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Satchel Paige was born on this date in 1906. He was an African American baseball player, the first Black pitcher in the American League, and the first representative of the Negro Leagues to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Leroy Robert ("Satchel") Paige earned his nickname as a boy carrying satchels or suitcases at the Mobile train station. Accused of stealing toy rings, Paige was sent to the Mount Meigs, Alabama, reform school. It was here that he began to play baseball, assuming a place on the pitcher's mound that he held for over 40 years, and becoming, according to ballplayer Dizzy Dean, the greatest pitcher of all time. Paige began his career with the semi-pro Mobile Tigers in 1924. He played for several teams in the Negro Leagues. Paige was the most widely known African American baseball player until Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues in the late 1940s. With a lanky 6'3" body and huge feet, Paige's characteristic stance was unmistakable on the mound as he uncoiled his long arms and let the ball fly.
In the 1930s, he drew huge crowds as he was pitted against major leaguers, including Dean. Throughout the 1930s, Paige appeared regularly in the East-West "All-Star" games, and due, in part, to his enormous popular following, this yearly event drew unprecedented numbers of African Americans together. The "barnstorming tours" of the Negro League were exhausting, as the teams traveled sometimes as much as 30,000 miles a year to play exhibition games. He once pitched 29 consecutive games in 29 days.
As a free agent, Paige played throughout North and South America, as well as in the Caribbean during winter seasons. He left the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1937 to accept the invitation to play for a Dominican Republic team. He returned to the United States several years later and pitched the Kansas Monarchs to victory in the 1942 Negro League World Series. Paige became the first African American pitcher in the American League when he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948.
With Paige on the pitcher's mound, the Indians won the World Series in his first year on the team. By 1952, he was pitching on the American League All-Star squad. By his own count, Paige threw 55 no-hitters and won over 2,000 of the 2,500 games he pitched. He pitched his last game for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1967. Four years later, he was the first member of the Negro League to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Paige continued to work as a pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves of the National League. He died in 1982.
The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History
By Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan
Copyright 1992, Jed Clauss and Joanna Paulsen
Ameron House Publishing