In the first half of this century, some of the best baseball players in America did not play in the Bronx, or Fenway Park, or in Tiger Stadium. They played in towns like Chattanooga and Birmingham, for teams like the Nashville Elite Giants and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Because of the politics of segregation, players in the Negro Leagues played in smaller stadiums, and until recently, received far less acclaim and notice from baseball historians. Satchel Paige (ages 6-10) introduces young baseball fans to one of the game's greatest. Leroy Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, at the turn of the century. As the seventh of 12 children, Leroy had to earn every penny he could to help feed his family. When trains would arrive at the Mobile depot, he was the first to offer to carry the luggage of the arriving passengers for a few coins. Soon, his friends started calling him Satchel. The name stuck.
Satchel Paige traces his life from his humble beginnings to his days in the Negro Leagues. Like Jackie Robinson, Satchel's skill transcended race. Indeed, once Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Satchel Paige was among the first African Americans to be drafted by a major league team. In fact, he was the first former Negro League player to pitch in the major league World Series.
Lisa Cline-Ransome's book, handsomely illustrated by her husband James Ransome, should prove to be a fascinating introduction for children to one of the century's greatest athletes. Also, the book refuses to shy away from pointing out the injustice of segregation in America. Cline-Ransome illustrates the different careers and lifestyles of African-American and white athletes during this time without appearing heavy-handed or preachy. Satchel Paige is a fine addition to the bulk of literature written about the tradition-rich sport of baseball.
Taylor Cates is an attorney in Nashville, Tennessee.