“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