Satchel Paige

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige External, perhaps baseball’s greatest pitcher ever, was born on July 7, ca. 1906, in Mobile, Alabama. Paige earned his nickname, Satchel, as a young boy carrying bags at railroad stations for passengers. After being convicted of petty theft, he was placed in a black reform school where he began refining his baseball skills. Five years later, the lean, long-armed Paige began pitching professionally for several teams in the Negro Southern Association, the Negro American League, and the Negro National League.
Satchel Paige
St. Louis Brown’s pitcher Satchel Paige. Bob Lerner, Photographer, Sept 30, 1952. Prints & Photographs Division

In the late Thirties, any Negro League club could have beaten any white major league team. The best team in the world was the New York Yankees then, and if we played them with the Crawfords or Grays, they’d have had to go like hell to beat us.

Satchel Paige, When the Game was Black and White: the Illustrated History of the Negro Leagues, by Bruce Chadwick (New York: Abbeville Press, 1992), 84.

Paige’s pitching prowess drew huge crowds. A natural showman, Paige enjoyed driving from game to game in his Cadillac convertible. He also owned a bus and several airplanes with Satchel Paige’s All-Stars written on the side. Barred from the major leagues because of his race, Paige showcased his skills by barnstorming across the country, pitching for any team willing to meet his price, and proving his mettle in organized exhibition games against the best players of the day. The exhibition games were extremely popular and provided one of the few opportunities for players in the U.S. to compete in integrated games:

I liked playing against Negro League teams, but I loved barnstorming. It gave us a chance to play everybody and go everywhere and let millions of people see what we could do. I just loved it. I’d have played every day of the year if I could.

Satchel Paige in When the Game was Black and White: the Illustrated History of the Negro Leagues by Bruce Chadwick (New York: Abbeville Press, 1992), 69.

Paige’s barnstorming years marked the pinnacle of his pitching career. He and Dizzy Dean, another legendary Hall of Fame pitcher, formed two barnstorming teams—one white and one black—which moved across the country in 1932.

His feats in such games became part of baseball mythology. Many a fan recounts a story about a game in which Paige intentionally walked the bases loaded with major leaguers, told his fielders to sit down, and then struck out the side.

Rob Ruck, “Paige, Satchel,” in African American Lives, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks, editors (Oxford University Press, New York, 2004) 648.

In 1934, Paige beat Dean in four of six exhibition games while Dean was at the height of his career. To learn more about the barnstorming days, view the webcast featuring Timothy Gay discussing his 2010 book, Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson. Many black players went to the Caribbean and Latin America, where the teams all were integrated. Paige pitched for several Latin American teams during the winters, including, in 1937, one in the Dominican Republic organized by dictator Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo hired some of the best players money could buy, including Paige, in order to win. His Dragones de Ciudad Trujillo team won the 1937 Dominican baseball championship in the its last inning. When Paige and his Trujillo team-mates returned to the states, they were banned from the Negro National League for the remainder of the 1937 season. In response, they formed their own well-received touring team for the duration of the ban.
Back cover of 1953 Baseball Game Program for Kansas City Monarchs and Indianapolis Clowns. By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s/. Branch Rickey Papers, Manuscript Division
Between 1939 and 1942, Paige’s pitching took the Kansas City Monarchs to four consecutive Negro American League Pennants and to another pennant in 1946. On July 19, 1948, Paige followed former Kansas City Monarchs teammate Jackie Robinson into the major leagues when he signed with Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians, becoming the American League’s oldest rookie at age forty-two. Robinson broke the color line in 1947, when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Paige pitched for three American League teams: the Cleveland Indians (1948-1949), the St. Louis Browns (1951-1953) and the Kansas City Athletics (1965). At fifty-nine years old in 1965, he was the oldest player ever in the Major Leagues. The right-hander was also black baseball’s best-known performer with a career that spanned half a century. By combining showmanship with talent, he became a baseball legend. In 1971, he was the first Negro League player elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Paige died in 1982.

“To tell you the truth,” Paige said in 1981, “all over Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, South America, everywhere I played, I had bouquets on my shoulder… I just could pitch. The Master just give me an arm… You couldn’t hardly beat me.”

Rob Ruck, “Paige, Satchel,” in African American Lives, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks, editors (Oxford University Press, New York, 2004) 648.

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Solomon Islands

On July 7, 1978, the Solomon Islands, an archipelago of 992 islands northeast of Australia, became an independent nation, ending eighty years of British rule. The region was relatively isolated from European contact until the late nineteenth century when several European nations began to look to the islands as a source of labor for plantations in Fiji and Australia.

Two warriors in battle dress [Solomon Islands]. William Henry Jackson, photographer, 1895. World’s Transportation Commission. Prints & Photographs Division

The World’s Transportation Commission, a traveling delegation organized to promote U.S. trade and gather information about foreign markets and foreign transportation systems, visited the Solomon Islands in 1895. Commission photographer William Henry Jackson captured striking images of the Pacific Island cultures that had been relatively isolated from Western influence prior to the twentieth century.

Warriors with spears in ornamented war canoe [Solomon Islands]. William Henry Jackson, photographer, Summer 1895. World’s Transportation Commission. Prints & Photographs Division

To find more photographs of Pacific Island culture at the turn of the century, select New Zealand, Oceania, or Fiji from the World’s Transportation Commission Trip Itinerary. Search the Today in History collection on World’s Transportation Commission to locate more features on nations visited by the commission.