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Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Baseball Player

Born: 7 July 1905 (?)
Died: 8 June 1982
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama
Best known as: Negro League pitcher who made it to the majors in his 40s
Baseball's Methuselah, LeRoy "Satchel" Paige was a charismatic pitching star of the Negro Leagues who became a major league rookie in his forties. Paige began playing professionally for the Negro Leagues in 1923, during the era when blacks were blocked from playing in baseball's all-white major leagues. He played for a variety of teams in the southern and midwestern states, usually not straying for long from Kansas City. Paige was known for his hard fastball and his crowd-pleasing showboating, including double and triple windups and his "hesitation" pitch. He was often hired to draw crowds as much as to win games. Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947, and the next year Paige joined the Cleveland Indians. Paige was 42 or 43 years old -- his age was never quite clear -- making him the oldest rookie in history. He still managed a decent career on the mound, compiling a record of 28-31 while pitching for the Indians in 1948-49 and the St. Louis Browns from 1951-53. Paige still wasn't through: he spent several years pitching in the minors and barnstorming, and in 1965 pitched three scoreless innings in a special appearance with the Kansas City Athletics. A national celebrity, Paige co-starred in a western (1959's The Wonderful Country) and had a best-seller with his autobiography, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever (1962). He was the first of the Negro League players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (1971).
Extra credit: His nickname, "Satchel," is said to come from his boyhood job of carrying luggage for train passengers... His birth year is uncertain and estimates are based on family memory; some sources list 1906, but representatives of his estate list 1905... Paige went where there was work -- he played baseball in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico... Paige says in his autobiography that he was born with the last name of Page, and that his parents "started out by spelling their name 'Page' and later stuck in the 'i' to make themselves sound more high-tone"... Paige is also remembered for his "rules for staying young," which included "Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood" and "Don't look back -- something might be gaining on you."

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