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Six Rules for a Happy Life
1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very lightly on vices such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you.

Leroy “Satchel” Paige was almost universally regarded as the greatest pitcher of the Negro Leagues. Some of his pitching records are awesome indeed.  They include pitching 64 consecutive scoreless innings, 21 straight wins, and a 31-4 record in 1933. Along with his teammate Josh Gibson, Paige helped lead the Kansas City Monarchs to five Negro American League pennants.

Although Statistical Records are sketchy and chaotic in the Negro Leagues, it has been estimated that Satchel pitched in about 2500 games in his extended career, winning about 2,000 games.  That would be approximately four times the amount won by Cy Young. Paige barnstormed up to 30,000 miles per year; one year, he reportedly pitched 29 straight days. And many of these games were played against Major League competition. One of greatest pitching battles of all time was an exhibition game in the early 1930’s. Paige pitched against the Cardinals, where he out-dueled Dizzy Dean to win 1-0 in 13 innings.

“He’s a better pitcher than I ever hope to be.” – Dizzy Dean

Satchel was known for both his speed and impeccable control. Joe DiMaggio once said that Satch was the fastest pitcher he had ever seen.  There are likely more anecdotes and quotes of incredible feats on the mound concerning Satchel than any other pitcher in the history of the game.  As Buck O’Neil once said, “…some of them are legendary and some of them are even true.”

Paige and Gibson had a long-standing bet concerning who would prevail if they ever had the chance to meet manu-e-manu in a crucial situation. Finally, after many years, they met in the Black World Series. The series was tied, and in the final game, Satchel’s team was ahead by one run in the bottom of the 9th. The first batter got on first with a Texas leaguer. Satchel struck out the next two batters. He then summoned his catcher, and then his manager, for a consult. He told them that he was going to walk the next two batters, and then pitch to Josh. Despite their protests, they realized that Satch was going to do what he was going to do. He then walked the next two batters. Josh came up to the plate, like Casey at the bat. Satch proceeded to tell him both the type and location of each pitch. And just like Mighty Casey, Gibson went down on three pitches.

One of his shticks on his barnstorming tours — perhaps one of the most well known — was to set up a 1′ x 2′ plank in back of home plate, and stick four ten-penny nails in it. He would then drive the nails into the board while pitching from the mound.  Reportedly, he never needed more then 10 pitches to do the trick. It should be noted that Satch had an arsenal of 14 distinct pitches, all of them with names – his fastball was Midnight Rider; his changeup, Midnight Crawler. His reaaaaaally slow changeup was 4-Day Crawler. Some of his other pitches were the Bee Ball, Trouble Ball, Hesitation Pitch, and his brush-back pitch, appropriately called “The Barber”. He actually didn’t develop a decent curve until the age of 54, in the major leagues.

“I use my single windup, my double windup, my triple windup, my hesitation windup, my no windup. I also use my step-n-pitch-it, my submariner, my sidearmer, and my bat dodger. Man’s got to do what he’s got to do.” – Satchel Paige

Around 1937, a man came to Paige with two items; a suitcase filled with $30,000, and a gun. The man told Paige that he was to choose 8 of the best players he knew to play ball for Rafael Trujillo, then the rather sadistic dictator of the Dominican Republic. Satch rounded up a Negro All-Star team, including Josh Gibson, and proceeded to fly to his appointed destination. The team participated in a baseball tournament in Central America, and made it to the finals. The night before the game, several of Trujillo’s henchmen escorted Satch and his teammates to the comisaria for the evening. The manager’s pep talk was terse and to the point: “Será mejor que ganar”, i.e., “You better win.”
“What do you mean by that?” Satch asked.
The manager shook his head. “Será mejor que ganar”.
When Satch and his teammates arrived at the field, the first thing that they noticed was that armed militia lined the entire stadium. Late in the game, Paige’s team trailed by a run, but a two-run bomb put them ahead. Paige stuck out five of the last six batters; he later stated that he never threw the ball harder in his entire life. As soon as the game was over, he and his teammates got the heck out of their pronto.

In 1938, Satch’s career almost came to an abrupt end.  Satch was signed by the Kansas City Monarchs in order to pitch for a barnstorming team that was initially named “The Baby Monarchs.”, but was soon changed to “The Satchel Paige Traveling All-Stars. The squad was composed of has beens and never-were’s; Paige would strike out 20 per game, as the opposing batters were paid handsomely to strike out. Satch called it the worst time in his life. As related by Larry Tye in “The Life and Times of an American Legend,” the definitive book on Paige, Satch apparently blew out his arm in Mexico. He couldn’t lift his arm above his shoulder. In the enigmatic words of a reporter from the Kansas City Call, his arm was  “as dead as a new bride’s biscuits.” A number of physicians told Paige that he would never pitch again. Well, Satchel had a trainer called Jewbaby Floyd, who used to brew up secret potions to heal what ailed the Monarch ballplayers. He treated Paige with boiling water, ice, and a foul concoction that he named “Yellow Juice.” For over a month, Jewbaby did his magic; one day, Satch got up, told his manager to “Turn ‘em loose”, and he threw his heater faster than ever. Paige would pitch for another quarter of a century.

Satchel’s age remains one of the great mysteries of the 19th – 20th centuries, despite a great deal of research by Bill Veeck Jr., amongst others.  When questioned, Satch would state that “age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”  Paige didn’t make his debut in the Major Leagues until he was, according to Veeck, at least 48 years old, although other sources have him younger, and some older. The year was 1948. According to Bill Veeck Jr., he had to plead with Lou Boudreau, then the player/manager of the Cleveland Indians, to allow Paige an opportunity to try out. Finally, Boudreau relented, telling Veeck that he would personally hit against Paige. Satchel threw 20 pitches, 19 strikes, and Boudreau, who up to that point had been hitting .400, went 0 for 19 pitches.  He was signed up.  Several years later, somewhere in the vicinity of 50, when playing for the St. Louis Browns, he was 12-10, with an ERA of 3.07, and the only member of the team chosen for the All-Star Game.

“If the Yankees don’t get ahead in the first six innings, the Browns bring in that damned old man, and we’re sunk.” – Casey Stengel

Quite a few years later, Charlie Finley, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics, (later the Oakland A’s), did a good deed by bringing up Satch for a few months ( he was in his late fifties) so he could accrue the requisite time to collect his pension. Finley put a rocking chair in the bullpen for Satch to sit and enjoy the games. Satchel took the time to regale his fellow bullpen mates with legendary tales of yore from the Negro Leagues, or at times, on particularly warm days, to take a much needed nap. At the age of 59, give or take a few years, Paige would pitch his last game in the Major Leagues. Before the game, Paige was back in his rocking chair, being served coffee by his “nurse.” Satch pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox; the only hit being a double by Carl Yastrzemski. The last six batters went out in order. Paige came out to the mound in the 4th inning in order to receive a standing ovation. The fans lit their matches and cigarette lighters while singing “The Old Grey Mare.”

“..But let me tell you about a part of Satchel that no one ever hears about. On the road once, we were going to Charleston, South Carolina, and when we got to Charleston the rooms weren’t ready. So Satchel said to me, “Nancy, come with me.” I said, “Okay.” I had an idea where we were going. We went over to Drum Island. Drum Island is where they auctioned off the slaves. And they had a plaque saying what had happened there. And we stood there, he and I, maybe ten minutes, not saying a word, just thinking. And after about ten minutes he said, “You know what, Nancy?” I said, “What, Satchel?” He said, “Seems like I’ve been here before.” I said, “Me, too.” I know that my great grandfather could have been there. My great grandmother could have been auctioned off on that block. So this was Satchel — a little deeper than a lot of people thought.”  – Buck O’Neil *

“Well, he called me Nancy because of something that happened once. We were up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota and Satchel met an Indian maiden there her name was Nancy. So Satchel invited Nancy to come to Chicago to see him. He didn’t know that Lahoma, who was going to be his wife, was coming to Chicago. So Nancy got there and she was up in Satchel’s room, naturally. And we were down in the restaurant and here comes Lahoma up in a cab. So I go up to Satchel’s room, and I say, “Lahoma’s downstairs.” He says, “Okay. Do something with Nancy.” I was in a room right next Satchel, so I got a room right next to me for Nancy. So, after Satchel got Lahoma bedded down that night, he wanted to say something to Nancy. So he got up and was knocking on the door of Nancy’s room. He was knocking and saying, “Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.” Now, Lahoma woke up and came to her door. And I heard Lahoma, so I rushed out of the door and said, “Here I am, Satchel.” And he said, “Oh, Nancy, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” So ever since then I’ve been Nancy.”  **

How good was Paige? In his most recent version of the Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James ranks Paige as the 2nd greatest pitcher of all time, right after Walter Johnson. But the truth is that we will never really know how good Satch was; most of America never had a chance to watch Satch in action until he was close to 50. It will always remain a grievous shame of Major Leagues’ policy concerning racial segregation that we didn’t get a chance to see this enormous talent during his prime.

“Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.”
Satchel Paige

*The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America – Joe Posnaski
** Ibid

From Around The Web

  1. Wake Up says:
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    Fantastic! One of my all time favorites. Well done Nancy…

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Wake Up: Ha! Thanks much!

    • sparky says:
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      @Wake Up: that was really an awesome article,,,thanks Paulie

  2. mike says:
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    Awesome article…truly something my young generation will never have the luxury of seeing

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @mike: I have very vague memories of seeing Satch in a rocking chair for the KC Athletics. Charles Finley was quite the character. He had a donkey as a mascot for the club, which he named “Charlie O.” No, we will never see the like.

  3. mike says:
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    I’ve been offered bryce Harper and Zach wheeler for Felix Hernandez…I think I wanna jump and take the risk but a little nervous…anyone have any good advice?!

  4. Boomer19 says:
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    Thanks Paulie!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Boomer19: My pleasure!

  5. duder says:
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    Is it true that he used to pull his outfielders to have a seat as he got the last out of the inning?

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @duder: Yes, he did that every once in awhile. Sometimes, with more then one out left in the inning.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @The Guru: That’s a great cut, Guru. However, how did they catch a shot of me playing the squeezebox?

  6. Tehol Beddict says:
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    How old are you AllNuts?

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Tehol Beddict: Well, I never give exact dates, but truthfully, I am not as old as Paige. Although there are rumors that I consulted with Henry Chadwick concerning the original rules of the game, most disregard those stories.

  7. serch says:
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    Great work Paulie….I always look forward to reading your contributions….and I always dance like nobody’s watching!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @serch: Thanks, but I only dance when there is a total eclipse.

  8. John Mycell says:
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    Here is the deal I have on the table:

    Harvey, Wheeler, Cishek, Utley, Vmart for Adam Jones, Carlos Santana, Greg Holland.

    Which side?

    • Tehol Beddict says:
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      @John Mycell: sneak Paige in there somehow and I think you got a deal

      • Paulie Allnuts

        Paulie Allnuts says:
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        @Tehol Beddict: Throw in Cool Papa Bell, for some SAGNOF

  9. Terse

    Terse says:
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    Nice stuff like usual, Paulangelo. That is your full name, right?

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Terse: Thanks, but as I am in the Witness Protection Program, I cannot reveal my full name.

  10. ferris says:
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    Very enjoyable. Thank you.

    I was watching Soul Of The Game last night (I DVR’d it a couple weeks ago or so) and a number of the article anecdotes were in there one way or another.

    A thought that I find interesting (and I am sure is not original to me) is that when you read about all-time teams that the negro league players aren’t considered. While Paige might be iffy for inclusion as the SP or right-handed SP, it would seem that Josh Gibson would be the no-question-about-it starting C (given Bench, Berra, Campy, Cochrane are probably his competition). I realize some teams restrict themselves to MLB but if you use the phrase best starting nine ever, I think there is little doubt.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @ferris: Thanks for the compliment. I think that you are right in your assessment. However, more and more observers are beginning to include Negro Ball players in their all-time team. I have a number of Negro Ballplayers, including Paige, “Pop” Lloyd, Gibson, and Charleston on my own 25 man roster greatest team of all time, with the latter two as starters. While Gibson didn’t play defense at the level of the four catchers you mentioned, his hitting was superior to the degree that it would more then compensate for his defensive deficiencies. I have spent a lot of time attempting to separate Berra and Bench, and give the edge to Berra by a hair. Campy would be #4, Cochrane, #5, and there you have it!

  11. Phatboy71 says:
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    Simply awesome as always…….Just great!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Phatboy71: Much appreciated!

  12. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    brilliant,love the quotes,we will never really no how great he was

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @AL KOHOLIC: Thanks, Kelly. And you are right. We will never really know.

  13. HEADDOWNGOLF says:
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    That was great! I never knew most of that, but what surprised me most was the Finley bit and the rocking chair in the bullpen. Fantastic!

    Thank you…

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @HEADDOWNGOLF: Thanks! Finley was the closest in style to Bill Veeck as an owner. A decent guy, always put on a show. Nowadays, all of the owners are multi-billioinaires with shady Wall Street-Corporate connections, almost all of them having no interest in baseball outside of satisfying their own melon-sized egos.

  14. shibboleth says:
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    Brilliant read! This column is a favorite of mine.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @shibboleth: thanks, Shibby!

  15. The 6 rules (not one matches Jimmy Soul’s), calling in the OF’s, the longevity, the myths, the stories and eventual legend they all make up Satch. One could sum it up with one word: immortal; and that makes me think what the man would say if he could speak today.

    Paulie these stories fill me with nostalgia from a life a certainly don’t recall living. Buck’s recollection of visiting the slave mart with Satch (though I’d heard it before, had forgotten the details and dialog) fills me with nearly more emotion than I can handle. Can’t imagine their struggle; and I don’t claim to understand the popular minds or the day, but, what I understand least is that the baseball worshiping public didn’t call for integration sooner.

    Paulie, you my friend are a mench. Keep ‘em coming!

    Thank you!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @JBrats: Thanks, John. I enjoy all of our endless baseball conversations as well. I will continue to help you understand baseball’s past, and you can help me out with the future prospects, or as I call it “Searching for Trout.”

  16. Best blogger here. I look forward to your posts every week.

    This writer needs their own podcast! Make it happen Gray.

    RIP Tony Saprano

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Charlie Hustle’s Son: Yes, RIP to Tony. Spent many an hour enjoying his awesome work. Especially as, like Grey, I am a northern NJ boy, and grew up with stories of the Bonano family members hiding out in various parts of my hometown. And thanks, Charlie Hustle, for the compliments. Have to introduce you to my friend the Great Gambino. Although you might be the Great Gambino himself.

  17. DrEasy says:
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    Thanks for another great post!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @DrEasy: Thank you, good Doctor

  18. the rat bastard says:
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    Another great article bro!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @the rat bastard: Thank you, brother Rat! The Bastard of the clan!

  19. dansuggla says:
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    Fantastic story; I love the anecdotes! I must admit I shared this article with a few of my close friends and leaguemates. Even though I risked giving up my fantasy baseball source!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @dansuggla: Ha! Risking giving up Razzball to share my article is the greatest of compliments. Thanks!

  20. Psychedelic says:
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    Man how great would it have been to watch him in his prime! It’s too bad pitchers don’t experiment with bunches of different pitches these days… 14 different pitches that’s crazy haha

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Psychedelic: Well, the 14 pitches might have been one of Satchel’s exaggerations. One opposition player in the Negro Leagues claimed they all looked pretty much the same. That being so, he was still pretty much unhittable on a good day.

  21. Ben MacShane says:
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    I’ve really enjoyed reading your recent articles. I’m a huge baseball fan but also read a lot of history in general. Can you recommend a book or two on the negro leagues? Thanks for your work on this topic.

Comments are closed.