Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklySuch disparate baseball greats as Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller declared that Satchel Paige was the best pitcher ever. Born shortly after the turn of the century (he was cagey about his birthdate), Paige, who died in 1982, played in the Negro Leagues from 1921 to 1948, jumping from team to team as the salary dictated. He pitched in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela and joined many barnstorming tours. Because of his high box-office appeal, Paige commanded top-dollar and was often unpopular with poorly paid teammates. Signing on with the Cleveland Indians in 1948, he helped the team win the world championship that year. On the All-Star squads of 1952 and 1953, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971. In this prodigiously researched sports biography, freelance writer Ribowsky astutely captures this complex, often difficult athlete. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Bill OttSatchel Paige once said that all he had to do to get his arm in shape to pitch was shake hands with the catcher. Like most of Paige's oft-quoted public statements, this one reflects both self-promotion and folk wisdom. While Ribowsky does set the record straight, where possible, as to the facts of Paige's life and baseball career, he wisely recognizes that Ol' Satch really was as close as this century has come to a mythic figure. His phenomenal longevity as a baseball pitcher--first in the Negro Leagues in the twenties and then, finally, in the integrated major leagues, beginning in 1948 at age 42 (more or less)--stands as one of the most remarkable athletic feats in history, especially when the sheer durability of Paige's arm is combined with its effectiveness. Nobody knows for sure just how many games Paige won (he claimed 2,000), but we do know he was 31-4 with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1931, pitching 62 consecutive scoreless innings and winning 21 games in a row. Even more amazing than the statistics, though, was the man himself: "the first free agent with an attitude," Paige was a free-living, high-stepping superstar decades before the term was coined. He was also a bitter black man who used the Stepinfetchit image to his advantage in his later years but who never lost a "dissonant anger about being shafted" by the white baseball establishment. Placing Paige's incredible story in the context of the equally fascinating history of black baseball, Ribowsky has created a marvelous piece of Americana and resurrected a genuine American hero--part Babe Ruth, part Will Rogers, but, finally, beyond comparison.
- Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
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