"If You Were Only White"
The Life of Leroy "Satchel" Paige
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Missouri Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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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. I could not begin to thank every individual and ...
Warm-ups: A Prelude
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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 re-cords for a night game with a capacity crowd of 72,434. Concessionaires start-ed running out of food and beverages before the game started. The home team was in a tight pennant race, but that was not the ultimate factor that had ...
1 - Without a Satchel
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Leroy Robert Page (the change in spelling of the last name is a story in it-self) was born on the wrong side of the tracks in a hostile South that had long ago defined him and his kind as just another “throwaway nigger.” There was little or no real expectation that he could rise much above that, except for the faint hope and prayers of those who loved him. The challenges of his environ-...
2 - On the Mount
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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 be-tween sport, reform, and the ideologies of race leaders Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Cornelia Bowen, played out in an educational experi-...
3 - “If You Were Only White”
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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 circum-navigate. 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—which was a tradition at the Mount—a couple of shirts, an extra pair ...
4 - Turning the Paige
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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). Paige ...
5 - Blackballing the Great Depression
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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. Even the Great Depression could not curtail the new Negro movement and the vestiges of the black Renaissance and the ...
6 - How the West Was Won
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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. ...
7 - Baseball Diplomacy
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Satchel Paige was baseball’s foremost globetrotter, the national and inter-national Johnny Appleseed of the game, whose pitching talents and economic importance ignited passions across the borders, north and south. He rare-ly traveled fewer than forty thousand miles a year, throughout the United States and to foreign shores, wherever duty called and the price was right, ...
8 - The Fugitive
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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 de-fied conventional norms could find themselves at the mercy of white author-ity. In Paige’s case, however, the difference was that the authority he defied was ...
9 - Lazarus
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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 lift-ing my arm, and checking my back, he studied and thought for what seemed like an hour. Then he turned and looked long at me.” That unnamed physi-...
10 - Double V
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There was one critic who stood fast and did not buy into any of the hoop-la 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. She did not think he deserved to play in the East-West All-Star Game or be admitted ...
11 - Integration
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According to Paige, integration destroyed the Negro Leagues. He was de-fending himself, no doubt, but his early retrospective offered a chilling as-sessment 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. That bust-up came when the Major Leagues ...
12 - Center Stage in the White Arena
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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 jit-terbug and hully gully; laughing, joking, her repeatedly congratulating him; ...
13 - Ninth Inning
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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 cham-pionship season and his anointment by the white Major League. He was a hot item. But, overall, the barnstorming circuit was in a downward spiral. The exceptions were those teams that barnstormed in the Midwest and South, or ...
14 - Extra Innings
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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. In Paige’s case, it had been much later, which afforded him an inordinate amount of time to dazzle the public ...
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Page Count: 375
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: SPORTS & AMERICAN CULTURE
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth