June 8, 1982: During a power failure, Satchel Paige died of a heart attack at his home in Kansas City, a month before his 76th birthday.
He is buried on Paige Island in the Forest Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City.
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige was a baseball player whose pitching in the Negro leagues and in MLB made him a legend in his own lifetime. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the 1st player to be inducted based upon his play in the Negro leagues. Paige was a right-handed pitcher and was the oldest rookie to play in the MLB at the age of 42. He played with the St. Louis Browns until age 47, and represented them in the All-Star Game in 1952 and 1953.
He first played for the semi-professional Mobile Tigers from 1924 to 1926. Paige began his professional career in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts of the Negro Southern League, and played his last professional game on June 21, 1966, for the Peninsula Grays of the Carolina League. Paige was among the most famous and successful players from the Negro Leagues. While his outstanding control as a pitcher first got him noticed, it was his infectious, cocky, enthusiastic personality and his love for the game that made him a star. On town tours across America, Paige would have his infielders sit down behind him and then routinely strike out the side.
As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Paige became the oldest rookie in Major league Baseball and attracted record crowds wherever he pitched.
⚾In 2010, sportswriter Joe Posnanski, writing for Sports Illustrated, named Paige as the hardest thrower in the history of baseball. He based this, in part, on the fact that: “Joe DiMaggio would say that Paige was the best he ever faced. Bob Feller would say that Paige was the best he ever saw. Hack Wilson would say that the ball looked like a marble when it crossed the plate. Dizzy Dean would say that Paige’s fastball made his own look like a changeup.” Posnanski further noted that: “for most of his career Satchel Paige threw nothing but fastballs. Nothing. Oh, he named them different names—Bat Dodger, Midnight Rider, Midnight Creeper, Jump Ball, Trouble Ball—but essentially they were all fastballs. And he was still unhittable for the better part of 15 years. One pitch. It’s a lot like Mariano Rivera, except he wasn’t doing it for one inning at a time. He was pitching complete games day after day. That had to be some kind of incredible fastball…. [he was] perhaps the most precise pitcher in baseball history—he threw ludicrously hard. And he also threw hundreds and hundreds of innings.”
⚾In an article in Esquire magazine in 1976, sportswriter Harry Stein published an article called the “All Time All-Star Argument Starter”, a list of five ethnic baseball teams. Paige, a choice Stein meant more out of sentiment than anything else, was the relief pitcher on his black team.
⚾On May 31, 1981, a made-for-television movie titled Don’t Look Back aired starring Louis Gossett Jr. as Paige, Beverly Todd as Lahoma, and former baseball pro Bubba Phillips as Coach Hardy. Paige was paid $10,000 for his story and technical advice. The film was based on the 1962 book, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever.
⚾In August 1981, with great difficulty because of health problems, he attended a reunion of Negro league players held in Ashland, Kentucky that paid special tribute to him and Cool Papa Bell. Attending the reunion were Willie Mays, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Judy Johnson, Chet Brewer, Gene Benson, Bob Feller and Happy Chandler.
⚾Buck O’Neil, a former teammate and longtime friend of Paige, claimed in the 1994 documentary Baseball that Babe Ruth batted against Paige once. According to O’Neil’s story, the two men opposed each other in a barnstorming game after the Babe’s retirement, and that Ruth hit a 500-foot home run off Paige. O’Neil said that Paige was so awestruck by the shot that he met Ruth at the plate to shake his hand, and later had Ruth sign the ball. However, Paige stated in the 1948 book, Pitchin’ Man by Hal Lebovitz, that one of his greatest disappointments was, “I never pitched to Babe Ruth.” While the Babe Ruth All-Stars did play exhibition games against Negro league teams, there is no documented evidence that Paige and Ruth ever faced each other. In addition, there is no mention of this claim in any of the biographies on Ruth, which would surely have been worth discussing.
⚾In 1996, Paige was played by Delroy Lindo in the made-for-cable film Soul of the Game, which also starred Salli Richardson as Paige’s second wife, Lahoma, Mykelti Williamson as Josh Gibson, Blair Underwood as Jackie Robinson, Harvey Williams of Kansas City, as “Cat” Mays, the father of Willie Mays, Edward Herrmann as Branch Rickey and Jerry Hardin as Commissioner Happy Chandler.
⚾In 1999, he ranked Number 19 on Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
⚾On July 28, 2006, a statue of Satchel Paige was unveiled in Cooper Park, Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball.
⚾Satchel Paige Elementary School in Kansas City is named in his honor.
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