In 1930 Leroy (Satchel) Paige beat Babe Ruth's major league all-stars handily, striking out 22. In 1947 he beat Bob Feller's major league all-stars 8-0, striking out 15. In 1948, at age 42, he was finally signed by a major league team, the Indians. (He drew 72,000 to his first game in Cleveland.) The American League handicapped him slightly by banning his "hesitation" pitch, but he saw the justice of it: "It was pretty tough on those boys having to play against somebody like me. They'd had expensive coaches and guys like that to teach them how to throw. They didn't have to figure things out for themselves."
Paige's intermittent major league career ended in 1965, leaving him 158 days short of the five years required to draw the minimum pension. Learning that Satchel had been shortchanged by baseball and feeling they could give their fans something to talk about, the Atlanta Braves last week signed Paige as a pitcher-coach. His contract will run through the 1969 season.
At a press conference in Atlanta, Paige was asked about his pitching prospects. "I'll just have to get out there and see how I unfold," he said. "I got bloopers, loopers and droopers. I got a jump-ball, a screwball, a wobbly ball, a hurry-up ball, a nothin' ball and a bat dodger." Asked about his age, he appeared not to be satisfied with recently discovered evidence that says he is 62. "They've done a lot of investigating," he said, "and to tell the truth, it's got where it puzzles me myself. They couldn't find my record in Mobile, because the jail had moved and the judge had died."
It is good, if incongruous, to see Satch get a chance to be a five-year man, like Mike de la Hoz and Galen Cisco. But that gesture will hardly acquit major league baseball of neglecting him—or of cheating itself out of 20 years of great pitching and press conferences.