Paige Releases Book, “Pitchin’ Man”

August 24, 1948

Satchel Paige earned his nickname as a baggage handler at a train station growing up in Mobile, Alabama, and since then, he’s become one of baseball’s best-traveled men.

Paige, Bill Veeck’s newest pitcher, is a Negro League and barnstorming legend, and in his new book, “Pitchin’ Man,” he tells Cleveland News scribe Hal Lebovitz about it all.

Paige pitched in the Negro Leagues, first for Gus Greenlee’s Pittsburgh Crawfords and then for the Kansas City Monarchs. But that wasn’t the extent of his pitching career. Paige estimated in the book that he’s pitched anywhere from 130 to 160 games a year.

“I have pitched so many no-hit games, I disremember the number,” he said. “But you can guess as high as you please, nobody else come near it. ‘Cause I had more chances.”

Paige was a regular on barnstorming tours, recalling at one point that he pitched for the Crawfords, Monarchs, Memphis, the Homestead Grays and the House of David barnstorming team (he was the one WITHOUT the beard) – sometimes in the same week!

He didn’t limit his playing career to North America, either. Paige talks about playing in Venezuela, which he liked to sleepwalking; Puerto Rico, which he said enabled him to take a trip to Germany “when Adolf Hitler was just starting to break through his wallpaper,” and in San Domingo – at gunpoint. While there, Paige was pitching for a team that represented Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo, and ended up pitching against a team that represented one of Trujillo’s rivals.

No pressure there.

Paige also talks about the famous players he met – and didn’t meet. He said his one regret is that he was never able to pitch to Babe Ruth, and spoke highly of his former battery mate in Pittsburgh, Josh Gibson. Gibson, who legend has it was the only player to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium, died last year at the age of 36 – before Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke Major League Baseball’s color line.

“If Josh Gibson was alive today, teams would be cutting hogs to get him,” Paige said.

Satch refers to his time with the Indians as his “second childhood.” An arm injury sidelined him for a while, but he signed as a coach with the Monarchs and found himself able to throw again.

The ageless wonder, who said he had stomach problems because of a steady diet of liver while in Mexico (the only Spanish he knew was the word for liver), said he feels good now, with an unorthodox way of keeping in shape.

“The best leg exercise is playin’ pool,” Paige said. “I has walked thousands of miles ’round pool tables. Keeps my eyes sharp and keeps my pockets fulla change.”

Indians manager Lou Boudreau wrote a note preceding the book, describing Paige as a great pitcher and a great addition, saying, “Personally, he is a refreshing combination of on-the-field earnestness and off-the-field good humor. All of us Indians have enjoyed having him with us.”

And Paige is just as thrilled to be a part of the first integrated clubhouse in the American League.

“Everybody plays like brothers,” he said. “I been treated like I been on the Indians for 20 years. I’m just one of the boys.”

Lebovitz said when Veeck signed Satch, Paige promised to pitch his arm off for Veeck, but Paige said he doesn’t have to.

“I ain’t worryin’ about my arm,” Paige said. “It’s always ready. Just two hot baths a day and rub it with olive oil. My arm’s goin’ to last forever.”

Photo: grayco.com

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