August 20, 2006

Duckett honored at Frawley Stadium

Former Negro Leagues star remembers hitting homer off legendary Satchel Paige
By BUDDY HURLOCK, The News Journal

Posted Sunday, August 20, 2006

The News Journal/GINGER WALL
Mahlon Duckett never was going to go down in Negro Leagues history as a power hitter.

But Duckett said he always will remember his game-winning home run off Satchel Paige, one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, regardless of league.

Duckett, 83, was the primary honoree Saturday at the 11th annual Judy Johnson Night: A Tribute to Negro League Baseball, held prior to the Blue Rocks' home game on Judy Johnson Field at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium.

Duckett's winning home run off Paige came as an 18-year-old infielder for the Philadelphia Stars in 1941.

Duckett made a name for himself as a proficient bunter, but talking baseball with Duckett, one can't help asking about the home run.

"Off of Satchel," Duckett said with a smile. "That was a great thrill. I had just come into the league, and not just in those days but even today, Satchel Paige is Satchel Paige.

"We had close to 50,000 [fans] out there -- it was Sunday. He ran a fastball in to me, and I hit it to the right-field stands."

Duckett said he wasn't sure how the future National Baseball Hall of Fame member would react.

"I didn't know whether to run or what," Duckett said. "It was Satchel."

Duckett has attended each year's Judy Johnson ceremony. He was modest about being the star this year.

"Well, it's nice that they're thinking about me," he said.

Duckett's daughter, Shirley, and son, Ronald, also have been annual attendees.

"I think it's great," Shirley Duckett said, "to get the gentlemen out on the field, and get them recognized -- as much recognition as they can get -- and, of course [Saturday night] is special.

"I've been here for all the other honorees, but this one is tops.''

Duckett is one of four surviving former Stars players.

"It's a wonderful thing," Ronald Duckett said, "to recognize these men, particularly at this time in their lives. They loved the game, and they're an institution in this country. They actually are living legends."

Ronald and Shirley Duckett said reminiscing with their father and other former players about baseball never gets old.

"They always forget something," Shirley Duckett said, "but one of the other guys always remembers, and a new tale comes up. Just to listen to them is an education in itself."

The annual tribute was presented by the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation.