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"If You Were Only White"

The Life of Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Donald Spivey

Publication Year: 2012

       
               “If You Were Only White” explores the legacy of one of the most exceptional athletes ever—an entertainer extraordinaire, a daring showman and crowd-pleaser, a wizard with a baseball whose artistry and antics on the mound brought fans out in the thousands to ballparks across the country. Leroy “Satchel” Paige was arguably one of the world’s greatest pitchers and a premier star of Negro Leagues Baseball. But in this biography Donald Spivey reveals Paige to have been much more than just a blazing fastball pitcher.

 

            Spivey follows Paige from his birth in Alabama in 1906 to his death in Kansas City in 1982, detailing the challenges Paige faced battling the color line in America and recounting his tests and triumphs in baseball. He also opens up Paige’s private life during and after his playing days, introducing readers to the man who extended his social, cultural, and political reach beyond the limitations associated with his humble background and upbringing. This other Paige was a gifted public speaker, a talented musician and singer, an excellent cook, and a passionate outdoorsman, among other things.  

 

            Paige’s life intertwined with many of the most important issues of the times in U.S. and AfricanAmerican history, including the continuation of the New Negro Movement and the struggle for civil rights. Spivey incorporates interviews with former teammates conducted over twelve years, as well as exclusive interviews with Paige’s son Robert, daughter Pamela, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, and John “Buck” O’Neil to tell the story of a pioneer who helped transform America through the nation’s favorite pastime.  

 

            Maintaining an image somewhere between Joe Louis’s public humility and the flamboyant aggression of Jack Johnson, Paige pushed the boundaries of segregation and bridged the racial divide with stellar pitching packaged with slapstick humor. He entertained as he played to win and saw no contradiction in doing so. Game after game, his performance refuted the lie that black baseball was inferior to white baseball. His was a contribution to civil rights of a different kind—his speeches and demonstrations expressed through his performance on the mound.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

When the research for this project began in earnest twelve years ago, I had no idea that it would take so long or that the debts owed to so many would be so great. I have been privileged to receive support everywhere I ventured in search of sources on the life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige. The sheer mention of his name still opened doors. ...

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Warm-ups: A Prelude

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pp. xiii-xxvi

Fans started streaming into the ballpark at nine in the morning for a game that would be played ten hours later. The attendance broke all previous records for a night game with a capacity crowd of 72,434. Concessionaires started running out of food and beverages before the game started. ...

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1 - Without a Satchel

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pp. 1-17

What terrified Leroy Page was the unknown that lay ahead. What actually awaited him was an educational experiment that would forever change his life. This period was pivotal in his transformation, and a rich interplay between sport, reform, and the ideologies of race leaders Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Cornelia Bowen, ...

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2 - On the Mount

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pp. 18-36

What terrified Leroy Page was the unknown that lay ahead. What actually awaited him was an educational experiment that would forever change his life. This period was pivotal in his transformation, and a rich interplay between sport, reform, and the ideologies of race leaders Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Cornelia Bowen, ...

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3 - “If You Were Only White”

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pp. 37-57

What awaited Leroy Page was the impenetrable color line of an unchanged Jim Crow South that he would either surrender to or find a way to circumnavigate. When he was discharged from Mount Meigs on December 23, 1923, two days before Christmas, his possessions consisted of a set of brand-new clothes ...

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4 - Turning the Paige

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pp. 58-70

It was of little surprise that the premier African American team in the South, the Birmingham Black Barons, came calling for Paige. Although the Barons had an excellent pitching staff with aces Sam Streeter and Harry Salmon, they needed a fresh arm now more than ever because of their reentry in 1927 into the more prestigious and competitive Negro National League (NNL). ...

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5 - Blackballing the Great Depression

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pp. 71-94

How to survive the worst economic catastrophe in the history of the United States of America, and much of the world, occupied the thoughts and actions of most Americans during the 1930s. This, however, was a period of steady advancement for Satchel Paige. ...

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6 - How the West Was Won

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pp. 95-119

Paige took his baseball pitching talent and high-riding celebrity status on the road, selling his services to the highest bidders. He moved from place to place and team to team, wherever they showed him the money. Playing out West in interracial contests against whites, browns, and various ethnic and religious groups, Paige became much more than just a baseball player. ...

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7 - Baseball Diplomacy

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pp. 120-136

Satchel Paige was baseball’s foremost globetrotter, the national and international Johnny Appleseed of the game, whose pitching talents and economic importance ignited passions across the borders, north and south. He rarely traveled fewer than forty thousand miles a year, throughout the United States and to foreign shores, ...

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8 - The Fugitive

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pp. 137-165

The uppity-Negro complex was the proverbial line in the sand of black-white race relations throughout much of the history of the United States and a guiding principle during Paige’s lifetime. Blacks, like Satchel Paige, who defied conventional norms could find themselves at the mercy of white authority. ...

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9 - Lazarus

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pp. 166-183

Paige went through a parade of different physicians in hopes of finding a cure for his arm. Their diagnosis was the same. “Oh, yes. I remember him. Real good. I remember him because after he was done poking me, and lifting my arm, and checking my back, he studied and thought for what seemed like an hour. ...

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10 - Double V

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pp. 184-203

There was one critic who stood fast and did not buy into any of the hoopla and extravagant praises for Satchel Paige. She maintained that his actions were hurtful to Negro Leagues Baseball and that he violated contractual agreements and the spirit of what Negro Leagues ball was all about. ...

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11 - Integration

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pp. 204-222

According to Paige, integration destroyed the Negro Leagues. He was defending himself, no doubt, but his early retrospective offered a chilling assessment of what happened to Negro Leagues Baseball after the signing of Jackie Robinson: “Even with those guys jumping off, the Negro Leagues didn’t come close to busting up. ...

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12 - Center Stage in the White Arena

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pp. 223-243

July 5, 1948, became one of the happiest days in Satchel Paige’s life, for this was the day, late in the afternoon, that he received a letter from Abe Saperstein asking him, How soon can you be in Cleveland for a tryout with the Indians? Paige and Lahoma danced all over the house and into the night, doing the jitterbug and hully gully; ...

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13 - Ninth Inning

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pp. 244-257

Paige did a fair amount of barnstorming after the 1948 World Series, riding high on his name recognition, which was huge in the afterglow of the championship season and his anointment by the white Major League. He was a hot item. But, overall, the barnstorming circuit was in a downward spiral. ...

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14 - Extra Innings

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pp. 258-282

By the end of 1953 the handwriting on the wall was written in indelible ink. There was no debate among Major League team owners, with, perhaps, the exception of one, that the clock on the wall had run out on the great fireballer, as it does for every athlete sooner or later. ...

Notes

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pp. 283-318

Bibliography

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pp. 319-334

Index

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pp. 335-347


E-ISBN-13: 9780826272805
E-ISBN-10: 0826272800
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219787
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219780

Page Count: 375
Illustrations: 20
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: SPORTS & AMERICAN CULTURE
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth