The following is a guest post by Hanna Soltys, Reference Librarian, Prints & Photographs Division.
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” – Leroy “Satchel” Paige.
Today marks the birthday of Satchel Paige, one of the greatest baseball players to stand on the pitcher’s mound, and we find some timeless reminders of his accomplishments in Prints & Photographs Division collections and other Library of Congress resources.
Because of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) segregation, Paige spent 15 seasons in the Negro Leagues with six different teams and four affiliate teams.
The first team he played for was the Birmingham Black Barons. The Black Barons played at Rickwood Field, which still stands today. Pairing images from the Historic Building Survey with those from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive show how the oldest professional baseball park in the United States has maintained its charm.
After a few seasons playing in Birmingham, Paige went to a couple of teams before joining the Kansas City Monarchs in 1941. He spent seven seasons with the Monarchs, which was the longest period he spent with a team.
Four years later, the Monarchs welcomed a new rookie to the field: Jackie Robinson.
Robinson broke the MLB’s color barrier in 1947. Paige followed suit the next season, becoming the first Black pitcher in the MLB’s American League when he signed his contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. It was his 42nd birthday.
Paige played until he was 59 years old, setting a record as the oldest to play in a Major League game that still stands today. All in all, Paige pitched baseballs in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s; proving age might just be a number.
- Watch the “Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson” book talk from author Timothy M. Gay during the “Books & Beyond” Series from the Center for the Book.
- Visit the online Baseball Americana exhibit to view items related to Satchel Paige and African American baseball teams.
- The Branch Rickey Papers digital collection features digitized scouting reports. The finding aid for the full collection is also available.
- Explore stadiums documented in the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, and in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive.