Celebrating the Ageless Satchel Paige

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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.12447

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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.al0965/photos.041441p from HABS Survey ALA,37-BIRM,5

Color photo showing stadium structure

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2010. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.05142

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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.al0965/photos.041446p 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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.05145

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. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b29209

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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One Comment

  1. Mari Nakahara
    July 7, 2021 at 11:58 am

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

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