Article posted by Joe Posnanski on his blog on December 23, 2009. Joe Posnanski is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and was a sports columnist at the Kansas City Star from 1996 to 2009.
Top of first inning: Slim Jones pitching. Cool Papa Bell grounds out to short. Pop Lloyd flies out to left. Buck Leonard hits a deep fly ball to right field. No runs, no hits, no errors. Pozmen 0, Skyliners 0.
Bottom of first inning: Hilton Smith pitching. Bullet Joe Rogan strikes out. Willie Wells singles. Oscar Charleston singles, Wells to second. Josh Gibson strikes out. Jud Wilson singles, scoring Wells. Cristobal Toriente flies to center. One run, three hits, no errors. Skyliners 1, Pozmen 0.
* * *
I have never forgotten that Olan Taylor, a good-fielding first baseman in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and ‘40s, was called Satan for a while. The accepted reason was because Olan Taylor “could play like the devil” or could “knock the devil out of the ball” or some such innocent thing that probably had nothing to do with it. I remember this, though, because Olan Taylor’s mother was deeply religious and refused to watch her son play ball as long as they called him Satan. And so, for the rest of his life, they called him Jelly Taylor.
I remember that story because my friend Buck O’Neil told it to me somewhere along the way. Buck died more than three years ago now, and I’ll bet that I have never gone more than two or three days without thinking about some advice he gave me or meeting someone whose life was affected by him or remembering something about the way he talked. Mostly, though, I remember the stories.
There’s Oliver Marcelle, the brilliant fielding third baseman everyone called the Ghost, who was apparently so mean he once hit the great Oscar Charleston in the head with a bat. Buck never believed that though. He said that Charleston himself was so mean that if anyone ever hit him with a bat, they would not live to tell about it.
There’s the great Willard Brown, who some teammates would call “Sonny” because, they said that Willard would only play hard on sunny days. Sonny Brown was the first African American to hit a home run in the American League — he borrowed a bat from teammate St. Louis Browns teammate Jeff Heath and hit an inside-the-park homer off Hal Newhouser. When Willard Brown returned to the Kansas City Monarchs — he only played 21 games in the big leagues — he apparently told Buck that after the home run, Heath broke the bat.
There’s Satchel Paige, and that sparks the Nancy story, of course. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the Nancy story. Fifty? A hundred? Buck could go 20 minutes on the Nancy story. I’ve come up with a shortened version: Buck and Satchel Paige were sitting in a hotel in Chicago when a taxi pulled up and out stepped Nancy (“Pretty as a picture”), who Satchel had invited to Chicago. After they went up to the room, another taxi pulled up, and this time it was Lahoma — Satchel’s fiancee. Buck, thinking quickly, went out to meet Lahoma, told her Satchel was off with some reporters, and then had the bellman straighten things out upstairs. Satchel slipped out the fire escape and then walked through the front door to meet Lahoma … like nothing had happened.*
*Tiger Woods could have used a bit of Satchel’s style.
That night, Buck sat awake and waited to see how Satchel would handle the situation. Around midnight, he heard Satchel’s door open, and Buck (being the snooping kind) tiptoed to the door to listen. He heard Satchel knock on the door and whisper “Nancy.” No answer. Satchel knocked a little louder. “Nancy!” No answer. Satchel knocked loud. “NANCY!” And then a door opened — but it was from Satchel’s room. That had to be Lahoma.
And with that, Buck opened his door and said, “Did you want something Satchel?”
And Satchel Paige saw Lahoma and said, “Yes Nancy, what time is the game tomorrow.”
And for the rest of his life, Satchel Paige called Buck “Nancy.”
* * *
Top of fourth inning: Slim Jones pitching. Cool Papa Bell doubles. Pop Lloyd strikes out. Buck Leonard sees a fastball — nobody hits the fastball better — and hits a long home run to right field, Bell scores. Slim Jones kicks the mound. Turkey Stearnes grounds out to shortstop. Willard Brown hits deep fly ball to left. Two runs, two hits, no errors. Pozmen 2, Skyliners 1.
* * *
I am thinking about these stories now because I am looking through an amazing set of cards. This is the new Strat-o-Matic Negro League All-Stars baseball set. This is the culmination of a lifetime of dreaming by Strat-o-Matic founder Hal Richman, and many hard years of work by a limousine dispatcher named Scott Simkus. More on them in a bit.
Strat-o-Matic, you no doubt know, is a baseball strategy game. The slogan on the box is “Manage Major League Players who hit, pitch, field and run as they do in real life.” The slogan isn’t necessarily catchy — I think of the Geico commercial where the executive comes up with his own dynamite slogans like “They’re the bee’s knees!” — but it’s appropriate because what has made Strat-o-Matic so important and affecting to generations of baseball fans like me (and so inscrutable to others) is exactly what the box promises. You get to manage real life baseball players. The cards can come to life. The dice can sound like the crack of the bat.
“Gary Geiger!” Bob Costas shouted out when I just mentioned the word “Strat-o-Matic.” Geiger was a fairly talented outfielder in the 1960s — a little power, a little speed — who apparently wore false teeth when he was 22 years old. And in 1967 — the year after Geiger hit four home runs for Atlanta — a 15-year-old Bob Costas pulled out the Geiger card in desperation. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. He needed a home run to win the game against his cousin, John Miller. And Gary Geiger hit that home run.
“John Miller is a respected oncologist in Washington, D.C.,” Costas said some 35 years later. “But if you walked up to him today and said the name ‘Gary Geiger,’ a look of pure horror would come over him.”
When I first wrote that story, I heard from a relative of Gary Geiger, who expressed extreme joy about it. As he should. Because the genius of Strat-o-Matic comes from what we all know: Baseball is a game of numbers. Yes, that means players’ skills can be expressed in numbers. But maybe it also means that numbers can be expressed in players. If 61 is Maris and 714 is the Babe and 755 is Aaron and 42 is Jackie and 56 is DiMaggio and 5714 is Nolan and 511 is Cy … then baseball numbers can have a life of their own. Not everyone believes that. But enough of us do to make Strat-o-Matic a successful game for almost 50 years.
But it has to be real. That’s the hard part. The numbers on the card have to lift off the cardboard. And that is why this Negro League Baseball set was so hard to do. Because there has always been something very unreal about Negro Leagues Baseball.
* * *
Bottom of the fourth inning: Hilton Smith pitching. Jud Wilson hits a line drive single up the middle. Cristobal Toriente gets jammed and pops up to first where Buck Leonard makes the play. Sammy Hughes hits a ground ball to third, and Ray Dandridge makes a nice play and gets the runner at second by Hughes beats the throw to first. Ghost Marcelle hits a long fly ball, deep to left field, Willard Brown goes way back, goes to the wall, leaps … and makes the catch. No runs. One hit. No errors. Pozmen 2, Skyliners 1.
* * *
I have always been drawn to stories about Cool Papa Bell. And I have always been repelled by them too. You know the stories I’m talking about, right? Cool Papa Bell was so fast, he once hit a line drive up the middle and was hit by the ball as he slid into second base. Cool Papa Bell was so fast that he once scored from first on a bunt. Cool Papa Bell was so fast he would steal second and third on the same pitch. Cool Papa Bell was so fast managers would play six infielders and let Cool Papa handle the outfield. Cool Papa Bell — here’s the famous one — was so fast he could turn out the light and be in bed before the room got dark.
There’s something charming about these lines, of course. But there’s something phony about them too. Cool Papa Bell was a real man, flesh and blood, who played in various Negro Leagues from the early 1920s to the mid-1940s. He was, by surviving accounts, a breathtakingly fast player who could chase down fly balls all over the park and beat out routine ground balls hit to shortstop. He hit .300 just about every year, often hit .330, sometimes hit .350. But he did not hit .900, and he did not steal two bases on single pitches with regularity, and in fact most of the sketchy numbers that have been gathered show disappointingly low stolen base totals for Cool Papa throughout his career. The Shades of Glory numbers — the data gathered by the Baseball Hall of Fame Negro Leagues study — show Cool Papa with only 144 stolen bases in 865 recorded games.
There are logical reasons for this. (1) Stolen bases were often missing from Negro Leagues boxes. (2) Cool Papa spent much of his time batting ahead of batting legends like Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles and so on … and as such he was probably not asked to steal much. (3) The Negro Leagues were built around speed, and as such pitchers spent a lot of effort keeping runners close* and catchers like Biz Mackey, Josh Gibson, Frank Duncan and others had preposterously great arms. The idea was to shut down the running game … and teams were much more likely to sacrifice bunt or hit and run than pull the straight steal. Still, that is a staggeringly low number of stolen bases. To give you an idea, Pokey Reese had 144 stolen bases in about the same number of games.
*Another Buck O’Neil story: He said Luis Tiant Sr. had such a good move to first base that he once struck out a batter who swung at a pickoff attempt to first base. I told that story in New York and Jonathan Hock, who directed the excellent “The Lost Son of Havana,” a documentary about the young Luis Tiant, was in the audience and he said that the story is 100 percent true; it was a story young Luis told often.
The Cool Papa Conundrum, as I call it, is to me the toughest part about remembering and celebrating the Negro Leagues. On the one hand, these myths and nicknames and stories are so wonderful and poignant and memorable. And on the other hand, they can turn these players into something more or something less than they were. And often they can turn players in something more AND something less than they were at the same time.
When people would ask Buck how fast Cool Papa Bell was, his answer was always the same. “Faster than that,” he would say. Buck spent a lifetime trying to keep alive the memories of men who were denied their chance to play baseball in the Major Leagues. Sometimes, at the end of his life, I sensed that he worried that people would remember the stories, but they would forget the men.
* * *
Top of the seventh. Slim Jones pitching. He’s a tall left-hander, 6-foot-6, with a fastball that people say is as good as Satchel Paige’s. He will die at 25, Slim Jones will. The story would go that he sold his overcoat for one more bottle of whiskey, and that’s how he caught pneumonia. He again faces Buck Leonard — the black Lou Gehrig, as everyone calls him — and the crowd is wild, and Slim knows better than to try and beat Buck with a fastball here. He gets ahead and then throws a breaking pitch of some kind. In the Negro Leagues, spitting on the ball, cutting the ball, well, it’s not “legal” exactly, but nobody will stop you. Buck Leonard swings over the top for strike three.
Turkey Stearnes steps in — they either call him Turkey because of the way he runs or because of his affinity for Turkey — but either way no Negro Leagues player hit more home runs. Much of this is because Mack Park, where the Detroit Stars play, is a bandbox. But Stearnes can hit them as far as just about anybody. Slim Jones plunks him. Turkey stares at Slim Jones. They say Turkey Stearnes talks to his bats … and they are among his best friends.
Slim Jones then faces Sonny Brown and gets him to hit a fielder’s choicer grounder back to the mound. When Sonny Brown wants to run, he can run as fast as just about anyone in the Negro Leagues — he sometimes steals bases standing up. Ray Dandridge then grounds out to short to end the inning. No runs. No hits. No errors. Pozmen 2, Skyliners 1.
* * *
“You’re up against all this … stuff,” Hal Richman says. Hal’s story is familiar — he was that kid who needed to escape a demanding father. He didn’t play guitar like Bruce Springsteen or walk the countryside like Dostoevsky or learn to switch-hit like Pete Rose.* No, he went into his bedroom and rolled dice 5,000 times and came up with a chart. When he was old enough, he borrowed $5,000 from his father on the condition that if his game failed — and it surely would — Hal would join his father in the insurance business.
*Joan Allen: “How many ballplayers grow up afraid of losing their father’s love every time they come up to the plate?”
Joe Mantegna: “All of them!”
– Searching for Bobby Fischer.
The game almost failed. But Hal kept going. And Strat-o-Matic (a name he came up with while shoveling the driveway in Great Neck, N.Y.) survived and thrived because while Hal was creating a children’s game — well, ages 9 to adult — he was not thinking about protecting the children. He was not interested in creating myths or, as Red Smith used to say, godding up the players. He wanted .220 hitters to stink. He wanted clumsy left fielders to fall down. He wanted tomato can pitchers to give up rocket line drives. he wanted immobile shortstops to give up a lot of ground ball singles. He wanted authenticity — all the glory and disappointment that baseball can bring.*
*There’s a story that when statue-like Gregg Jefferies played left field late in his career, a few Strat-o-Matic fans in the crowd began chanting “You’re a five! You’re a five!” — 5 being the worst possible defender on the Strat-o-Matic scale. A Strat-o-Matic 5 means you have roughly the same range and instincts as lawn furniture on a slightly breezy day.
It is this unsentimental approach that has made Strat-o-Matic so real and so successful. Because of this, there have always been some lingering doubts in Hal’s mind about doing a Negro Leagues set. Oh, sure, he has long WANTED to do one. He has long felt an affinity for the Negro Leagues. He had spent hundreds of hours reading baseball stories and he felt heartsick reading about the way black players were treated. On the other hand, he had no interest at all in putting together some sort of fantastical baseball set that would be built around fly balls that never land or fastballs so fast that no one could see them. He had even less interest in putting together a baseball set that would somehow undervalue the talents of those great players. The task seemed mostly impossible.
* * *
Top of the eight inning: Bullet Joe Rogan is now pitching, having moved in from left field. The Negro Leagues was like that. Rosters were limited — money was always tight — and so sometimes players pitched and pitchers played. Double Duty Radcliffe got that name from the famed writer Damon Runyon after catching one game in a doubleheader and pitching another. Martin Dihigo was probably the second-greatest pitcher-hitter combo in baseball history behind Ruth. And Bullet Joe Rogan may be the third greatest. He starts off the inning walking Biz Mackey … Roy Campanella used to say that Biz Mackey taught him everything he knew about catching.
Newt Allen then sacrifices Mackey to second, and Chino Smith is sent in to pinch-hit. History has sort of forgotten about Chino Smith. He may have been the greatest pure hitter ever in any of the Negro Leagues. In 1929, while playing for the New York Lincoln Giants, it was said that he hit .468. The sketchy numbers have him hitting .423 for his career. In his first game in Yankee Stadium, he hit two home runs and a triple. Chino will die when he is 29 years old of Yellow Fever. But at this moment, he steps in and faces relief pitcher Andy Cooper, a veteran lefty. And Chino smashes a line drive single up the middle, scoring Mackey. The crowd goes crazy. Satchel Paige begins to warm up in the Pozmen pen.
* * *
This is where Scott Simkus enters our story. Scott lives in Chicago. He has lived a fairly uneventful life — a few jobs, a family, he has been playing Strat-o-Matic since he was a kid — and one day he called up Hal Richman and said that he had gathered some 3,000 Negro Leagues box scores and was interested in turning them into a Strat-o-Matic game.
You will ask: Why did Scott Simkus have 3,000 Negro Leagues box scores? Well, even he is not able to explain that. Somewhere along the way, he had started looking in microfilm for some evidence about his grandfather, who would talk about playing baseball against the famous Cuban Stars. And, well, it just became an obsession. He was supposed to be selling copiers … but he was sneaking into libraries to copy more box scores. He was driving limos … and he was thinking about box scores. He was playing semi-pro softball … and he was thinking about box scores.
Well, it’s not exactly right to say he was thinking about box scores. He was thinking about the players in the box scores. He wondered: How good were they really? The books he read about the Negro Leagues — some were entertaining, some were not, but none of them quite filled his mind. None of them really told him in a satisfying way how great a pitcher Satchel Paige was, how great a player Oscar Charleston was, how great a hitter Josh Gibson really was. “People kept saying, ‘Oh he would hit 800 home runs,’” Simkus says. “He was a catcher. There’s no way.”
It turned out that Simkus wanted exactly what Richman wanted — something to believe in. And so they broke down the numbers they had. And they adjusted those numbers. And adjusted them again. They ranked the varying strength of the Negro Leagues. They used exhibition games between Negro Leagues players and Major Leaguers to help determine their comparative strength, but then they used more exhibition games between Negro League players and minor league teams and then they used MORE exhibition games between Negro Leagues players and semi-pro teams (which were often better than minor league teams). They followed those players who moved from the Negro Leagues into pro ball and, in a few cases, into the Major Leagues.
Hal asked some hard questions. He wanted to challenge Simkus. “After all that work, my feeling is that the Negro Leagues, most of the time, were playing at about a Triple-A level. Some years, they were better than that. But most years, at about a Triple-A level. But every year the best players in the Negro Leagues were as good or better than the best players in the Major Leagues.”
They determined that Josh Gibson was the second-best power hitter in baseball history — behind only Ruth. They determined that Oscar Charleston was, quite possibly, the best player the game has ever known (his number on the card: .391/.478/.693 with immense home run power and blinding AA base stealing speed). They determined that Satchel Paige was electrifyingly good, a strikeout pitcher with eerie control, and almost impossible to hit a home run against.
But these were the obvious ones. They also put together cards for great players you may not know like the excellent shortstop Dick Lundy, or the best curveball-pitcher of the Negro Leagues Hilton Smith, or the athletic first baseman Superman Pennington, who played in the 1940s and was around to help Simkus fill in some of the gaps.
“You can read about something,” Simkus says. “But when you play a GAME, it can mean something entirely new …”
* * *
Top of the ninth: Andy Cooper is pitching, and he gets Buck Leonard to ground out to first. But then, Turkey Stearnes singles, and the Skyliners manager — my buddy Chardon Jimmy — is beginning to panic. There’s no doubt that he is still feeling regret because in the bottom of the eighth (with his Skyliners down 3-1) he inexplicably had Oscar Charleston try to steal second with Josh Gibson at the plate. Charleston was gunned down by Biz Mackey … and when Gibson followed by getting hit by a pitch and Jud Wilson followed again with a single, Chardon Jimmy was already thinking about what he was going to say to the media after the game.
“When you have a player as great as Oscar Charleston, you have to allow him the opportunity to make plays,” he had decided to say. There is no way, of course, that the media will buy this. He had a player steal a base with JOSH GIBSON at the plate. Chardon Jimmy is very quickly heading into the Grady Little Hall of Fame for managers.
“I’m putting in Smokey Joe Williams,” Chardon Jimmy says. Smokey was only one of Joe Williams’ many nicknames. They called him “Cyclone.” And, sensibly enough, they also called him “Strikeout.” In 1952, the PIttsburgh Courier had a poll in an effort to determine the greatest players in Negro Leagues history. The pitcher was not Satchel Paige. It was Smokey Cyclone Strikeout Joe Williams.
Chardon Jimmy does not know any of this. He knows of the Negro Leagues what he has picked up listening to me or reading something else. He knows that Satchel Paige was really good and Josh Gibson hit long home runs and Cool Papa Bell was fast. He knows that Buck O’Neil was classy and that Oscar Charleston was bigger, stronger, perhaps even faster version of Willie Mays — or as Buck O’Neil used to say, “The best Major League player I ever saw was Willie Mays. But the best PLAYER I ever saw was Oscar Charleston. To us old timers, Willie Mays was the closest thing to Oscar Charleston.”
But he does not know hardly anything beyond that sentence. Or he didn’t before the game began. Now he knows that Bullet Joe Rogan was both a leadoff hitter and a great pitcher. He knows that Josh Gibson had a great arm, and Ghost Marcelle played a great third base, and Jud Wilson could really hit (four-for-four so far!). He knows that Slim Jones was awesome, and that Buck Leonard could hit fastballs, and that Hilton Smith could work his way out of jams.
And now, he brings in Smokey Joe Williams, and Willard Brown steps in, and — crack! — Brown hits a double. Turkey Stearnes scores from first. Smokey Joe gets out of the inning without any more damage, but the Pozmen lead 4-1, with only the bottom of the ninth, and Satchel Paige is on the mound. All is lost for Chardon Jimmy.
* * *
My mind is filled with Negro Leagues stories. I see “Frank Duncan” and I immediately remember that he was once married to the jazz and blues singer, Julia Lee, who was a favorite of Harry Truman.
I see “Leon Day” and I think of the 1942 Negro Leagues World Series, which the Kansas City Monarchs won in four straight games, sort of. They actually won it in five games — but the fourth game was disallowed because the opposing Homestead Gray “borrowed” Philadelphia’s Leon Day to be their starting pitcher. Day out-pitched Satchel Paige … and I have often thought this would be a great way to do business. The Phillies are down 3 games to 2 in the World Series and … hey, they “borrow” Tim Lincecum to start. That would be so great.
I see “Hilton Smith” and I think about him teaching a teammate to read while riding on the bus to next game. I see “Spot Poles” and I think about how many people say he was as fast as Cool Papa Bell. I see “Mule Suttles” and I think about him crushing home runs while teammates yelled “Kick Mule!”
I see “Buck O’Neil” and … well, I think about a lot of things. I think about how proud he would feel seeing this Strat-o-Matic set. He might not completely follow the complexities of the game, and he might disagree with some of the numbers because that was his style. He liked to argue about these sorts of things. But I feel sure he would love the spirit of the game. He would love how a game could bring these players back to life. You could steal Cool Papa or pinch run for Frog Redus or plunk Wild Bill Wright. He would love thinking about those kids who would learn about the game by managing the game.
Oh, I have no doubt he would still want people to tell the stories … because the stories are part of the spirit too. But it all really goes together. In 50 or so years before 1947, black players were banned from the Major Leagues. And so, black players created their own leagues. Black newspaper reporters covered those leagues. Black photographers took the photographs. Black baseball fans would head directly from church — wearing their Sunday finest — to watch the games. There were black hotels where the players and entertainers stayed, and black restaurants where they could eat, and black nightclubs for the Saturday nights. It was a whole separate world, and as Buck used to say, It never should have been that way. But it was. Parts of it were tragic, of course. But, he said, parts were beautiful too. The barbecue was great, and the jazz was hopping, and the baseball was something to see.
“We could play, man,” he would say all the time.
On Buck O’Neil’s Strat-o-Matic card, he hit .314. He had pretty good speed. He didn’t hit with much power, but he played a brilliant first base. He didn’t walk a lot, but you could hit and run with him. He would steal a base if you weren’t paying attention. He’d take the extra base if he could — he hit a lot of triples. You know the story about Buck O’Neil’s best day, right? That was the day in Memphis — Easter Sunday — when he hit a double, a home run, single and then in his fourth at-bat he hit one high off the wall, could have been an inside the park homer, but he stopped at third. The cycle. That night, he went back to the hotel, there were a bunch of teachers there. He walked up to one and said, “My name is Buck O’Neil, what’s yours.” That was Ora. They were married 50 years.
“This set,” Hal Richman says, “is the best thing I’ve done in my life.”
* * *
Bottom of the ninth: Satchel Paige pitching. Paige isn’t used to pitching relief after Hilton Smith but that’s how I set it up, and Ol’ Satch gives up a single to Martin Dihigo to lead off the inning. He promptly gives up another single to Ghost Marcelle. Two on, nobody out, tying run comes to the plate in Frog Redus. I looked to see if Frog Redus was in any way related to Gary Redus, one of my favorite players.* Best I can tell, he was not.
*I remember that one year in the early 1980s someone had worked out way to figure out all sorts of crazy baseball stats on the computer. I could be getting this wrong, but as I remember it the person went up to Pete Rose to try to explain the advantages of this sort of information. He said, “For instance, don’t you want to know who had the most flyouts in the league last year?” Pete Rose, without hesitation, said: “I don’t need a computer for that. It was Gary Redus.” Apparently, Rose was right.
Redus grounded out to short — one away — and then Satch struck out Jelly Gardner. Two away. Ballgame is just about over. But then, inexplicably, Satchel Paige walks Willie Wells. Satch was supposed to have the greatest control in baseball history. It was said that he would warm up throwing fastballs over sticks of chewing gum. And he walks Wells? So, bases loaded, two outs and here is Oscar Charleston.
“Here we go!” Chardon Jimmy says, and I’m not happy, and then something even more inexplicable happens. Charleston apparently hits a ball right in front of the plate. An easy play for Biz Mackey, who was known for his defense, whose defensive rating is 1e1, which is just about as good as can be. Only then Mackey … well, I don’t know what happens. He bobbles the ball or something. He commits an error. A run scores. Everyone is safe. Score is 4-2.
Up steps Josh Gibson. This is it — the classic matchup, Paige against Gibson, bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth. I’m tempted to take all my fielders off the field the way Satchel Paige might. But then I remember — I’m actually quite ticked off at Paige. I gave him a 4-1 lead, and he’s blowing it. Enough. Let’s put this game away. He throws his fastball and, yep, Gibson rifles a single up the middle. It is hit so hard that the runner has to stop at third. The score is 4-3 now. Bases loaded. Chardon Jimmy is happy. I’m furious.
“I’m pulling Satchel Paige,” I say. “I’m putting someone else in.”
“Go for it,” Chardon Jimmy says.
But I can’t, of course. I can’t pull Satchel Paige, one of the five greatest pitchers in baseball history. I can’t. I send Buck O’Neil out of the dugout to calm him down. I have to trust in him. Satchel Paige faces Jud Wilson, who is 4-for-4 in the game. Bases loaded. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. The crowd at Comiskey Park is on its feet. The radio and television announcers are shouting. The hundreds of newspaper reporters are leaning in to get a better look. Wilson digs in. Satchel Paige winds. Satchel Paige pitches.