Oct 2, 2023
St. Louis is the home of many baseball legends, players like Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson. But there's one legendary pitcher who had a long and storied history with the city of St. Louis, even though he never played for the Cardinals. That Hall of Famer was Satchel Paige, who spent most of his career playing in the Negro Leagues. ------
Podcast Transcript: I'm Adam Kloppe, Public Historian at the Missouri History Museum, and Here’s History on 88.1 KDHX. ------
St. Louis is the home of many baseball legends, players like Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Gibson. But there's one legendary pitcher who had a long and storied history with the city of St. Louis, even though he never played for the Cardinals. In fact, he didn't even play in Sportsman's Park until he had already been a pro for almost 15 years. He's a Hall of Famer and considered one of the 20 greatest baseball players of all time. He is Leroy “Satchel” Paige. ------
The first time St. Louisans got a look at Paige they could have been forgiven for thinking that he wasn't that special. The year was 1927 and Paige was pitching in one of his first games for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League, who were in St. Louis visiting the fabled St. Louis Stars. In the game Paige started, he didn't even make it out of the first inning. In fact, he hit the first three batters he faced. The third batter, Stars catcher Mitchell Murray was so sure that Paige was targeting him that he chased Paige around the field with his bat, starting a massive brawl between the clubs. ------
Though Paige's career got off to a rocky start in St. Louis, he soon became one of the most recognizable names in Negro League baseball. By 1941, Paige was such a star that two promoters organized a July 4th game at Sportsman's Park to be played between Paige’s Kansas City Monarchs and the Chicago American Giants, another Negro League team. But Paige was the star. He featured in nearly every advertisement for the game that ran in the city's newspapers. The game was a massive success. Over 19,000 Black and white baseball fans in St. Louis came out that day to watch Paige, and in subsequent years, several more Negro League games featuring Paige were scheduled at Sportsman's Park. ------
But Paige’s ties to St. Louis don't stop there. In 1951, only four years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color line, the 45-year-old Satchel Paige signed with the St. Louis Browns. Over the next three seasons, Paige would pitch over 300 innings for the Browns, and he was so good that he became the first Black pitcher selected to the American League All Star Team in 1952. He left the Browns after the 1953 season, but returned to the major leagues for one game with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. In that game, he pitched three innings and even struck out a batter. Not bad for a 59-year-old. ------
Here's History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri History Museum. I'm Adam Kloppe and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis.