Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye

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Monday, Apr 12, 2010

Wouldn't it have been great fun to see a pitcher so confident he could call in his outfielders and tell them all to take a seat – he’d guarantee to strike out the next batter? Leroy Satchel Paige could deliver the best sport and the best all round entertainment in baseball. A natural showman, his lively persona and storied skills drew in the crowds, increasing the “gate” (and thereby everybody’s income), and fueling a legend. Never mind that a goodly portion of the Satchel Paige legend was started by Satchel himself! That was part of the game - and the charm!

Veteran sports writer Larry Tye has produced a keen and insightful biography of a sports legend he clearly loves. Lots of anecdotes from Negro League buddies help create a feel for Satchel the man and serve to enliven Tye's exploration of Paige as a pioneer, albeit an under appreciated one. In the era of Jim Crow, Satchel Paige was a black man who used his monster talent to weaken and breach racial barriers, perhaps with even more impact than contemporaries Jesse Owens or Louis Armstrong. After all, Satchel’s game was baseball – America’s pastime – which enjoyed a much wider audience than either track or jazz in the thirties.

Even for those of us with a lukewarm interest in baseball, this is a biography to entertain and enlighten. More than just the story of one man, fun and extraordinary as he was, Satchel also offers plenty of insight into the business of baseball and it’s social history. Skip the statistics and the occasional play by plays, if you wish. Take a deeper, thoughtful look at the history of Blackball and the Negro Leagues. Then pay a visit to the Negro Leagues Museum.

Written by Kathy B.