21 June 2006

Paige, LeRoy (Satchel). Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever. 1962: Doubleday, Garden City, NY.

In 2006, the National Baseball Hall of Fame wrapped up a special research effort into the Negro Leagues’ history. They collected box scores from almost every game, and they have finally tabulated statistics for these nearly-forgotten players. They celebrated by electing seventeen new members to the Hall, including former Detroit Stars first-baseman Mule Suttles. A large part of the research has now been released in the new book Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball by Lawrence D. Hogan.

I’m sure that Shades of Glory is a fine book, but I’m reading Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever instead. An autobiography from Satchel Paige, crafted from interviews with David Lipman (who also wrote biographies of Bob Gibson and Branch Rickey), it provides a first-hand look at the Negro Leagues. Paige’s distinctively colorful voice carries a joy we are to assume infected these players, in spite of the harsh circumstances of their professional and personal lives. Yet Satch starts his story several games into his first major league season, when he was forty-one, so we know it all worked out for the man many thought should have broken baseball’s color barrier before Jackie Robinson ever finished college.


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