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SATCHEL: The Life and Times of an American Legend Hardcover – June 9, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tye, a Boston Globe reporter and author of The Father of Spin, offers the first biography on Satchel Paige, the premier pitcher of the Negro Leagues. Having interviewed more than 200 veteran fellow players of the Negro and Major Leagues, he is able to flesh out the Satchel Paige persona. Through PaigeÖs hardscrabble years in Jim Crow Alabama to his time with the all-black Monarchs, one of the powerhouses in segregated colored ball, Tye dissects SatchelÖs mastery of pitching, his accuracy, power and velocity, and signature pitch, the sizzler. Satchel was among the peerless Negro Leaguers, who beat the white big leaguers more than 60% of the time; he struck out some of the biggest sluggers, like Ralph Kiner, Rogers Hornsby and even Joe DiMaggio, who got one hit off of Satchel and was signed by the Yankees immediately. He became one of four black athletes signed up in the late 1940s, with the Cleveland Indians, three years after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers (the two men were bitter rivals). This is the definitive biography of a black showman-athlete, and as Tye makes the case, one of the finest pitchers ever, who finally was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. (July)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics agreed that Tye's greatest challenge was to separate the truth of Paige's life from the fiction, promulgated by the shamelessly self-aggrandizing Paige himself. To this end, Tye researched Paige's life thoroughly, scrutinizing source documents from birth records to FBI files and conducting more than 200 interviews with Paige's family and friends. Tye's fondness for his subject is obvious, but that doesn't prevent him from debunking the myths surrounding Paige's life. However, a couple of critics felt that Tye was still too credulous, and others considered some of his arguments a bit tenuous. Though Tye has unearthed some eye-opening information -- for example, Paige was a bigamist -- Satchel is no racy, tell-all biography but a balanced examination of a legendary athlete and pioneer.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066513
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
With impeccable scholarship and a meticulous understanding of American history, author Larry Tye delivers a definitive exploration of Satchel Paige in Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend (June 2009, Random House).

Delving into the myths, legend and actual facts surrounding arguably the greatest professional pitcher ever, Tye paints an incredible portrait that began on July 7, 1906, when Leroy Robert Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, and will forever be a part of pop/sports culture, though he passed away on June 8, 1982, after battling emphysema for a number of years.

"I ain't ever had a job. I just always played baseball," says Paige, which adeptly summarizes an amazing career on the diamond at a time when the only ball was white, through the re-integration of Major League Baseball to 1968, when the Atlanta Braves took a major step to right a wrong that would have left the superstar who gave so much without a pension.

But before Paige became the iconic ace on the mound, he had early brushes with truancy, which did not destroy the care and concern from his mother, Lula Paige. Mentors like Edward Byrd, Alex Herman, Big Bill Gatewood brought him an understanding in the art of pitching. Paige went from being released from reform school (1923), to playing semi-pro ball in Mobile (1924) to signing his first pro contract in 1926.

And it was then that Paige's cunning strategy on the field, quick wit and unique charm disarmed racists and made him one of the greats in the various manifestations of the Negro Leagues and barnstorming tours with MLB (white) players. The tours with Dizzy Dean became huge draws and fueled the growing fascination of the right-hander who was already larger-than-life.
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Format: Paperback
There is very little here that anyone who's studied the Negro Leagues won't already know. Satchel was, like many gifted athletes, selfish, mercurial, and opportunistic. He also comes across as somewhat bloodless in this treatment. There are also some strange errors: there's a reference to a 1949 article in "Sports Illustrated", but SI wasn't published until 1954. In one season in the early Thirties, Satchel was said to have pitched in "every state in the Union, except Maine and Boston." There are several of these little mistakes, which belie an editorial laziness. The unabridged audio version is a mess: the narrator mispronounces names (Bill Veeck is called "Bill Veek", all the more aggravating when you consider that the title of Veeck's legendary memoir is a pronunciation guide for his surname: "Veeck, As In Wreck") and proper nouns ("caliph" is rendered "ka-leef"); and when he reads the chapter on Satchel's time playing for Dominican strongman Raphael Trujillo's ball club, well, he takes Spanish to places it's never been before.

I think Satchel himself would prefer "Bingo Long and the Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings" to this slightly dessicated retelling of his life.
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Format: Hardcover
Larry Tye delivers a wonderful story of the legendary Satchel Paige, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all-time, who was denied national adulation for the bulk of his professional career; toiling in relative obsurity in the Negro Leagues, before finally getting called up to the Big Leagues, with Cleveland in 1948. He was 42.

It's difficult to imagine how many games Paige might've won had he been allowed to pitch in the Major Leagues during the peak of his physical abilities, with a good or bad team. It wouldn't have mattered. Just like Steve Carlton won 27 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1972---an otherwise moribund team---Paige may have done as well or better. The sad reality is he never had the chance.

However, this was a man who didn't mourn his unfulfilled potential in the spotlight. His charismatic personality was infectious, and radiated a charm that made him a national icon during his brief Major League career. His "rookie" season, he won 6 out of 7 starts, with a 2.48 earned run average for the World Champion Cleveland Indians. It's doubtful they would've made it to the Series without Satchell Paige.

Perhaps even more remarkable was the year Paige put together for the old St Louis Browns (a horrible team) in 1952, when he posted a 12 and 10 record with an e.r.a. slightly over three; at the tender age of 46. Just to prove how amazing this man was, he even pitched three innings of shut-out ball for the Kansas City A's, in 1965. He was only 59. I'll never forget reading that story in the newspaper as a youngster, thinking that anyone over 40 was half-dead; but 59? I became an instant fan of this gregarious celebrity.
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Format: Hardcover
If you ignore this book simply because you were NOT a sports lover or like me had never heard of Satchel Paige before, you are doing yourself and those around you a great disservice. SATCHEL is the result of a skillful writer who is able to take the life of someone great and give it to readers in a way that inclues something for everyone.

Who couldn't relate to a man who can from nothing, wasn't supposed to become anything and was able to build a brand name for himself that would appeal and inspire so many. That is what Satchel Paige did, and that is what his story will continue to do. I learned from this biography that success is not just what you have achieved for yourself, but what you have been able to give to others through your life.

We see a man who inspite of all of his accomplishments, was still plagued by the ghosts of his past. Who couldn't relate to that?

Kudos to Larry Tye for taking us inside the man and not just inside the sport. I think everyone who picks up this book and really digest it will be a better man or woman because of it.
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