October 21, 2019

Let’s spend a few moments with Leroy Robert Paige, baseball’s greatest pitcher

Satchel Paige, the best pitcher of all time,* is wonderfully remembered in “Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick,” a biography of the legendary team owner and promoter by Paul Dickson.

(I’m sure there’s a great biography of Paige as well, but, for the moment, I’ve read the Veeck book, which was published in 2012).

According to Dickson’s book:

Eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball and the National League in 1947, Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians, integrated the American League by signing outfielder, Larry Doby. The following season, acting on the advice of Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, he signed a 42-year-old rookie named Satchel.

Satchel Paige, back row, third from left, with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932.

 

Before they signed him, however, Paige was invited to a tryout in Cleveland. Veeck was there, as were two future Hall of Famers: slugger Hank Greenberg, best known for his years with the Detroit Tigers, and Indians player, Lou Boudreau.

Paige, always supremely confident in his abilities, warmed up by “jogging about halfway around the park, flipped two balls underhanded and declared himself ready.”

He then hands Boudreau a folded-up handkerchief and tells him to place it on various parts of the plate. That’s where Satchel is going to throw the ball.

“Seven or eight of those pitches were right over the handkerchief, and those that missed, didn’t miss by much.”

Boudreau, who hit .355 in 1948, steps in and struggles to connect on two pitches. One was barely a base hit, the other a grounder. Greenberg was prepared to hit as well, but he has seen enough.

“Just don’t let him get outta here unsigned alive,” he tells Veeck.

That was the start of a relationship between Veeck and Paige that would see the two of them work together in Cleveland, St. Louis (the Browns, not the Cardinals) and what was then the Triple-A Miami Marlins.

The Browns were never any good, including in 1952 when the team won only 64 games. But Paige, by then in his mid-40s, won 12 games that season with a 3.07 ERA.

The legend of Satchel gets even better. Paige, now 48, joins the Triple-A Miami Marlins in 1955 after Veeck and two friends buy Triple-A Syracuse and move the team to south Florida.

Miami manager Don Osborn is underwhelmed at the thought of Paige on his team, saying he expects to use him in exhibition play but not regular games. Veeck replies that his decision to sign Paige is not a stunt and tells Osborn to line up his nine best players.

Anyone who gets a clean hit off Paige will be paid $10, Veeck says.

“Paige retires all nine and Osborn adds him to the roster.”

He turned 49 that season, and when Paige celebrated his birthday he suggested he might pitch until he was 70. He almost did. In 1965, Paige, now 59, pitched three innings of scoreless baseball for the Kansas City Athletics against the Boston Red Sox.

*Was he the greatest pitcher of all time? His major league record was 28-31 with a 3.29 ERA, which might seem pedestrian to some, except that he accomplished those results in his 40s and 50s. His Negro League record was 103-61, with 1,231 strikeouts and just 253 bases on balls, according to the Society of American Baseball Research. And then there are the stats that Satchel kept himself.

According to SABR:

The Paige almanac had him pitching in more than 2,500 games and winning 2,000 or so. He professed to have labored for 250 teams and thrown 250 shutouts. His per-game strikeout record was 22, against major-league barnstormers, which would have been an all-time record for all of baseball. Other claims that would have set marks: 50 no-hitters, 29 starts in a month, 21 straight wins, 62 consecutive scoreless innings, 153 pitching appearances in a year, and three wins the same day.

I think Satch enjoyed the role of mythmaker. Or maybe it’s all true.

October 14, 2019

The Twins are cursed. But why?

I’m not sure there’s anything that can explain the Twins’ futility against the New York Yankees. Except perhaps a curse. There has to be a curse, right? How else do you go 2-16 against the Yanks in the postseason since 2004? And the record-setting 2019 team, which won 101 games and hit 307 home runs,... Continue Reading »

October 8, 2019

No words, a poem

October 5, 2019

Twins fall to 2-14 against Yankees in postseason

Fucking Yankees. Continue Reading »

October 4, 2019

Fear not, a poem

September 30, 2019

307 home runs, 101 wins and a loss end Twins’ regular season

The Twins dropped their regular-season finale to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, but the club still finished with the second-most wins in team history at 101-61. And they also hit three more home runs in the 5-4 loss to give them 307 for the season, which is one better than the 306 hit by... Continue Reading »

September 28, 2019

Twins’ Berrios gets win No. 14 in final regular season start

Jose Berrios struggled at times during the second half of the season, but any doubts about his post-season readiness likely were eliminated Friday after he struck out nine over six innings in a 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. Berrios went the distance in the rain-shortened affair and improved to 14-8 with a 3.68... Continue Reading »

September 27, 2019

Twins’ youth movement tops Tigers, earns 99th win

As expected, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went with a youthful lineup on Thursday, a day after the team clinched the AL Central and celebrated with a birthday cake and booze, according to team photos and videos. Baldelli turned 38 on Wednesday. Cheech and ChongAka Astudillo and Arraez pic.twitter.com/yYkTQ2yA2W — Kyle Gibson (@kgib44) September 26, 2019... Continue Reading »

September 26, 2019

Twins win! Minnesota wins 12th division title and first since 2010

The 2019 Minnesota Twins booked a ticket to the postseason on Wednesday after they rallied (again) to beat the Detroit Tigers, then watched as the Cleveland Indians fell to the Chicago White Sox. The first-place Twins now lead the second-place Indians by five games with four games left in the season. And that means only... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.