Satchel Paige was a national hero

Satchel Paige helped black ballplayers integrate into the Major Leagues

Cliff Pfenning
May 13, 2022

A veteran of the Negro Leagues starting in 1927 at age 20 with the Birmingham Black Barons, Leroy “Satchel” Paige was credited by many top hitters during his Major League and traveling team career as the hardest thrower in baseball, relying on control and only a fastball.

He pitched professionally in America, Mexico and Cuba for five decades - learning to play the game at a reform school in Alabama at age 17.

Paige was the seventh black player to join the Majors in 1948 when he signed with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the oldest rookie ever at age 42. He was an instant success, winning six of the seven games he started as the team won the World Series. In two of his regular-season starts, more than 70,000 fans showed up to Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which the team shared with the Cleveland Browns. He pitched in one inning during the World Series.

Paige played two seasons with the Indians, and then three seasons with the St. Louis Browns (who became the Baltimore Orioles), earning a spot in the All-Star Game in 1952 and ‘53. In 1952, at age 45, he tied for the team lead in wins with 12, while starting just six games - two of which were complete-game shutouts. Of the 40 games he appeared in as a reliever, he finished 35, earning a team-leading 10 saves.

In 1965, flamboyant owner Charlie O. Finley signed him to pitch one game for the Kansas City Athletics - at age 58. He threw three scoreless innings. He remains the oldest player to appear in a Major League game.

He played briefly for the Portland Beavers in 1961, at age 54.

Baseball recognized him as a legend with the Hall of Fame. He was the first black player inducted in 1971.

No items found.
Cliff Pfenning

Cliff is the publisher of, and has decades of experience in writing, photography, videography and graphic design. He's been a sportswriter in Oregon for more than three decades and has even taught sports broadcasting in Portland. He lives in North Portland in a house built in 1912 that has a backyard deck easily turned into a 'Top Golf' set-up for wiffle golf balls ... and cornhole.