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the first black pitcher in the American League
Leroy Robert Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1906. As a boy, he earned money toting suitcases at the Mobile train depot, where he rigged a pole and some rope to carry three or four bags at one time. It was this ingenious set-up that earned him the nickname "Satchel."
Satchel began his professional baseball career on May 1, 1926, with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts of the Negro Southern League. He spent the next twenty years pitching wherever the opportunity arose. In the summers he pitched for the Birmingham Black Barons, Nashville Elite Giants, Cleveland Cubs, Pittsburgh Crawfords, and Kansas City Monarchs. Between league games and in the off-season he barnstormed, often opposing the best Major League players. He even played in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. A major gate draw everywhere he went, he was able to earn an annual income of almost $40,000, higher than most major leaguers.
By the time baseball's color barrier had fallen, Paige was over 40 and had endured a serious arm injury. Nonetheless, on July 7, 1948, Bill Veeck signed him to a contract with the Cleveland Indians, making him the first black pitcher in the American League. Manager Lou Boudreau first used him exclusively in relief, but on August 3, 1948, Paige started, and beat Washington 5-3. He later shut out the White Sox twice, and finished the season 6-1 (with a 2.48 ERA) to help Cleveland win the pennant. Paige worked in a total of 31 games before being released after the 1949 season, when Veeck sold the Indians. Veeck turned right around and signed Paige for the 1951 St. Louis Browns, for whom he pitched three years, going 12-10 in 1952 with ten saves and a league-high eight relief wins.
Paige resumed his barnstorming career after being released by the Browns in 1954. He subsequently played another year for the Monarchs and three for Veeck's International League Miami Marlins. He continued to pitch into the 1960's, and finished his career with a farewell three-inning stint as a starter for Charley Finley's A's on September 25, 1965. He was given a coaching job by the Atlanta Braves in the 1968 and 1969 seasons to help him gain his pension, and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues in 1971. He died in 1982.
The Official Satchel Paige Home Page
Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Baseball >> Biography
This page was last updated on March 17, 2018.