28 Black People Who Make White People Uncomfortable (Satchel Paige)
If you haven’t heard the story about Jackie Robinson integrating the Big Leauges then you probably weren’t born in the US. Jackie is the pitcher brought up by White folks as one of their favorite players and is an MLB historical favorite because he proves that they were changing their minds on race and becoming better people (ha). Jackie was young, undeniably talented, stoic, and quietly endured most of the steady and unending racism he faced throughout his career.
Satchel Paige, the seventh Negro player to integrate the Big Leagues and the first pitcher, was almost the polar opposite. Paige and Robinson were teammates in the Negro Leagues and Paige was the most dominant pitcher in the leagues, perhaps one of the most dominant single players in any sports league ever. He was so good that he was brought to the MLB in the middle of the 1948 season at the age of 42. He received votes for MVP and almost won the Rookie of the Year (although he did not consider himself a rookie and vowed to reject the award if given) despite only playing half the season. In the first 6 games he went 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA. He also was the first black pitcher to pitch in a World Series.
When he went to the St. Louis Browns, he was so good that the owner of the team, Rogers Hornsby, a former member of the KKK who had been involved in several racist personnel decisions before, put Paige in the starting rotation. He became the first Black pitcher in the All-Star Game at the age…of 46.
And he was exactly the opposite of Jackie when it came to how he dealt with the new pressures…and the racism. When checking what he carried in his bags, teammates were horrified to discover that he always carried several guns with him. He used to call his white teammates “coons” and “napheads” in public, and shook hands with his teammates outside of the dugout, a MAJOR taboo for black players in the sport. He routinely used brushbacks and pitched at players who used epithets against him on the field. His “hesitation pitch” was so unhittable (even though it broke no rules) that MLB made it illegal.
Jackie may have brought Black players to the MLB, but Satch was the one who made it acceptable to bring Black culture into the game.