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EDITORS NOTE: We thought with Major League Baseball finally bringing the Negro League players into the MLB world, it was only appropriate that we brought this column back this week as a tribute to one of the great players of that era. While there were many who made the jump from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues, Paige perhaps had the biggest impact in the 1960s of those who had long careers before the color barrier was broken. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron both played in the Negro Leagues for a short time, but their careers were really made in MLB. Not so for the likes of Paige and others. This is a slice of time for the great Satch.
TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Marykay Honel of Bourbonnais, Il, who correctly stated Hoyt Wilhelm pitched five shutouts in his career as a starting pitcher. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.
TRIVIA QUESTION: While the Boston Red Sox did not have any players on their roster who played in the Negro Leagues, the Boston Braves did. How many Boston Braves players actually spent time in the Negro Leagues. Bonus if you can name them.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Hoyt Wilhelm pitched five shutouts in his career as a starting pitcher in the big leagues.
was the last player to ever get a hit off the great Satchel Paige? A
lot of names might run through your mind considering the man who said he
"pitched long enough to put butts in the seats" spent an entire career
in the Negro Leagues before becoming a big leaguer in 1948.
Before we answer the question let's set the scenario. In September, 1965 the Kansas City A's signed Paige to a contract. Whether it was a stunt by promoter extraordinaire Charlie O. Finley or whether it was a bonafide (usually with Charlie O., the word is "bonehead") attempt to let the fans get one last look at the grand old man. Either way it was a full treat for everyone in baseball, or anyone who just loves the game.
(Actual footage of Satchel Paige earlier in his career.)
Paige was signed on the 10th of September at age 58! The A's were long out of the race and were on their way to a 103 loss season and landing in 10th place in the American League, 43 games back of the Twins. They would finish 10th in attendance with barely over half a million fans entering the ballpark. In fact, they rarely drew more than a few thousand people. On September 24th, they only put 2304 fans into Municipal Stadium.
When it was announced Paige was pitching the night of the 25th, attendance soared. Old Satchel put 9289 "butts in the seats." Four times as many people came out to see the nearly 60 year old hurler compared to the night before. The opponent? The lowly Boston Red Sox who were just four games better than the A's at that point in the season on their way to a ninth place finish.
Satch got the start and for three innings he was untouchable. And that was that. He faced 10 batters in three innings, did not give up a run, struck out one and did not walk a batter. The lone hit was by Red Sox future Hall of Famer, Carl Yasztremski. A harmless double in the first.
Paige began the game getting Jim Gosger to pop out. He ended his string getting Gosger to ground out to short. He faced one over the minimum and was remarkable. He left leading 1-0 in a game the A's eventually lost to Boston, 5-2. He didn't qualify for the win if they had won. He was taken out after three innings with the minimum needed by a starter being five innings. He was relieved for the last time by Diego Segui.
Paige got his final at bat in the big leagues in that game. He struck out.
Paige's career was legendary. There was talk he would be the first player to break the color barrier but that honor went to Jackie Robinson. Hit finally got his chance with the Indians in 1948 and pitched in the World Series. He was 42 and faced two batters, got them out, and also was called for a balk. A rarity at any level, let alone a World Series game. That season he went 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA.
During his Major League career he saved 33 games, or five more than his 28 wins. He lost 31. His 3.29 ERA was respectable, especially for a pitcher who came to the big leagues at an advanced age. He pitched for four other seasons after the initial rookie year. At age 45 he tossed 138 innings and at age 46 he threw another 117. In 1952 he also tossed a pair of shutouts.
Paige passed away in Kansas City in 1982 at the age of 76. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971 as the first of the Hall's Negro League Inductees.
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