Satchel Paige is the greatest pitcher the Negro Leagues ever had and is definitely the most hyped.
When Paige was brought into the majors, Sporting News writer J.G. Taylor Spink took offense, saying, "To bring in a pitching rookie of Paige's age is to demean the standards of baseball."
Paige responded, "I demeaned the big leagues considerable that year. I won six and lost one."
Paige was born in a rough Mobile, Alabama. He is believed to have been born in 1906, but 1903 and 1908 are also possible dates. He got his nickname "Satchel" from toting bags at the Mobile railroad station at the age of seven.
He used to use his famous hesitation pitch in rock fights, by fooling kids and pump faking and fooling them to duck too soon. He was involved in several scraps early in life. He was sent to an Industrial School for black children in Mount Meigs, Alabama.
He grew up there and was not released until the age of 17. Early on, he attracted attention with his pitching ability. Paige signed with an all-black semi-pro team, the Mobile Tigers. As a 21-year-old rookie in 1924, he won 30 games and went on to pitch for Mobile until 1926.
That year, he signed with the Chattanooga Lookouts for just $50. Although stats for black ballplayers were not entirely reliable, he won roughly 60 games a year and was striking out 10-18 batters per game.
In 1931, he signed with the best Negro League team, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, for a whopping $200 a month. Paige teamed with Josh Gibson to form one of the best batteries in Negro League or Major League Baseball history.
In his three years with Pittsburgh, he posted 105 wins and just 37 losses, an average of 35-12 per year.
Sometimes, Paige would play two or three games a night. Here's an excerpt from the Baseball Biographical Encyclopedia: "One day I pitched a no hitter for the Crawfords against the Homestead Grays. I remember every time I got someone out, firecracker went off. Those firecrackers were still popping when I was leaving the park," Paige said. "I hopped in my car and drove to Chicago. I got there in time to beat Ted Trent and the Chicago Giants, 1-0, in 12 innings. And the same day, I was supposed to be in Cleveland."
In 1934, Paige was named to the Cuban House of David team. To kill time, he put together a team of Satchel Paige All Stars. In a three game span, the team won 128 games (40 against teams with MLB players) and lost just 23.
Hall of Famer Bob Feller once said "Paige was the best pitcher I ever saw."
Dizzy Dean once remarked "If me and Satch were together in St. Louis, we would clinch the pennant in July and go fishing until the World Series. In a 13-inning match-up, Paige bested Dean, 1-0 and struck out 17 batters.
In 1946, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey broke the color barrier, by signing Jackie Robinson to a contract. Paige was upset it wasn't him, but wasn't surprised. Anybody would've signed him had he not been 40 years old, but that was young to Paige.
In 1948, controversial Indians owner Bill Veeck signed Paige and he went 6-1 just for laughs. He was 42 at the time. In 1952, Paige was 12-10 for the St. Louis Browns, winning eight games out of the pen. In 1956, Paige followed Veeck. Veeck formed the Miami Marlins of the International League. Paige went 11-4 with a 1.86 ERA and had two more good years before Miami management fell apart.
In 1961, he was with Portland of the PCL and notched a 2.88 ERA.
The Committee of the Negro Leagues elected Paige to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. Paige felt he should've reached without help from the committee, but was happy nonetheless. He died in 1982.
Satchel Paige Final Statistics
28-31, 3.28 ERA in Majors
123-79, 1177 K, 241 BB in Negro Leagues