Athletics history: Remembering Satchel Paige
By David Hill
Satchel Paige is remembered for his excellence in the Negro Leagues, and an impressive run with the Indians and Browns. But he had one outing with the Kansas City Athletics that truly defied expectations.
Satchel Paige was a star during his time in the Negro Leagues, and was arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history. He was a part of the storied Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Kansas City Monarchs, a pitcher whose ability was only matched by his showmanship and self-promotion. Even in the years after his career came to an end, Paige remained one of the more popular figures in the game.
That popularity was remembered by Charles Finley. With the A’s in their typical location of the American League basement, he needed a reason to bring fans to the ballpark. So, on September 25, 1965, he invited a number veterans of the Negro Leagues to be introduced and honored before the game against the Red Sox. But the big draw was Paige, who he signed to a contract for one game.
Paige was 59 years old at the time, ancient in terms of baseball. The A’s and Paige played his age up, as he sat in a rocking chair between innings and was attended to by a ‘nurse’ who provided him coffee to ‘keep him awake.’
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Then Paige set foot on the mound. After retiring the first batter he faced, Dalton Jones reached second on an error, but was thrown out when he attempted to take third on a pitch in the dirt. Carl Yastrzemski doubled, but Paige escaped the inning by getting Tony Conigliaro to fly out. It took a little time, but Paige was starting to get back into the pitching groove.
That became evident over the next two innings. He set down the side in order both times, striking out Bill Monbouquette in the third inning. Paige departed the game after that inning to a standing ovation, with fans holding lit matches and cigarette lighters over their heads and singing “The Old Grey Mare.” Although Paige left the game with a 1-0 lead, the A’s lost 5-2.
Paige’s outing would not be his last time in Major League Baseball. He was nominally a coach with the Braves in 1968 and 1969, allowing him to qualify for a pension, although his ‘coaching duties’ were typically done from his couch. Paige would also become the first player inducted into the Hall of Fame due to his performance in the Negro Leagues, being honored in 1971.
Satchel Paige had just one appearance with the Athletics, but it was notable. At 59 years old, he was still capable of getting major league hitters out.