Satchel Paige shuts down Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox faced Satchel Paige when he was 59-years-old and he shut them down for his three innings.
What could have been?
In 1945, the Boston Red Sox had the chance to sign three Black players, including Jackie Robinson and a future Rookie of The Year in Sam Jethroe. The try out was a mere formality to satisfy civil rights activists regarding the integration of baseball. There was no chance any Blacks would be in Boston unless they wore the uniform of the Braves or a visiting team. Boston finally became the last team to remove the race barrier with the promotion of Pumpsie Green in 1959 and shortly followed by Earl Wilson.
That is certainly “old news” to Red Sox fans since it has long been publicized.
The Negro Leagues had many stars that certainly performed not as racial equals, but talent equals and then some. Many White players drifted to the Caribbean and South and Central America in the winter to pick up extra money. They would play on integrated teams since that was the custom. Also, there are many instances where Black teams and White teams would barnstorm together to take advantage of the lucrative post-season market.
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When the Negro Leagues are mentioned one player invariably rises above the others and some may have been an incredible talent combined with a level of self-promotion that would put to shame the most experienced PR professionals – Satchel Paige.
Just how would Paige have done in the majors in his prime? There are many anecdotal references from White players, managers, coaches and owners that clearly demonstrate a consistent opinion that Paige would have been an elite hurler. But Paige eventually made it to the majors thanks to another well-known promoter who was also an astute judge of talent – Bill Veeck.
Veeck – a long time baseball man – purchased the Cleveland Indians in 1946 and in 1947 integrated the American League with the signing of Larry Doby. The following year Veeck signed 42-year-old Paige to a contract. A Veeck stunt? Think again – the Indians were in a heated pennant race and in a one game playoff defeated the Boston Red Sox to advance to the World Series. Paige finished 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 21 games. Paige appeared in the World Series against the Braves and pitched a clean 0.2 innings.
Paige was released after the next season and then resurfaced with the St. Louis Browns for three seasons in which he was named to the All-Star team twice, but that Paige concluded his stay with a career record of 28-31 and at age 46 was back to the touring circuit.
Charles O. Finley was a self-promotor with an immense ego and a touch of being an innovator. Baseball gimmicks were nothing new to Charlie O. and in 1965 he came up with bringing Paige back to the majors at age 59 to pitch against the Red Sox. This was a laughable moment or was it?
Paige faced the Boston Red Sox in Kansas City at the old Municipal Stadium on September 25th. Neither the Red Sox or A’s were going anywhere but the basement or close to it in the standings. As a promotion, only 9,289 fans came out to see the game so it could be classified as a PR failure, but for Paige an artistic success.
The Red Sox had some decent bats in the lineup with Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, hard hitting Dalton Jones, All-Star Felix Mantilla and Lee Thomas who hit 22 home runs for the season. For the Red Sox Bill Monbouquette – who would lose 18 games – took the hill.
The only hit the Red Sox had was by Yastrzemski, who hit a double in the first inning. Yaz also had seen his father play against Paige in a semi-pro game on Long Island. The rest of the Sox lineup did little against the combination of changing speeds, control, and quirky delivery that the ancient Paige administered to the “children” he faced.
Paige – never a very good hitter – took his cuts against Mombo and struck out. A similar fate that Monbouquette enjoyed against Paige who left after his three innings and a 1-0 lead. Eventually, the KC bullpen collapsed and Boston went on to finish with a 5-2 win.
Next: Red Sox Send Rusney Castillo To Minors
Municipal Stadium is gone, but close by where the old ballpark stood is the Negro Leagues Museum – an appropriate setting since the most famous and successful of Negro League teams was the Kansas City Monarchs who played at Municipal Stadium. And their most noted player was Paige.