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July 28, 1958
Demarche on the Khimki
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July 28, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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The Pitching Man

Usually at this season, a Mantle or a Mays is a day or two ahead of Babe Ruth's home run record, but when a Mantle or a Mays fails, inevitably, to break it at the long season's ending, he does not go to jail. But now in Miami, the celebrated old pitching man for the Miami Marlins is going straight to jail unless he finishes the season in a heroic fashion; Leroy (Satchel) Paige faces a 12-day sentence in the county stockade by latest count, for a highway violation and driving with a license perhaps older than he is.

Last April Judge Charles Snowden found Paige guilty of mashing down too heavy on the accelerator in a 30-mph zone. The judge told Leroy he would spend 20 days in jail when the International League season was over but gave him the opportunity to work off his time in this manner: one day less for each hit he makes; one day less for each run he scores; one day less for each win he pitches; and one day less for each time he strikes out Buffalo's Luke Easter.

At the time Paige kept his own counsel, except to say: "That policeman should of waited just a minute. I was just tuning up when he gave me the whine." Said Easter: "If the judge wanted to make it just right, he should have said Satch would get an extra day in jail for every hit I got off him. That would have kept Leroy in meal money next winter."

Leroy hardly needs the public trough to survive. For 40 years in the Negro leagues and on his hemispheric barnstorming tours, he never climbed the mound without a fat contract stashed in his hip pocket. Today, one of the best pitchers over three innings, Satch does all right at the pay-table. And deservedly; the pitching man's record at week's end was eight wins and five losses, his ERA was 3.23 and the long right arm was as loose as ever. But the opposing pitchers and Easter weren't doing anything about lightening his burden. Paige hadn't gotten a hit in 15 at-bats, nor had he scored a run or struck out Easter. Easter has a whammy on Paige which devils him. Groans Satch: "That Luke don't exactly fall down when I give him the bat-dodger." But if the prospect of looking through prison bars instead of pine trees for quail in October is nettling Satch, he does not show it as he stalks through the league, cool and slow, with his strange, lofty dignity.

Long before Bill Veeck brought him to the Cleveland Indians in 1948, Paige was a mystery man, but he never was a buffoon. The man who thinks so is abruptly rebuffed. Paige has stock answers for those who ask his age. "I try to go along with what they want to hear," he says. "But I'll be 50 in September."

"Paige is about 55," says Veeck, "but more likely a shade more."

Whether Satch will go along with any 50th birthday party remains to be seen. He once was told that the fans in Columbus, Ohio planned a big do for his birthday, which coincided with Satch's appearance there.

"Ain't no birthday," said Paige.

"You can't argue with the calendar," he was told.

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