June 8, 1982

Died: June 8, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri

Satchel Paige, Black Pitching Star, Is Dead At 75

FROM: The New York Times (June 9th 1982) ~
By Joseph Durso

Leroy (Satchel) Paige, one of the folk heroes of baseball's old Negro
leagues who became a rookie pitcher in the major leagues at the age of 42,
died yesterday at his home in Kansas City, Mo.

He was believed to be 75 years old when he died after a long siege of heart
trouble and emphysema. But his exact age was one of the mysteries in the
legend that accompanied him into the big leagues in 1948 with the Cleveland
Indians, and it was still a mystery when he pitched his final three innings
for the Kansas City A's in 1965 when he was admitting to 59.

That was the end of what he laughingly called ''my 100-year career in
baseball.'' And, by then, he was celebrated for his homespun wit as well as
for his fastball and stamina, and most especially for his admonition:
''Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.''

View From Rocking Chair

By then, he was viewing the world from a rocking chair in the Kansas City
bullpen, a tall, thin man with a thin mustache who had lived one of the
phenomenal careers in sports: 22 years as a barnstorming pitcher in the era
before black players were admitted to the big leagues, then five seasons
with three clubs in the American League, including the World Series of 1948.

In the barnstorming days, he pitched perhaps 2,500 games, completed 55
no-hitters and performed before crowds estimated at 10 million persons in
the United States, the Caribbean and Central America. He once started 29
games in one month in Bismarck, N.D., and he said later that he won 104 of
the 105 games he pitched in 1934.

By the time Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 as the
first black player in the majors, Mr. Paige was past 40. But Bill Veeck, the
impresario of the Cleveland club, signed him to a contract the following
summer, and he promptly drew crowds of 72,000 in his first game and 78,000
in his third game.

Five Full Seasons

His career in the big leagues was spread over 18 years but, because he
retired twice during that span, it totaled only five full seasons with these
statistics: 28 victories, 31 defeats, 476 innings, 290 strikeouts and an
earned-run average of 3.29. But by then, he already occupied a special rank
as a showman and country philosopher who advised people to ''avoid running
at all times,'' and who once reflected:

''There never was a man on earth who pitched as much as me. But the more I
pitched, the stronger my arm would get.''

Despite the uncertainty about his age, there was general agreement that he
was the oldest player ever to appear in a major league game when he pitched
three innings against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 25, 1965. And, two years
later, clearly enjoying his role as an athletic phenomenon, he wrote an
autobiography with the title: ''Maybe I'll Pitch Forever.''

Leroy Robert Paige was born in Mobile, Ala., the son of John and Lula Page.
The family name became ''Paige,'' he remembered, because ''my folks later
stuck in the 'i' to make themselves sound more hightoned.''

He teased people about the date of his birth, saying that the certificate
had been placed between the pages of a Bible that was eaten by the family's
goat. But later he did not argue with evidence that he had been born on July
7, 1906. Origin of His Nickname

He was specific, though, about his nickname. He got it as a 7-yearold while
hustling baggage at the railroad depot in Mobile after he had invented a
contraption for carrying more bags.

''I rigged up ropes around my shoulders and my waist, and I carried a
satchel in each hand and one under each arm,'' he said. ''I carried so many
satchels that all you could see were satchels. You couldn't see no Leroy

He took up pitching during four years spent at the Alabama Reform School for
Boys, and became exceptional. In 1924, he presented himself to Candy Jim
Taylor, the manager of the Mobile Tigers, a black semiprofessional team, and
fired 10 fastballs past the manager in an audition. He had a job, and soon a

For the next two decades, he traveled around the hemisphere with black
teams, pitching across the seasons and the borders of countries. He also
pitched in exhibition games against white major league stars. Once he
outpitched Dizzy Dean, 1-0. Another time, he struck out Rogers Hornsby five
times in one game. Joe DiMaggio called him ''the best I've ever faced, and
the fastest.''

An Imposing Figure

He was a lean but imposing figure on the mound, 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and
180 pounds, with thin legs and a mean fastball, numerous curveballs and
pinpoint control. And one year after Jackie Robinson broke the color line,
Mr. Veeck signed him as a drawing card and pitcher on a Cleveland team
headed for the championship. The date was July 7, 1948.

Many baseball people derided the signing as a box-office gimmick, since the
rookie was past 40 and probably past his prime. But Lou Boudreau, the
Indians' manager, introduced his new pitcher carefully, using him six times
in relief before starting him in a game. In his first start, he defeated the
Washington Senators, 5-3, before 72,434 fans in Cleveland's Municipal
Stadium. Then he pitched two shutouts against the Chicago White Sox, and by
then had pitched before combined crowds of 201,829 in three starts.

His record after less than three months showed six victories and one loss,
and he made one brief appearance in the World Series that October against
the Boston Braves. But after one more season with Cleveland, he was released
after Mr. Veeck sold his controlling interest. However, two years later, Mr.
Veeck bought the St. Louis Browns and promptly signed his former rookie, who
now was at least 45 years old. But, in his most flamboyant defiance to age,
Mr. Paige won 12 games in 1952 and was selected for the league's All-Star

After the 1953 season, he was released once more, but once more refused to
quit baseball. He pitched in the minor leagues, then took the barnstorming
route again and even appeared with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team
as a guest celebrity. He played the part of a cavalry sergeant in a 1958
motion picture, ''The Wonderful Country.'' Rocking Chair Provided

Then another baseball showman, Charles O. Finley, drew him back to the big
leagues briefly in 1965 with the Kansas City A's. The theme was revival, and
Mr. Paige was provided with a rocking chair in the bullpen and a nurse who
massaged his right arm with liniment. He pretended that the compound was
based on a secret formula and, continuing the tease, sparred with persons
who asked whether he perhaps relied on ''doctored'' pitches.

''I never threw an illegal pitch,'' he replied. ''The trouble is, once in a
while I toss one that ain't never been seen by this generation.''

Reviewing his 40 years on the public baseball scene, he once said that the
toughest hitters he had ever faced were Josh Gibson, the celebrated catcher
from the Negro leagues, and Charley Gehringer of the Detroit Tigers.

''They said I was the greatest pitcher they ever saw,'' he remarked
recently, reflecting on the segregation in sports that had cost him a full
career in the big leagues. ''I couldn't understand why they couldn't give me
no justice.''

Mr. Paige made his last public appearance last Saturday in ceremonies at a
Kansas City baseball park that was named for him. He attended in a
wheelchair, and said:

''Nobody on earth could feel as good as I do now.''

Paige's Guide to Longevity To a world that marveled at his stamina as a
59-year-old pitcher, Satchel Paige often offered these ''master's maxims''
as his guide to longevity:

1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.

2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social
rumble ain't

5. Avoid running at all times.

6. Don't look back. Something might
be gaining on you.