Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baseball Nostalgia

Satchel Paige versus Joe Dimaggio, back when Paige was at the height of his powers and Dimaggio was a minor league phenom. I'm wondering why this was never made into a movie...
Paige arrived for his first appearance in the Bay Area with a 17-game winning streak during which he outdueled major leaguers Dizzy Dean and Schoolboy Rowe in barnstorming matchups. He had faced the likes of Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Hack Wilson and Pepper Martin, all future Hall of Famers.

Two days before the game, Paige told the Oakland Post-Enquirer this would be his toughest game. "Never before have I faced so many great hitters in one game," he said. "I've licked teams with three or four big-leaguers, but a whole club of them ... this ain't going to be easy. However, I expect to whip 'em."

About Gehrig, Paige told the Post-Enquirer: "Gehrig is a powerful hitter, but he can be fooled."

The so-called Satchel Paige All-Stars featured just one other player from the Negro Leagues, catcher Ebel Brooks of the New York Black Yankees. The rest of Paige's lineup consisted of young black players from the Oakland playgrounds, creating what should have been a mismatch.

At times, it must have felt like one to the big leaguers. Paige struck out 12, including Suhr and Johnny Vergez three times apiece. He allowed just five hits, only three through nine innings.

DiMaggio was hitless in three appearances until the 10th, when he beat the setting sun to slap a single up the middle and off the glove of Paige, driving home the winning run in a 2-1 victory for the major leaguers.

...DiMaggio later called Paige the greatest pitcher he ever faced.
(hat tip: Craig Calceterra) One wonders, of course, why baseball didn't erase the color line when even its best players knew that many black players were their equals, and some, like Paige, were among the best in the game. At the end of the day, events like this probably helped pave the way for Jackie Robinson, but it's pretty clear major league baseball and most of America missed out on a lot of special moments due to the evils of racism.

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