Monday, July 7, 2014

July 7, 1948: Satch Signs With The Indians

     On July 7, 1948, Satchel Paige celebrated his birthday by inking a deal to play ball for the Cleveland Indians. The signing of the 42-year-old Negro League legend by the showman Bill Veeck was considered a publicity stunt by many. Some writers claimed Paige was 50 years old, while Paige simply said he would be 40 some time soon. Veeck would end up putting the age talk to bed by obtaining his birth certificate from his hometown in Alabama that proved him to be 42. While there were many critics of the deal, Paige would post a 6-1 record down the stretch, as the Indians held off the Boston Red Sox who trailed by just one game at season's end. He also pitched two thirds of an inning in a Game 5 of the World Series loss to the Boston Braves, before celebrating a World Series title with his teammates the next day, as they took the series in six. 

     Paige spent two years in Cleveland, before being released. He barnstormed, and played in the Negro League once again before a familiar face in Bill Veeck came knocking in July of 1951. Veeck, now with the Browns gave him another shot at playing Major League Baseball in St. Louis, and Paige took it. He appeared in 23 games, posted a 3-4 record, while hurling 62 innings. The '52 season turned out to be the best year of his major league career. The 45-year-old posted a 12-10 record, recorded 10 saves, and led the league in games finished. It didn't continue over to '53, and after going 3-9, the team that was headed to Baltimore and were to be known as the Orioles gave him walking papers. With that said his days on the diamond were far from over. 

     He bounced around pitching for any outfit that would hand him a ball, making stops in the International League, Pacific Coast League along the way. In September of 1965, Paige got another call from a showman from the ranks of Major League Baseball by the name of Charlie Finley who owned the Kansas City A's. At the age of 58 Paige joined the A's, and pitched. He made one appearance, which made him the oldest man to ever appear in  major league contest on September 25, 1965. The old man proved he still had it by allowing just one hit over three innings. The lone hit came off the bat of Carl Yastrzemski. The one game proved to be his last major league contest, but he did pitch in one more contest as member of the Peninsula Grays of the Caroline League. Old Satch was finally hung up the cleats at the age of 59. 

     Long before Paige inked the deal with the Indians he had built a resume in the Negro Leagues that would have almost surely led to Hall of Fame induction. While the Negro League stats are incomplete there are some that are readily available, such as he was a five time All Star and World Series Champion in 1942 as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs. Paige's club swept the Homestead Grays in four games, and the hurler pitched in each and every game, while earning a win, and a save. In 1971, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York recognized the man who had forged a legendary career long before Bill Veeck came calling on that July day in 1948. 

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