“A Pitch from Satchel Paige” is a two-act, one-character theatrical play written by my former IBM colleague, news reporter and friend Jim Keller and his father Loren Keller, a veteran poet, actor and writer.
Recently, I attended a staged reading of the production, directed by Tony DiFabbio with Mark Hamilton playing the part of Satchel Paige. The show provides a unique perspective on the life of Satchel Paige, one of the biggest stars in the Negro Leagues and one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
Throughout, Satchel talks of the challenges of growing up in a segregated society and playing in a league where only the baseball was white. He speaks of his wide and varied assortment of pitches, and of playing in the Negro Leagues with legendary ballplayers like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard and Buck O’Neil.
Satchel Paige had hoped to become the first black man to play in the majors, but that honor instead went to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. A year later, Satch signed on with the Cleveland Indians, and helped lead the team to the 1948 World Series. Paige was 6-1 that year with a 2.48 ERA…at the ripe old age of 42.
Nearly 20 years later, in 1965, Paige came back with the Kansas City A’s to face the Boston Red Sox. He threw three scoreless innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced. At 59, old Satch was still going strong.
Gilbert Hernandez Black, a former pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns and a Negro League historian, also attended the play, and afterwards regaled the audience with stories from a bygone era.
RELATED BLOG: Satchel Paige: Great Early and Great Late
Here is one man’s opinion of the biggest wins in Mets history, ranked in order. The Mets are looking to make some more history beginning tonight when they face the Royals in the World Series.
1. The Amazins: Perhaps the most improbable champions ever, the Miracle Mets overcome a 3-0 deficit and defeat the Orioles 5-3 to take the 1969 World Series in five games. Series MVP Donn Clendenon and Al Weis homer and Jerry Koosman hurls a complete game as the Mets go from the outhouse to the penthouse.
2. Gets past Buckner: The heavily favored Mets, 108-game winners, are a strike away from elimination in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Then base hits by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, a wild pitch that plates the tying run, and a Mookie Wilson grounder that eludes Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lead the Mets to a 6-5 win over the stunned Red Sox.
3. Seventh heaven: Two nights later, after a rainout, the Mets win their second World Series with an 8-5 win over the Red Sox in Game 7. Series MVP Ray Knight and Darryl Strawberry hit home runs to rally the Mets, who trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning.
4. You gotta believe: In 1973, the Mets languished in last place as late as August 30, then won 21 of their last 29 games and beat the Cubs 6-4 to take the NL East. Buoyed by reliever Tug McGraw, who coined the rallying cry “You gotta believe,” and manager Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” the Mets beat the Reds for the NL pennant, but lost a seven-game World Series to the A’s.
5. 16 innings: The Mets were down 3-0 entering the ninth inning (detect a theme here) before coming back and eventually prevailing 7-6 over the Astros in 16 innings in a dramatic showdown at the Astrodome to win the 1986 NLCS in six games. Celebration above.
6. Daniel Boom: Daniel Murphy turns into Babe Ruth right in front of our very eyes, homering in a playoff game for a record sixth consecutive game. Murphy’s blast earns the Mets an 8-3 win and a four-game sweep over the Cubs and this year’s NL pennant. Murphy takes NLCS MVP honors.
7. Wild night: This 1985 classic started as a July 4 game and finally ended at nearly 4 am the next morning. The Mets beat the hometown Braves 16-13 in 19 innings, after Atlanta pitcher Rick Camp tied it with an unlikely 18th-inning home run.
8. Yes, Yes: The date was June 1, 2012. After more than half a century and 8,020 games, left-hander Johan Santana pitches the first no-hitter in franchise history in a victory over the Cardinals at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 8-0.
9. 9/11/2001: As New York and all America grieves over the the 9/11 attacks, Mike Piazza, left, gives us something to smile about. Piazza belts a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Braves. “A small miracle,” is how Mets’ manager Bobby Valentine described the blast.
10. First win: After nine straight losses to open their inaugural 1962 season, the Mets finally won their first game on April 23. They beat the Pirates 9-1 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh behind the five-hit pitching of left-hander Jay Hook. Felix Mantilla and Elio Chacon each had three hits, and Chacon, Bobby Smith and Hook each knocked in a pair of runs to pace the attack The Mets won just 40 games the whole year.
10 honorable mentions in chronological order
Jim Hickman becomes the first Met to hit for the cycle (a natural cycle at that) as the Mets beat the Cardinals 7-3 in this 1963 game at the Polo Grounds…Tom Seaver retires the first 25 Cubs before Jimmy Qualls singles with one out in the ninth. Seaver finishes with a one-hitter in the Mets 4-0 win which set the tone for the 1969 season…Center fielder Tommy Agee makes a pair of stunning catches and Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combine to blank the Orioles 5-0 in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series… Lenny Dykstra’s two-run, walk-off homer leads the Mets to a 5-4 win in Game 3 of the 1986 ALCS…Dave Milicki hurls a nine-hit shutout as the Mets beat in the Yankees 6-0 in their first inter-league meeting in 1997… Al Leiter pitches a brilliant two-hitter as the Mets beat the Reds 5-0 in a 1999 playoff tiebreaker game in Cincinnati…Todd Pratt homers in the 10th inning as the Mets beat the Diamondbacks 4-3 and wrap up the NLDS in four games…Robin Ventura hits a grand slam single as the Mets beat the Braves 4-3 in Gave 5 of the 1999 NLCS…Trailing 8-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, the Mets score 10 runs, capped by a Mike Piazza three-run homer, and beat the Braves in this 2000 contest at Shea Stadium…Mike Hampton pitches a three-hitter and the Mets advance to the first Subway Series in 44 years with a 7-0 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS.
By the time MVP Daniel Murphy hit his fourth home run of the NLCS, the Cubs were finished once again. No surprise. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – might as well be the motto for the Chicago Cubs, the most ill-fated team in all of sports. Ever.
Once upon a time the Cubbies were kings of baseball. Chicago won three straight pennants beginning in 1906, and captured the World Series in both 1907 and 1908, becoming the first team to repeat and the first to win two straight championships. That’s when it all went wrong.
Charles Murphy, the Cubs unpopular owner and president, seemingly changed fortunes forever when he felt he was snubbed by his players, who refused to allow him to attend a celebration dinner with songwriter George M. Cohan after the 1908 World Series. Murphy had been under fire by players and fans alike by selling tickets for a profit, making it difficult for loyal fans to purchase Series ducats. And so it begins.
Two years later, in 1910, the Cubs once again won the National League pennant, only to lose the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. A’s right fielder Danny Murphy (no relation to the Mets second baseman….at least we don’t think so) led all players with 9 RBIs. The Cubbies went on to win pennants in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, but lost the World Series each time.
In 1945, shortly after World War II ended, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, was asked to leave a World Series game against the Tigers at Wrigley Field because the smell of his pet goat was bothering fans. An outraged Murphy allegedly declared, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” That was 70 years ago, and the Cubs haven’t returned to the World Series since. Oh yeah, the goat’s name was Murphy. Figures.
The Cubs led the NL East race for a good portion of the 1969 season, only to fall prey to the Amazin’ Mets. The architect of that Mets team was general manager Johnny Murphy – the same Johnny Murphy who registered a save against the Cubs in 1938 as part of a four-game Yankee sweep. One of the Mets play-by-play broadcasters in 1969 was Bob Murphy.
In 1984, the Cubs took a 2-0 lead against the Padres in the NLCS, then lost three in a row. Those games were played at what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Jack Murphy, a sports editor and columnist with the San Diego Union, was Bob Murphy’s brother.
In 2003, the Cubs were six outs from the World Series when a Chicago fan, Steve Bartman, drew the ire of the Wrigley Field crowd when he prevented Moises Alou from catching a foul fly down the left field line. You didn’t hear it here, but Bartman had a dog named Murphy. Not.