Indians Sign Satchel Paige, Likely Add to Bullpen

July 7, 1948

Wednesday afternoon, Indians president Bill Veeck surprised all of baseball when he purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Satchel Paige from the Kansas City Monarchs.

Paige becomes only the fourth African-American in the big leagues this season. Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and now Larry Doby and Paige play for the Cleveland Indians. Paige admits to being 39 years old, but it is believed he could be as old as 43. At 6-foot 3-inches and 180 pounds, how much speed is left on his fastball is more important than the numbers on his birth certificate.

“I ain’t as fast as I used to be,” Paige admitted, “but I’m a better pitcher. I used to overpower ’em; now I out-cute ’em.”

Paige worked out Tuesday afternoon at Cleveland Stadium for Veeck, Tris Speaker, Lou Boudreau and Bill McKechnie. Boudreau donned a catcher’s mask and caught the Negro League star, then grabbed a bat and hit against him. All four were impressed enough to encourage Veeck to purchase his contract from Kansas City.

Believed to be one of the ten greatest pitchers of all-time, Paige would have been an imposing 1-2-3 combination with Bob Feller and Bob Lemon if they all hurled together ten years ago. Instead, Paige will likely try to out-cute American League hitters from the bullpen. Regardless of age, Paige claims he’s been pitching professionally for more than 25 years. His arm is so rubbery, he claims to have pitched on 29 consecutive days once and pitched and won 55 complete games in another season.

Most of Paige’s accomplishments have come against the best players in white baseball. Paige barnstorms and plays against the very best of the big leagues. He is believed to have struck out Rogers Hornsby five times in a game. Last fall, he pitched an 8-0 win against a group of Bob Feller All-Stars in California, striking out 16 batters of a team that included Ralph Kiner, Jeff Heath, Eddie Miller, Ken Keltner, Johnny Berardino, Ferris Fain and other big league stars.

In his pitching repertoire, in addition to his fastball, Paige throws overhand, side-arm and underhand. He throws fast curves, slow curves, a blooper ball, screwball, knuckleball, slider and hesitation pitch.

Paige is expected to be in uniform this evening when his old barnstorming opponent, Feller, takes the mound against the Chicago White Sox. The Indians optioned third-string catcher Ray Murray back to Oklahoma City on 24-hour recall.

Photo: Cleveland Memory Project

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