Leroy “Satchel” Paige was the most sensational pitcher ever to throw a baseball. During his years in the Negro Leagues he fine-tuned a pitch so scorching that catchers tried to soften the sting by cushioning their gloves with beefsteaks. His career stats — 2,000 wins, 250 shutouts, three victories on the same day — are so eye-popping they seem like misprints. But bigotry kept big league teams from signing him until he was forty-two, at which point he helped propel the Cleveland Indians to the World Series. Over a career that spanned four decades, Satchel pitched more baseballs, for more fans, in more ballparks, for more teams, than any player in history.
Now there is a book worthy of this towering talent and boundary breaker.
In Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, award-winning author and journalist Larry Tye untangles myth from truth about this flawed yet majestic man. Tye shows us Satchel as a self-promoter who selflessly fought to guarantee his teammates richer paydays. He was a Casanova with outsized appetites — and a devoted father who towered over baseball with his skill as well as his shrewdness.
This new book also rewrites our history of the integration of baseball, with Satchel Paige in a starring role. While many dismissed him as a Stepin Fetchit, Satchel was something else entirely: a quiet subversive. He pitched so spectacularly that he drew the spotlight first to himself, then to his all-black Kansas City Monarchs, and inevitably to the Monarchs’ rookie second baseman Jackie Robinson. In the process, Satchel, even more than Jackie, opened the door for African Americans to the national pastime and forever changed his sport and this nation.