On this day in 1971, Leroy “Satchel” Paige became the first Negro League player to be elected into the baseball Hall of Fame. Like many black players during Paige’s era, their true talent and ability was missed by the masses. Paige played the majority of his long career in the Negro Leagues because of segregation. Paige was benefitted from Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Satchel made his debut with the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42 in 1948. He went on to pitch until 1953 and then made a spot start for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965.
The true scope of Paige’s career is not well known because of MLB’s wrongdoing. However, when Major League Baseball elevated the Negro Leagues to a “Major League” a couple of months ago, Paige’s name skyrocketed in the record books.
Negro League Career
Paige made his Negro League debut in 1927 for the Birmingham Black Barons. He constantly changed teams looking for the highest paycheck to help support himself and his dream to play baseball. In 1940, he landed with the Kansas City Monarchs, the same team that produced Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately, there is spotty record keeping from the Negro Leagues. However, Paige was famous for keeping track of his own statistics. If Paige’s recordings are accurate, we are looking at by far the best pitcher to ever play baseball. According to his own records, Paige pitched in more than 2,500 games and winning about 2,000 of them. His records also show that he pitched for about 250 different teams and threw more than 200 shutouts.
After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Satchel Paige broke the color barrier in the American League. Paige joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948 when Bill Veeck offered him a contract. Paige was the seventh black man to play in the MLB and the first in the American League. He made his debut on July 7, 1948, his 42nd birthday. Paige became the oldest player to debut in the Major Leagues. In doing so, he helped Cleveland win the World Series in 1948. Since then, Cleveland has not won the World Series.
As the story goes Satchel Walked 3 batters in a row to load the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th to get to Josh Gibson and struck him out…the windup supreme! https://t.co/7e5ZQ0kAl3 pic.twitter.com/ADAc2pvvCv
— The Professional: (@lazarusgotlife) February 9, 2021
Hall of Fame
Paige was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on this date in 1971. Ted Williams was an important figure in helping that become a reality. In 1966, Williams urged MLB to include Negro League players in the hall of fame during his induction speech. Bowie Kuhn, who would become the commissioner in 1969, headed a committee of people responsible for nominating members of the Negro Leagues. They decided that Satchel Paige should be the first Negro League player to be elected. However, Paige’s induction had to wait until 1971 because he made a professional appearance in 1966. After being voted in on February 9, 1971, Paige was inducted on August 9, 1971 and would ultimately headline 35 players who played the majority of their careers in the Negro Leagues. One of those member is Josh Gibson, one of the greatest players to ever play the sport.
Paige is one of those players where the line between legend and reality is blurred. He has some incredible stories and some incredible baseball talent. It is a true shame that a lot of the world did not see Satchel Paige pitch until it was too late to truly appreciate him. When it is all said and done, Satchel Paige may be the best pitcher to ever take the mound in a baseball game.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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