MLB Struck Out Before Inducting Satchel Paige Into Hall Of Fame

But the honor accorded Satchel Paige exactly 50 years ago (today) was part of a hard-fought struggle for recognition and one ste
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Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

Induction into the Hall of Fame should have been a lead-pipe cinch for a man who was quite possibly the best pitcher and entertainer in baseball history. But the honor accorded Satchel Paige exactly 50 years ago (today) was part of a hard-fought struggle for recognition and one step in baseball’s reckoning with its racial history that is anything but complete even now.

Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century, became the first Black man enshrined in the Hall in 1962, followed by his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Roy Campanella in 1969. But Paige was the first player inducted for his achievements while being barred (for most of his career) from participating in the major leagues.

His daughter, Pamela Paige O’Neal, said she has vivid memories of an exuberant family celebration when Paige returned home to Kansas City, Missouri, after the Aug. 9, 1971, induction ceremony.

“We were shamelessly full of joy about it,” said O’Neal, the oldest of Paige’s six living children. “We slapped his hand and he said, ‘How you like me now?’ That was his favorite statement of accomplishment.”

The jubilation belied a needlessly painful drama that permeated the months leading up to the historic event. An early ’71 MLB press release touted Paige as an “ageless patriarch of the pitching mound” who dominated the Negro Leagues as Babe Ruth did the majors.

Nevertheless, the Hall planned to place his plaque in a different wing from those for Ruth and other white immortals. The decision to alter course and give Paige equal honors didn’t come until a month before the festivities.

Read rest of story here.

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