Satchel Paige: The World's Greatest Pitcher Part
Satchel Paige passed away on June 8, 1982 in Kansas
City, Missouri. But stories of what he said and did have grown through the
years, as the man has become both a myth and a legend. It is like the big
fish story - the size of the fish caught grows bigger each time the teller
of the tale speaks.
Nevertheless, Paige had the right stuff, hyperbole
Satchel reportedly began his professional career in
1926 and was an immediate gate attraction with his dazzling variety of
pitches, and words for every occasion. He played baseball year round,
often pitching two games a day in two different cities in the Negro
Joining the Pittsburgh Crawfords during the early
1930's, Satch was 32-7 and 31-4 in 1932 and 1933, respectively. But his
time with the team was always interrupted by salary disputes. In those
instances, Paige would go on barnstorming gigs for more money and compete
against all levels of competition including top major league players.
He played in the Dominican Republic and then Mexico,
where he developed a sore arm. In 1938, he signed with the Kansas City
Monarchs and his arm was better than ever.
With the Monarchs, Paige had his complete pitching
arsenal on display. He had a wide breaking curve ball, and his famous
"hesitation pitch" that came out of a windup that looked like
slow motion. He also had a "bee-ball," a "jump-ball,"
a "trouble-ball," a "long-ball" and other pitches
without names that he made up as he went along.
Satchel pitched the Monarchs to four-straight Negro
American League pennants (1939-42), accentuated by a clean sweep of the
powerful Homestead Grays in the 1942 Negro League World Series. Satchel
won three of the games in that series. In 1946, he helped pitch the
Monarchs to their fifth pennant during his time with the team. Satchel
also pitched in five East-West Black All-Star games.
In his time he graced, and dressed up, the rosters of
the Birmingham Black Barons, the Baltimore Black Sox, the Cleveland Cubs,
the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Kansas City Monarchs, the New York Black
Yankees, the Memphis Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Stars.
His career spanned five decades. In his time he was
acknowledged as the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues.
It was a time when he had a string of 64 consecutive scoreless innings,
and a stretch of 21 straight wins.
It was also a time when some saw Paige bring his
outfielders in and have them sit behind the mound while he proceeded to
strike out the side, and when some commented on how he intentionally
walked the bases loaded so that he could pitch to Josh Gibson, black
baseball's best hitter.
It was a time when there were the
"out-of-thin-air-you-had-to-be-there-" stories: Paige and his
habit of striking out the first nine batters he faced in exhibition games;
Paige and his firing twenty straight pitches across a chewing gum wrapper
- a very mini-home plate; Paige throwing so hard that the ball disappeared
before it reached the catcher's mitt.
The man they called "World's Greatest
Pitcher" had a lot to say about his craft.
"I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is,
once in a while I would toss one that ain't never been seen by this
generation. Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw
strikes. Home plate don't move."
"They said I was the greatest pitcher they ever
saw...I couldn't understand why they couldn't give me no justice."
Joe DiMaggio called him "the best and fastest
pitcher I've ever faced."
And there were hundreds of others - major league and Negro League stars -
that shared the Yankee Clipper's point of view.