A Springfield Redbirds of the American Association, but this was in title only. In August, with great difficulty because of health problems, he attended a reunion of Negro League players held in Ashland, Kentucky that paid special tribute to himself and Cool Papa Bell. Attending the reunion were Willie Mays, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Judy Johnson, Chet Brewer, Gene Benson, Bob Feller and Happy Chandler.
During a power failure on June 8, 1982, Paige died of a heart attack at his home in Kansas City, a month before his 76th birthday. He is buried on Paige Island in the Forest Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City.
In 1996, Paige was played by Delroy Lindo in the made-for-cable film Soul of the Game, which also starred Mykelti Williamson as Josh Gibson, Blair Underwood as Jackie Robinson, Edward Herrmann as Branch Rickey and Jerry Hardin as Commissioner Happy Chandler.
Satchel Paige stated in the book, Pitchin' Man by Hal Lebovitz—as well as numerous articles, that one of his greatest disappointments was, "I never pitched to Babe Ruth." The Babe Ruth All-Stars did play exhibition games against Negro leaguers but Paige and Ruth never faced off against each other.
On July 28, 2006, a statue of Satchel Paige was unveiled in Cooper Park, Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro Leagues to baseball. http://hall.mlblogs.com/dalepetroskey/2006/07/satchel_paige_s.html
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, Brendan C. Boyd & Fred C. Harris, Little Brown & Co, 1973, restates these rules on p.48, and adds the following:
"Satchel Paige could have been the greatest pitcher in major league history, if he'd been given the chance. Don't look back, America, something might be gaining on you."
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