Satchel Paige’s pitching career in baseball took him to nearly every nook and cranny of the nation. If a team could be assembled and a few dollars float his way he’d be there. At the very end of his career while he was in his fifties he barnstormed with a traveling team from Indianapolis.
In 1959 he came to Lima, Ohio with his Indianapolis team. They played a team of local all-stars. The game was held at Simmons Field. Dad and Mom dropped me off at the ball park.
Satchel Paige pitched brilliantly that night. He pitched about three or four innings. He was tall and lean and used his lanky frame to disguise an array of pitches. Several of the Lima all-stars reached for pitches that started out looking like good balls to hit but at the last instant dipped from the strike zone. No two deliveries were alike. It was difficult to time his pitches. I recall a change-up that floated to the batter long after Paige’s follow through.
I had a tablet and pen tucked in my shirt with the hopes of getting the great Satchel Paige’s autograph.
After he was taken out of the game he walked to a nearby camping trailer. I saw him and ran to get his autograph. I held out my pen and tablet. “Mr. Paige, can I have your autograph.” He didn’t even look at me. He walked by as if I wasn’t even there. I was the only kid there. I was crushed.
I watched the rest of the ballgame and waited for Mom and Dad to pick me up. Mom came alone.
I got in the car and told Mom what happened. She dropped the car in neutral, turned off the car, and grabbed my tablet and pen. “Where’s he at?” she said sharply. I pointed to the camping trailer, “He went in there.”
Mom stormed from the car with me behind her. She pounded on the door of the camper with her palm like she was DEA agent at a crack house. A man opened the door. Mom said, “My son paid money to see Satchel Paige pitch and he wanted his autograph and he walked by him like he was dirt.”
The man looked at Mom and me. “Just a minute,” he said. He shut the door. I saw inside the trailer. There were two men in suits and a well dressed woman sitting at a table. I assumed Satchel was sitting where I was unable to see him.
The door opened and without a word the man handed Mom and 8 X 10 picture of Satchel Paige bearing his autograph. My Mom thanked the man and so did I. He said nothing and shut the door.
Mom was not going to let the evening pass without at least a try.
I have only my imagination to tell me what type of treatment Satchel Paige endured over the years. Maybe he just didn’t like white kids. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he just didn’t like to give out autographs.
The week before I saw him play I went to the library and read everything about him. I convinced myself he was the greatest pitcher of the time.
The picture of Satchel Paige has been lost. My parents auctioned many of their household items when I was in the Army.
I don’t desire to have that picture, but if I did it would not be a reminder of one of the greatest pitchers of all time. It’s a reminder of a 5′ 2” mother who would not take ‘no’ for an answer.
That night Mr. Paige faced some pretty good hitters and did pretty good, but his toughest opponent that night was after the game. He did the smart thing and gave my Mom an intentional walk.