July 16, 1948
The Sporting News is renowned as the Bible of baseball, and with good reason. But their comments in the July 14 edition were nothing shy of heresy.
The Sporting News derided Bill Veeck’s signing of ageless Negro League wonder Satchel Paige as a publicity stunt.
“The Sporting News believes that Veeck has gone too far in his quest for publicity, and that he has done his league’s position absolutely no good insofar as public reaction is concerned,” they wrote. “To bring in a pitching ‘rookie’ of Paige’s age casts reflections on the entire scheme of operation in the major leagues.
“To sign a hurler at Paige’s age is to demean the standards of baseball in the big circuits. Further complicating the situation is the suspicion that if Satchel were white, he would not have drawn a second thought from Veeck.”
Veeck addressed that last remark by saying if Paige were white, then he would already be a 20-year veteran and probably hold numerous pitching records. He doesn’t need to add to that statement, but I do.
Bill Veeck is, by his own admission, a hustler. He is also a visionary. He sought to integrate the major leagues four years ago, but was stymied in his attempts to buy the Phillies. He had to settle for integrating the American League with his signing of Larry Doby last year.
Paige said he contacted Veeck after Doby’s signing. “He wrote back sayin’ he didn’t want to sign me ’cause folks might think it was a publicity stunt to attract customers,” Paige said. “This year Mr. Veeck didn’t need a special gate attraction.”
“More than a million had paid to see the team before I joined up. Fact is, he was sure of over two million through advance orders before he signed me.
“He didn’t need me as no gate attraction. He needed me to help win the pennant.”
The Indians are in the thick of a pennant race, and every game counts. Bill Veeck has done plenty of things to increase attendance, with giveaways, renovating the bathrooms, offering babysitting at the park and special ladies days. But his on-field moves have been done with one thing in mind: to win the pennant for the Indians. And Paige’s signing is no different..
Photo: Bob Lerner/Look Magazine (courtesy of the Library of Congress)