If Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Satchel Paige were alive today (he died in 1982), 2021 would already be a great year for him.
First came the news at the end of 2020 that MLB retroactively will give the Negro Leagues Major League status.
This means as historians spend 2021 and possibly beyond pouring over record books, Paige’s career record and ERA could improve, given he spent time in the Negro Leagues before he made his debut in the big leagues for the Cleveland Indians in 1948.
Once records are sorted out, Paige’s career ERA would go from 3.29 to 2.58 and his career record would jump from 28-31 to 140-91.
But this year also marks the 50th anniversary of a significant moment in baseball history, when in 1971, Paige became the first player from the Negro Leagues to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1969, a 10-man committee was created to nominate the first group of Negro League players to go into the Hall of Fame, and the group unanimously felt Paige should be the first one to have that honor, based on his incredible talents and longevity.
Former baseball great and cultural icon Joe DiMaggio called Paige at one time “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
In 1965, Paige signed to play one game for the Kansas City Athletics, becoming the oldest player in Major League history at age 59.
But he didn’t just play.
Paige started the game against the Boston Red Sox and threw three scoreless innings before being removed to a standing ovation.
Paige was famous for pitching year-round, and his incredible durability -- claiming to have pitched about 2,500 games in his life.
During his induction speech at the Hall of Fame, he explained how he developed that rubber arm as a youngster playing minor league baseball in Canada.
“We played up in Canada and if I didn’t pitch every day, they didn’t want the ball club,” Paige said during his speech, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “And that’s how I started to pitching every day. I pitched, in all, 165 ball games in a row because if I didn’t pitch, they didn’t want the club in town, let alone there. So, I began to learn how to pitch by the hour, or by the week, or whatever you may call it. And so I guess all that got me up here to Cooperstown.”