Leroy “Satchel” Paige was born on July 7, 1906. “The best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced”, according to Joe DiMaggio, Paige’s baseball career spanned over five decades. Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues, Paige compiled such feats as 64 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of 21 straight wins, and a 31-4 record in 1933. For 22 years, Paige mauled the competition in front of record crowds when and wherever he pitched.
In 1948, the Cleveland Indians were in desperate need of good pitching for their pennant race. Jackie Robinson had already broken the color lines in baseball a year earlier as major league’s first black ball player. Owner and promoter Bill Veeck, knew very well the legend of Paige, but was concerned about his fitness and age. Veeck felt it necessary to test his accuracy before finally offering him a league contract. As the story is told, Veeck placed a cigarette on the ground to be used as a home plate. Paige took aim at the virtually nonexistent target and fired five fastballs, all but one sailing directly over the cigarette. Veeck amazed, hired him immediately, and at age 42 Paige became the oldest major league rookie in history. With Paige’s contributions the Indians won the pennant.
In addition to Cleveland, Paige played for St. Louis and Kansas City. When his Major League career was completed, he compiled a modest 28-31 record with a 3.29 ERA. He also served as coach for the Atlanta Braves in 1968. What made Paige so memorable was his longevity in the game. The main reason his age was so difficult to track was his seemingly endless success. He rarely answered questions about his age, and when he did, he replied with the classic line: “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Paige died of a heart attack after a power failure at his home in Kansas City on June 8, 1982. In 1971, Leroy “Satchel” Paige joined the very best in history in the baseball Hall of Fame.