Why was Satchel Paige important to integrated baseball?

Satchel (Leroy Robert) Paige (1900–1982) was the first black pitcher in the American League, in 1948, and the first black to actually pitch in a World Series game. One of the best known players in black baseball, he became the first black elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for his career in the Negro Leagues, in 1971. During five seasons in the majors, 1948–1953, he won twenty-eight games and lost thirty-two. He appeared in one game in 1965 to pitch three innings for the Kansas City Athletics. At fifty-nine—the oldest man ever to pitch in the majors—Paige allowed one hit. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Paige grew up in a family with eleven children. He began work at the Mobile Train Depot at age seven and often skipped school, although he pitched for the school baseball team when he was ten years old. He further developed his baseball skills and also added to his formal education during the five and one-half years he spent while serving time in a juvenile correctional facility after a shoplifting offense at age twelve. When Paige was released, he joined the all-black semiprofessional team of the Mobile Tigers, and his career was launched. In 1926 he became a professional baseball player when the Chattanooga Black Lookouts, a Negro Southern League team, signed him. He continued to play with Negro League teams, and while he was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1930s, his teammates included five future Hall of Fame stars.

In between his two stints with the Crawfords, Paige took a step back to semiprofessional baseball when he played with the Bismarck (North Dakota) team. This marked his first experience with white teammates. He also played with an all-star team he formed and once faced famed pitcher Dizzy Dean’s exhibition team in a series of six games; Paige’s team won four of the six. A few more moves led him to the Kansas City Monarchs, where he was their ace pitcher in the early 1940s. He was with the Monarchs when he became a major league pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. He later played with other teams and continued to have a role as coach, pitcher, or in public relations until shortly before his death. He died three days after he threw out the first pitch in a Kansas City Royals game. Paige’s name is legend in the baseball world. Sporting News included him in its 1998 list of the 100 greatest baseball players of the twentieth century.


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