In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Satchel Paige becomes the oldest player in Major League history when he makes a start for the Kansas City Athletics at the age of 59. Paige, whose age had always been fuzzy, had been a star in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs three decades earlier. Satchel Paige pitched three innings for the A’s in a home game against the Boston Red Sox, allowing one hit with one strikeout and left with a 1-0 lead.
Leroy Paige was born on July 7, 1982, in Mobile, Alabama. As a boy, Paige would carry bags for passengers at a local train station, earning the nickname Satchel. When he was 12, Satchel Paige was sentenced to six years at juvenile detention for throwing rocks at white kids. While in the reform school prison in Alabama, Paige was taught how to pitch by the Reverend Moses Davis, who worked at the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Law-Breakers in Mount Meigs.
Upon his release, Satchel Paige began pitching in local semi-pro leagues. In 1926, Paige signed his first professional contract with the Chattanooga White Sox of the Negro Southern League. The rubber arm Paige began to draw attention for his ability to strike out nearly every batter he faced. In 1927, Satchel Paige joined the Negro Major Leagues when he was sold to the Birmingham Black Barons.
The 1930s was the golden age of the Negro Leagues, with Satchel Paige becoming the biggest star. The wiry Satchel Paige dazzled with his fastball, often calling his fielders in as he guaranteed he would get a strikeout. Whenever Paige had a chance to play barnstorming events against white players, he showed his greatness. A greatness that in its prime could have been one the best pitchers of all-time had Satchel Paige had a fair chance to play in the majors.
By the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Satchel Paige was already over 40. However, he still impressed all those who watched him as he barnstormed with Bob Feller in the off-season. In 1948, at the age of 42, Satchel Paige finally made it to the big leagues, playing alongside Feller with the Cleveland Indians. Paige posted a record of 6-1 and appeared in the Fall Classic as the Indians won the 1948 World Series. Satchel Paige was released after posting a record of 4-7 in 1949. After spending the 1950 season on a barnstorming tour, the now 45-year-old signed with the St. Louis Browns in 1951. Satchel Paige spent three seasons with St. Louis, posting a record of 18-23 before he was released as the team moved to Baltimore.
After leaving the Browns, Satchel Paige returned to barnstorming tours and played minor league baseball with the Miami Marlins, after turning 50. Paige played sporadically over the next decade, often spending times on barnstorming tours as he was still dazzling spectators with his fastball.
As the 1965 season ended, Owner Charlie O. Finley was looking for ways to draw interest to his last-place Kansas City Athletics. Finely signed Satchel Paige to pitch in the penultimate home game on a Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox and Athletics were battling to stay out of last place as each team was closing in on 100 losses. The Athletics, managed by Haywood Sullivan, entered the game with a record of 57-96, while the Red Sox sat at 60-96 for manager Billy Herman.
While Satchel Paige made the start for Kansas City, Bill Monbouquette made the start for the Red Sox. As the game began, Satchel Paige arose for a rocking chair in the Kansas City bullpen to take the mound. Jim Gosger the first batter Paige faced, popped up to first base. Dalton Jones followed and reached second base on an error by Santiago Rosario at first. Jones was quickly erased as he tried to advance to third on a throw in the dirt. However, a perfect throw by Billy Bryan nailed him at third. The play was fortunate as Carl Yastrzemski doubled one pitch later. Yaz would not sore as Tony Conigliaro flew out to left.
While a “nurse” checked in on ol Satchel, the Athletics scored a run in the first as Bryan singled home Jose Tartabull with two outs. In the second inning, Satchel Paige was flawless as the Red Sox were retired in order. In the third inning, Satchel Paige was perfect again, striking out the opposing pitcher Bill Monbouquette. As he left the mound, Paige was serenaded by fans signing the “The Old Gray Mare” as they raised their cigarette lighters in tribute.
Pitching just three innings, Satchel Paige was not eligible for the win, but with only one hit in three innings, he pitched better than anyone could have hoped. The Athletics stretched the lead to 2-0 in the sixth inning with an RBI by Dick Green. In the seventh inning, Boston began their comeback as Lee Thomas hit a two-run home run by Lee Thomas. The Red Sox would score three runs in the eighth inning with Tony Conigliaro hitting an inside the park home run as Don Mossi was the losing pitcher, with Monbouquette earning a complete-game win.
In 1971, Satchel Paige was enshrined in the Hall of Fame as the first player selected by the Negro League Committee.