KC honors Satchel's historic Hall induction

August 9th, 2021

It’s Satchel Paige Week in Kansas City, for a good reason: Monday marks the 50th anniversary of Paige’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.. He became the first to play the bulk of his career in the Negro Leagues to receive such an honor, and Kansas City is honoring the historic milestone.

The city recently announced plans to redevelop Paige’s former home on 2626 E. 28th Street in Kansas City. Project representatives, city leaders and members of the Paige family -- daughters Linda Paige Shelby and Pamela Paige O’Neal -- were in attendance at a media event, where the group discussed the future of this historic community asset. Paige’s Hall of Fame plaque will be displayed at the site.

In partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame, Paige’s Hall of Fame plaque was also to be on display at Kauffman Stadium for fans to see while attending the Royals game on Monday. After a pre-game ceremony honoring Paige, the Paige plaque will be moved to the Royals Hall of Fame inside Kauffman Stadium.

“To do something special like bringing Satchel’s Hall of Fame plaque to his adopted hometown of Kansas City, we couldn’t think of a more exciting way to celebrate the … 50th anniversary of his induction,” said baseball historian Curt Nelson, who is the director of the Royals Hall of Fame. “Satchel is such a colorful character. It’s still important for baseball today.”

The plaque will be on display at the Negro League Baseball Museum starting Tuesday. NLBM president Bob Kendrick looks forward to seeing fans stand next to Paige’s plaque at the museum.

“To be able to celebrate 50 years of that milestone, this is something we are excited about,” Kendrick said. “We are excited that the Hall of Fame plaque will be at the stadium and the museum.”

The legend of Paige is well known. Not only was he the best pitcher in Negro League history, he also was a little like a rock star who rarely pitched in front of an empty seat during the peak of his career.

Paige was the Pedro Martinez of his day -- the pitcher of his generation. If Paige was doing his thing on the mound today, current stars such as Fernando Tatis and Bryce Harper would be challenged by Paige’s blazing fastball and mesmerizing breaking ball.

Paige was best known for his time with the Kansas City Monarchs, helping them earn a Negro League title in 1946. But besides Kansas City, Paige played for six Negro League teams and four independent teams affiliated with the Negro Leagues from 1927-47, according to Baseball-Reference. Paige was a gate attraction and didn’t care where he played, as long as he was making top dollar and getting a cut of the gate.

Paige also played in his share of barnstorming games, where stats were not recorded, as noted by Larry Tye, author of “Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend.” Paige’s battles against Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean on the barnstorming circuit are legendary, and Dean was impressed with what he saw from his counterpart.

“If Old Satchel and I played together, we’d clinch the pennant mathematically by the Fourth of July and go fishin’ until the World Series. Between us, we’d win sixty games,” Dean said, according to the book.

Kendrick believes Paige’s accomplishments never would have been recognized without Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who made his 1966 Hall of Fame speech that still resonates around the baseball world. He used his induction speech as an opportunity to speak on behalf of Negro League players.

Williams felt that stars like Paige and Josh Gibson had largely been overlooked and should be in Cooperstown. Williams knew about their talents, as he competed against Negro Leaguers during barnstorming games starting in the early 1940s, when Major League Baseball was still segregated.

“Honestly, I don’t know if Satchel or any of the stars of the Negro Leagues would have gotten in the Hall of Fame had it not been for Ted Williams’ epic 1966 speech, where he was basically advocating on behalf of Negro League players,” Kendrick said. “So he used his platform to make a case that the life of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. [Williams noted they weren’t there] because they were not given the opportunity. Five years later, Satchel becomes the first to go in the Hall of Fame for his Negro League career.”