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Celebrating the Ageless Satchel Paige

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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.

Paige in front of photo, editors' marks on the print
Satchel Paige seated in front of a portrait of himself in a baseball uniform. Photo print by Bernard Gotfryd, 1970. //

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.

Black-and-white photo of stadium structure
Southeast (front) elevation of entry gate – Rickwood Field. Photo by Jet Lowe, 1993. // from HABS Survey ALA,37-BIRM,5

Color photo showing stadium structure
Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2010. //

Black-and-white photo showing field and stands in background, players with backs to the camera in foreground
View of playing field with home plate to center, stands in the background and dugout in the foreground, looking west. Photo by Jet Lowe, 1993. // from HABS ALA,37-BIRM,5-

Color photo showing empty field, stands in the background
Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2010. //

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.

Black-and-white photo showing Paige pitching
Satchel Paige, in the Kansas City Monarchs uniform at a baseball game. Photo from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, between 1935 and 1942. //

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.

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  1. It is very nice to see b&w and color photos side by side!

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