Satchel Paige: The 42-year-old rookie

From SABR member Gary Ashwill at The Wall Street Journal on May 4, 2012, with mention of SABR member Donald Spivey:

When Jackie Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the 40-something Leroy “Satchel” Paige was still pitching for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League. Virtually nobody, aside perhaps from Paige himself, could have predicted that he would beat Robinson to a World Series championship—by seven years.

Paige (1906-82) made it to the majors—and won a championship—in 1948, debuting with the Cleveland Indians as the oldest rookie in history. He only played a few more seasons in the big leagues, but over his four-decade career Paige left a trail of baffled hitters from Winnipeg to Venezuela.

He was known as much for his trash talking and showy stunts, like pulling in his outfielders and striking out the side, as for his preternatural control and blazing speed. He gave his pitches names like “Bee Ball,” “Midnight Creeper,” “Trouble Ball” and “Bat Dodger.” He told tall tales about himself and his peers, such as Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, and obfuscated his age (an old act on the blackball circuit). Paige was the Paul Bunyan of baseball—except that behind the myth was an actual, tremendously talented human being whose accomplishments and failures really happened, as documented in Donald Spivey’s doggedly researched ” ‘If You Were Only White.’ “

Drawing on exclusive interviews with family and friends, Mr. Spivey offers a detailed portrayal of Paige’s early life.

Read the full article here:

Related link: Come hear author Donald Spivey speak at the South Florida Chapter meeting on Saturday, May 19 in Tamarac, Florida

Originally published: May 9, 2012. Last Updated: May 9, 2012.