Satchel Paige was undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all time – a career record of 103-61 in the Negro Leagues with an ERA of just over 2, and even in his late 40s he was still blowing batters away, averaging 96 strikeouts per season when playing in the big leagues (all his time spent in the American League), but in actuality, one of his most famous pitches would be illegal in baseball today. No, it’s not a spitball – it was his “Hesitation Pitch,” in which it was said that Paige would have an even higher leg kick than usual, hold it, and with a slower motion than usual throw it home. Now, that’s regularly a balk – there has to be a completion of the motion, and you can’t stop midway – and eventually American League President Will Harridge eventually ruled it as such, but I think Jack Brickhouse, the late former Cubs broadcaster, said it best when he said that Paige “”threw a lot of pitches that were not quite ‘legal’ and not quite ‘illegal.'”
Four more facts about Leroy “Satchel” Paige after the jump!
- Paige set the Negro League record for most strikeouts in a season in 1929 with the Birmingham Black Barons, where he played for four seasons. No one’s exactly sure how many, but several sources purport it was 176 strikeouts, which wouldn’t even rank in the Top 100 in Major League history (then again, Negro League seasons were shorter than the Majors).
- Satchel Paige debuted with the Cleveland Indians at age 42 in 1948; he threw two innings on July 9th against the St. Louis Browns (who he would play for just three years later, both times signed by Bill Veeck), giving up two hits in two innings and striking out Whitey Platt on his hesitation pitch. The player who pinch hit for Paige to end his outing? Larry Doby, the second African-American to break the color barrier, and the first in the AL.
- Casey Stengel (another great character in baseball history, but he’s another ThursTriv post – and most definitely will be one in time – hell, maybe a podcast) named Stengel to the AL All-Star team in 1952, a year when Paige went 12-10 with a 3.07 ERA for a St. Louis Browns squad that went 64-90; when the game was cut short due to rain after 5 innings (for the record, the NL won 3-2 in the game, played that year in Philadelphia), he decided to bring him back for the game the next year (Stengel, managing the perennially awesome 1950s Yankees, managed the AL the next year), in which he gave up three hits and two runs in the 8th to ice what would be a 5-1 NL victory at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
- Probably my favorite Paige anecdote were his “Tips for Staying Young,” first published in Collier’sin 1953. They were as follows:
- “Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.”
- “If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.”
- “Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.”
- “Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society—the social ramble ain’t restful.”
- “Avoid running at all times.”
- “And don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.