Given: Satchel Paige, the House of David, and a decades-old mystery

From Karen Given at WBUR on April 19, 2019:


Phil Leece can’t remember exactly when he first learned about the game his father caught for Satchel Paige. It was the ’60s, and Phil was a kid living in Hamilton Dome, Wyoming.

“Smaller than a small town,” Phil says. “It’s a classic salt-dome oil field about 25 miles west of Thermopolis. And my dad was a pumper.”

Phil loved baseball. He’d study the box scores in the Casper Star Tribune and imagine what must have happened on the field.

“You know, if a player only had two at bats in nine innings, I figured, uh oh, they must have pulled him, or he had an injury or something,” Phil says.

But in his parents’ basement, underneath the stairs, Phil found something that did even more to ignite his imagination.

“There was a pair of cleats and some old, flat baseball gloves,” Phil says. “But there’s also this jersey. And the jersey said ‘House of David.’

“Every time we had a softball game, I would drag out that that jersey, and I’d wear it proudly. It was green in color, and it had, maybe, two-inch block white letters. There’s no numbers on the back. Heavyweight cotton with half sleeves. Fit me perfectly to my wrists when I was 8 or 9 years old.”

It wasn’t the soft fabric or those big, white letters that made the jersey special. It was the story Phil’s dad would tell about the one and only game he played for the House of David — the day he caught for Satchel Paige.

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Originally published: May 3, 2019. Last Updated: May 3, 2019.