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Satchel Paige: The Story of One of The Greatest Pitchers of All Time

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 20, 2023 3:01 am

Satchel Paige: The Story of One of The Greatest Pitchers of All Time

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 20, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, tells the story of a man who became bigger than the game he played—and only thew fastballs...the Midnight Creeper, the Bat Dodger, and the Jump Ball...the list goes on. The astounding thing, though, is that he did this every day for five decades with no relief pitcher.

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Take it away, Bob. I think the work that we've done over the last 30 plus years, people now come to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum expecting to meet some pretty good baseball players. And of course, you're going to leave not being disappointed. You're going to meet some of the greatest athletes to ever put on a baseball uniform. But by the time our guests walk away from this experience, I think they truly walk away with a much deeper, richer appreciation for just how great this country really is, because the story of the Negro Leagues could have only happened in America. Yes, it is anchored against the ugliness of American segregation, a horrible chapter in this country's history. But out of segregation rose this wonderful story of triumph and conquest. And it's all based on one small, simple principle. You won't let me play with you in the major leagues?

OK, I'll create my own league. And they never believed that they were inferior because they were playing in the Negro Leagues or that the white athlete was superior because they were playing in the major leagues. But everybody else did. And so they knew how good they were and they knew how good their league was.

And you know what? The major leaguers knew how good they were. Yeah, because they had competed with and against each other in countless exhibition games.

And when we went to those Spanish speaking countries, there was no separation. They were all playing together, which is one of the reasons why I think Ted Williams, upon his own induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, stood there and boldly used his platform to advocate for the induction of Negro League stars into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He would go on to say that he hoped someday the likes of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as symbols of those great black stars who had never been given an opportunity.

That was 1966. Five years later, Satchel Paige becomes the first from the Negro Leagues to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Or I should say the first for his Negro Leagues career. He joins the Cleveland Indians in 1948 as a supposedly 42 year old rookie. Only God knows how old he really was. Cleveland would win the World Series.

My Cleveland fans get tired of hearing me say this, but it was the last time that Cleveland won the World Series was 1948 with Satchel Paige and Larry Doby. Many thought Satchel should have been named Rookie of the Year. He goes six and one with a 2.4 ERA his rookie season at age 42, which means he was likely closer to 52. He never told his real age. And quite frankly, I'm not convinced that Satchel knew his real age. And that's not far fetched because there were a lot of folks, particularly black folks born in the Deep South, who didn't know how old they were. Now baseball says that Satchel was born July 7, 1906, which I absolutely do not believe.

The man that died here in 1982 had likely seen 76 a long time ago. Satchel, I believe, was born sometime in the early to mid 1890s in Mobile, Alabama. And like virtually every one of that era, you're not born in a hospital, you're born at home to a midwife. And that birth record was typically kept in the back page of the family Bible. Now, according to Satchel, the goat ate that page out the Bible, so he didn't know. But as Satchel would whimsically pose the question, how old would you be if you didn't know how old you are? Or that age is simply mind over matter?

If you don't mind, it don't matter. And that is how he led his life. Now, in his prime, they clocked his fastball at 105 miles per hour. But what really made Satchel so special, and I can tell you right now, 105, pretty doggone special.

But what really made Satchel so special was 105 with pinpoint control. He could put it exactly where he wanted to put it, and I am not talking about just throwing strikes. Uh-uh, the catcher set the target, he hit the target.

He didn't miss. You see, he didn't warm up in the bullpen like most pitchers do, throwing to the catcher across home plate. You know what Satchel would use? A stick of foil chewing gum wrapper. Honest to God's truth, the catcher would sit the chewing gum wrapper on top of home plate.

And wherever the catcher moved the chewing gum wrapper, Satchel right over the top of that chewing gum wrapper. He was absolutely uncanny. I tell my guests all the time, there will never, ever, ever be another Leroy Satchel Page. He's not someone who combines the longevity. By his estimation, he pitched in over 2,600 games, recorded some 55 no-hitters, and only God knows how many strikeouts, and a charisma. He could sell it.

Yeah, he could sell it, but he could also back it up. And so Satchel had names for his pitches. So he didn't have fastball, curveball, changeup, no, not Satchel. Satchel had what he called his midnight creeper, he had the two-humper, he had the bat dodger, he had the hesitation pitch, he had the long time, the short time, the jump ball, the trouble ball, the radio ball, the wobbly ball, the dipsy-doo, and he also had a pitch that he called his b-ball. You know why he called it the b-ball?

Because Satchel says, it bees where I want it to be when I want it to be there. And so I tell all my young major league pitchers when they come into the museum, they better develop themselves a b-ball. And so he was so amazing. One of my favorite stories relative to Satchel, they were playing in the Denver Post tournament. Satchel Paige All-Stars versus an all-white semi-pro team from the Coors Brewing Company. And Buck O'Neal is playing first base for Satchel and his All-Stars. And he says the first kid from the Coors team gets into the batter's box. He digs in, Satchel throws him a fastball, kid swung as hard as he could, topped it, dribbled it down the third base line, it stays fair, he beats it out and gets an infield hit. Well, Buck says about that time, one of the kids from the Coors dugout steps out on top of the dugout steps.

And he yells out, let's beat him, he ain't nothing but an overrated darkie. Well, Satchel's nickname, and he had a nickname for everybody, his nickname famously for Buck O'Neal was Nancy. Now that's a whole nother story.

We ain't got time to tell that story. But anyway, Satchel looks over at first base, he says, Nancy, did you hear that? Buck said, yes, Satchel, I heard him.

He said, Nancy, bring him in. So Buck is at first base, he turns and he motions for the outfield to take a couple of steps in. Satchel says, no, Nancy, bring him all the way in. Honest to God, it's true, there were seven guys kneeling around the mound. It's Satchel Page and the catcher. And Satchel strikes out the side on nine straight pitches.

He looks into the Coors dugout and says, overrated darkie, hey. And of course the kid that said this, he was embarrassed and all the guys came out to apologize to Satchel and his teammates. But Buck O'Neal swore to the day he died, if he had one game to win and any choice of any pitcher from any era, it would be the legendary Leroy Satchel Page.

He said, you might beat him when he was out there messing around, but when he was locked and loaded, forget about it. But as Satchel would say, there were a lot of Satchel Pages that played in this league known as the Negro Leagues. And it is so very fitting that we now have a place where their contributions not only to our sport are being remembered, but their contributions to our society. And again, it is at a time when there's only a handful of these legendary athletes still with us. They're like World War II vets.

Many of them were World War II vets. So what stood at risk was that this story was going to die when that last Negro Leaguer left the face of this earth. We cannot allow that to happen. I tell my guests all the time, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum doesn't need to survive.

It has to survive. And great job as always by Monty Montgomery on the production. A special thanks also to Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Out of segregation, Bob said, rose triumph and indeed the African-American rebuttal to the Major League Baseball's refusal to let African-Americans play was start our own league. And nobody more perfectly represented that league and the talents than Leroy Satchel Page. 2,600 wins, 105 mile an hour fastball.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-20 04:38:46 / 2023-10-20 04:44:18 / 6

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