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Satchel Paige - Growing Up

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Leroy Robert Paige was born on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama, the third son and seventh child in a family that would eventually run to 12 children. Born to Robert and Lula Paige, Satchel came into the world in the back room of a rundown shack he would later describe as a "shotgun shack"—meaning, he said, that if someone were to shoot a shotgun through the front door, it would carry right on through and out the back door. Although this date is now widely recognized as Paige's official birthday, there is still some dispute as to when he was actually born. Integration was unheard of in the South at that time and most blacks in Mobile weren't born in hospitals. Therefore, no public records exist to back up—or deny—the circumstances surrounding Paige's birth.

The confusion around his birth gave Satchel fodder for his tall tales. Until the day he died he would never give a straight answer—even going so far as to have

Satchel Paige

question marks engraved on his tombstone where the birth date normally appears. "Age is a question of mind over matter," he would say. "If you don't mind, age don't matter." Paige told reporters that he was born in "nineteen-ought." He said the family goat ate the Bible in which they stored his birth certificate.

With so many children to look after, Satchel didn't receive much attention at home. His mother did the cooking, the washing, and the cleaning for the family, while Satchel's father, described as a "sometimes-gardener," was not around and gave little support to Lula and the children. Driven by necessity to earn money for the family, Paige took a job as a baggage handler at the local railroad station. He was seven-years-old.

He and the other boys who worked at the station earned their money in tips, scrambling, as the trains pulled in, to be chosen to carry the businessmen's luggage from the platform to the nearby hotels. Satchel soon realized that style and charisma were the things that got a person noticed. Even with his ability to carry more bags than the other boys, it wasn't enough. Show-manship was a skill he honed, and soon, with talents superior to those of the other boys, he had his arms full.

During his years as a baggage-handler, Paige earned his now-famous nickname "Satchel." Always eager for more, young Leroy Paige would soon step outside the bounds of the law. Most accounts of the "Satchel" nickname origin say Paige earned it because, often carrying many bags at once, his friends told him he looked like a "satchel tree." But as with most stories surrounding his life, it's often difficult to determine what is true and what is part of the Satchel Paige mythology. Mark Ribowsky wrote in Don't Look Back that one of Satchel's childhood friends, Willie Hines, came up with the famous moniker.

As Hines recalled, "One day [Paige] decided to run off with one of the bags. The man gave it to him and he broke and ran with it. That fella caught him and slapped him hard, in the face, and took it back. That's when I named him Satchel, right on that day." Hines, aware of the many versions of how Paige earned his nickname, added, "All those years he said he got the name 'cause he carried satchels. Hell no—it's 'cause he stole 'em!"

Paige's tendencies towards mischievous behavior at the train yards followed him through childhood, and by the age of ten, he was a budding thief. Stealing bicycles or toys, throwing bricks or rocks, or getting in fights—if there was something to be done to thwart authority, Paige was first in line. He understood that in order to survive as a black youth in Mobile, he had to have an attitude and make himself known. And he wanted to be known. He wanted to be the kid others looked up to or avoided or talked about.

In Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, Paige reflects with a "profound eloquence" on the antisocial tendencies of his youth. "Maybe I got into all those fights," he recalled, "because I found out what it was like to be a Negro in Mobile. Even though you're only seven, eight, or nine, it eats at you when you know you got nothing and can't get a dollar. The blood gets angry." Paige wanted out of Mobile, but he wasn't sure how to get there.

The life of petty crime came to an end when, at 12-years-old, he was caught stealing rings from a jewelry store and sentenced to five-and-a-half years at the Mount Meigs Negro Reform School. His mother, who could do no more for him, gave in to the police's recommendation that Satchel be sent away. Although he'd wanted to get out of the city, this was not what he had in mind. While at the Meigs school, however, Paige would discover his passion and gift for baseball. He'd played some ball at the W.H. Council School in Mobile and spent some time in the ballparks back home, but that was mostly sweeping the grandstands or mowing the grass for extra money. At the Meigs School, Satchel would embark on a baseball path that defined the rest of his life.

Chronology

1906 Born July 7 in Mobile, Alabama, to Josh and Lula Paige
1913 Works as baggage handler at local railroad station where he gains nickname "Satchel"
1918 Sentenced to five-and-a-half years at the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. Baseball becomes part of his life
1924 Joins the Mobile Tigers, a local black baseball team
1926 At 19 years old makes professional baseball debut with Chattanooga Black Lookouts
1929 Plays winter baseball in West Indies and Latin America
1934 Joins Bismarck team in North Dakota. Marries Janet Howard, a nineteen-year-old waitress
1934 Pitches two no-hitters on July 4 in two different cities on the same day (Pittsburgh and Chicago)
1936 Returns east to play for Pittsburgh Crawfords
1937 Accepts offer to play for Trujillo Stars in the Dominican Republic
1938 Pitches in the Mexican League and suffers shoulder injury
1938 Joins B team of Kansas City Monarchs
1939 Pitching arm improves, becomes ace pitcher for Monarch's A team (they win Negro American League title in 1939, '40, and '41)
1942 Paige becomes the highest-paid player in all of baseball
1943 Janet Howard and Satchel Paige divorce
1947 Marries Lahoma Brown, with whom he eventually fathers eight children
1948 Signs contract with Cleveland Indians, at 42 years old, becomes oldest rookie, and first African American to pitch in American League as a reliever
1948 Becomes first African American to pitch in the World Series
1951 Returning to Major League ball for first time since 1949, signs with St. Louis Browns
1956 Signs with Birmingham Black Barons (Negro League), at age 50, to play and manage
1966 Makes final big league appearance for Kansas City Athletics
1968 Runs for seat in Missouri state legislature and loses
1969 Atlanta Braves put Paige on their roster to allow him a sufficient number of days for a major league pension
1971 Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
1979 Installed in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
1982 Dies of a heart attack at his Kansas City home, June 8

Awards and Accomplishments

1952 Voted to appear in Major League All-Star game
1953 Voted to appear in Major League All-Star game
1971 Named to Baseball Hall of Fame
1979 Inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
Satchel Paige - Chronology [next]

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about 7 years ago

this is a great passage

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about 5 years ago

used this for a report

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almost 7 years ago

this is a beast page

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about 10 years ago

cool lil mama Im doing a project on Negro baseball league my boy satchel doin his thang ya heard; keep it real satchel RIP REST IN PEACE

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about 6 years ago

Very Helpful ;) 1

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almost 10 years ago

i am doing a project on satchel paige for my social studies class and i would just like to thank this web site for helping me. thank you

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over 10 years ago

Satchel's father's name was John not Josh

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almost 10 years ago

yey!..im doing a report about Satchel Paige and this info gave me an easy report to do..

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almost 5 years ago

love the passage

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about 6 years ago

i have a schocle studys proget and i used thib page