Dakota Datebook

When Satchel Paige Struck Out Twenty Beulah Miners

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

 

It is a well-known fact that the great black pitcher Satchel Paige played for the Bismarck semi-professional baseball team in 1933 and in 1935. What might not be known is that Paige’s highest strike-out total for a single game in those two seasons was twenty, in a nine-inning game against the Beulah Miners ballclub on August 18, 1933. Bismarck won 8-0, and Paige gave up just three hits – two singles and a double – and did not allow a single base-on-balls.

Satchel contributed to the victory by getting two hits in four plate appearances, hitting a single and a “long triple to deep right field.” Who among the Beulah batters could know that the lanky right-handed pitcher they faced that day would become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Paige joined Neil Churchill’s Bismarck team because the Great Depression had put the Negro Leagues into disarray, and Paige was as happy to get a regular paycheck in those hard times as Churchill was to bring this talented pitcher to North Dakota. Paige pitched for any team that would pay him a high salary, and, as he later said about his long career, “I don’t believe there’s any place I didn’t play baseball.”

Well, that day in Bismarck, Paige’s fastball was like lightning, for, in his prime, he threw “what was probably the fastest ball ever to leave the hand of man.” Hack Wilson, the great National League slugger, once said that Paige’s fastball “starts out like a baseball, but when it get to the plate it looks like a marble.” Paige responded by saying: “You must be talking about my slowball, my fastball looks like a fish egg.”

In 1935, Paige led the Bismarck team to the National Semi-Pro championship in Wichita, Kansas.

Paige’s birth date was a mystery, but he was believed to be about 76 when he died on this date in 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri. His greatest honor was to become enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1971 as the first black player inducted whose career was largely in the Negro Leagues. As he said at the time, “I am the proudest man on earth right today.”

North Dakotans can be proud that Paige was a part of North Dakota’s baseball history. And three of those Beulah hitters, known today only in the box score of the game as “Weber, Frank Stewart, and C. Wessels,” could be justly proud that each of them managed to get a hit off the future Hall-of-Famer in that 1933 ballgame.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

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[1] “Bismarck Blanks Beulah 8 to 0 Behind Satchel Paige’s Fine Pitching,” Bismarck Tribune, August 19, 1933, p.

[1] “Paige is First Star of Old Negro Leagues to Be Selected,” New York Times, February 10, 1971, p. 52.

[1] Richard Donovan, “The Fabulous Satchel Paige,” Collier’s, vol. 131 (May 30, 1953), p. 65.

[1] There are a number of variations on legends of how fast Paige could pitch, see Leroy Satchel Paige, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), p. 58.

[1] “Paige is First Star of Old Negro Leagues to Be Selected,” New York Times, February 10, 1971, p. 52; “Paige Dominates Show,” Washington Post, August 10, 1971, p. 1D Bob Addie, “Same Old Satchel,” Washington Post, August 10, 1971, p. 2D.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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