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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

Tye, Larry.  Satchel:  The Life and Times of an American Baseball Legend.

I enjoyed this book overall.  It was in many ways an absorbing glimpse into Satchel Paige's life and into the history of the Negro Leagues and their eventual demise as a result of integration.

Satchel was a peerless pitcher and a legend in his own mind as well as a legend for all time.  He had remarkable confidence in his pitching abilities (sometimes calling in all his fielders, so confident was he of striking out the remaining batters) and for more than 40 years, in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues, he continued to astound.  Not only his speed, but his accuracy was legendary.

The author finds Satch's claim to have pitched 2,500 games a realistic one, as the Negro Leagues played Winter Ball as well.  And Satch played for more than one team at a time, often pitching back to back games.

The information about other black players such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and many others provided an interesting look at the history of black baseball and some of its superstars.

There is both the joy of reading about some of Satch's remarkable feats and the sadness of his later years, in ill health and trying to make ends meet.  He was an imperfect man, but an almost perfect pitcher with a fast ball that, in his youth, was estimated at over 100 mph.  Even when he was in 60's, the man was able to put on an impressive performance.

My main problem with the book is that it moves forward and back in time in a manner that I sometimes found annoying.  It felt like a collection of anecdotes and statistics interspersed and often interrupting the "storyline"....  The anecdotes and statistics were entertaining and  informative, but I would have preferred a more cohesive approach to the timeline.

Which doesn't mean that I'm not grateful to have discovered the book.  I enjoyed it, although I found it slow at times.  I learned a lot.  And as usual, it encouraged me to look more closely at a subject.  The bibliography is excellent, and I may be looking at some of those books in the future.

Nonfiction.  Biography.  2009.  337 pages including extensive notes and bibliographic material.


  1. I've had the pleasure of visiting the Negro Baseball Museum in KCMO and loved learning about Cool Papa Bell - and everyone. It's a great museum.

  2. Care - I'd love to visit the Negro Baseball Museum sometime. The fact that we know so little about these legends of black ball is sad. Even Satch, who was the "star" of black ball and good at promoting himself is practically unknown today.

  3. Gosh, I remember reading a biography of him when I was in elementary school - I can still picture the paperback. I loved baseball stories.

  4. Nan - I love baseball stories, too. Funny how baseball has a hold on our imaginations more than stories of any other sport. I'd like to read another biography on Satch and there were a couple in the bibliography that sounded good.