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'Satchel': The Story Of An American Baseball Legend

Cover: 'Satchel'

Satchel Paige was a dazzling pitcher with a scorching fastball. A decade before Jackie Robinson became the first black player in Major League Baseball, Paige helped integrate the sport by touring the country and playing exhibition games with white players.

He delighted crowds by walking out onto the field before the game and throwing a fastball repeatedly over a matchbook or a postage stamp set on home plate.

Larry Tye, the author of the biography Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, describes Paige's pre-game performance as the show before the show.

"[Satchel was] a circus act that understood that there was a thin line between entertaining a crowd and demeaning himself, and he would never take it to the point where he was doing anything to demean himself," Tye says.

Tye describes the challenges of playing and touring for the Negro leagues in the days of Jim Crowe.

"Players on Satchel's team and on lots of other Negro league teams were shot at. They watched lynchings happen. ... Knowing the particular byways of Jim Crow in every small town you went was essential for a guy like Satchel to stay alive," Tye says.

Despite his talents, Paige was also repeatedly passed over because of his race. Even after his baseball career ended, Paige never got to realize his dream of managing a baseball team.

In 1971, he was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first player to make the hall based on his career in the Negro leagues.

This interview was originally broadcast on June 8, 2009.

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