The Best of the Negro American Baseball League of the 1940's
America until the 1960's was a black and white society. As stupid as it may seem to generations born in the 50's and later, it was so real, it still is hard to fathom unless you lived it. And sport leagues reflected it, again, as stupid as it may seem today, there was a Negro American Baseball league consisting of black guys who love baseball and many played it equally or better that the white players. Even saying the "New York Black Yankees" seems utterly ridiculous.
The two best players, that even the white's had to pay attention to and admire were Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige. The first was a phenomenal batter and the latter, perhaps, one of the best pitchers ever. In 1947, Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1948, Paige played for the Cleveland Indians, a white club. Prior to that, he had played in the black league with the NY Black Yankees. Paige finally made to the white man's club after 40 years of struggling, he was a 42 yr.old rookie.
Paige's pitching gave batter's fits. The pitch was lightening and he seemed to have voodoo over the ball as it sped to the batter. His famous pitches like "Bee Ball" and "Bat Dodger" had a myth about them. Even Dizzy Dean bit the dust against Paige. Paige's income from all sources equaled that of Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio, but it required a lot more playing for a black man to make.
Paige grew up poor om Mobile, Alabama, son of a dockworker and dishwasher. He would carry bags at the train station to earn money and at age 12, he was busted for theft and tossed into a reform school for six years. It was here he honed in his pitching skills on their baseball teams. By his late teens, he joined a local team called the Mobile Tigers. Within a few years, his pitching took him to the Negro baseball league at age 20. By 1929, age 23, he was already known within the black league as a devastating pitcher that did something to force the timing of the batter off. He set the Negro leagues record for consecutive strikeouts. So, within the black baseball league, Paige was already a star. To the white baseball league, unknown, until the 1930's when he would pitch against the white teams in exhibition games in California. Paige shell shocked many white players in those games and by the late 30's, the white baseball league took notice. Paige played baseball until age 58 ending with his last game in 1965, although he officially retired in 1953.
In six years, from 1948-53, he had 288 strikeouts. Career average of 162 games, 96 strikeouts. While he was one awesome pitcher, as a batter, like most pitchers are, was bad hitters. He was no different. He died in 1982.
By the late 1940's, the white baseball league finally decided to let the black players in the game and that is when the negro league ended. How good were the black players? Well, the year they allowed it six of the 12 "Rookie of the Year" awards went black.
Color means nothing.
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